Introduction: CD Polisher

Picture of CD Polisher
You must remember this
A nick is just a nick, a scratch is just a scratch
The fundamental things apply
As CD's die
(forgive me Warner Bros)

So you went to the local library & got a DVD movie to watch with your honey. Guess what? It won't play!
That little tramp who returned it yesterday carried it in her purse for three days with no jewel case!

Run it through this CD Polisher for five minutes & it will play like new.

I store my data archives on DVD-RW. If one bit is misread, the whole file is trash. A data disk must be exactly written & verified.

This machine can be used to repair disks that have become unreadable. There is a very good chance that the files can be recovered.

When putting together the parts for this project, use my mantra 'Goodwill, Goodwill'. If you shop well (or have a big stash of parts) the machine will cost under twenty dollars to build.

Before we start, let me apologize for my lack of describing how to accomplish each and every step. I am assuming that a project meister who chooses to build this machine can infer much info from the pictures.

It's my dad's fault. He taught me by doing, not by lecturing.

So, in memory of my father, I will not give a list of tools, materials, or skills needed to complete this project.

Thanks dad

Well, if you see that the machine actually runs, you might get to step 3. Or 4. 5 is a good one, too.

Here's a video of the thing in action:

Step 1: The Bearings

Picture of The Bearings

Find a  pair of junk rollerblades at Goodwill. For two bucks you will get sixteen bearings, axles, bushings.

At the home center I found 3/4in CPVC (not PVC) fittings. The bearings are a perfect slip fit. The tube stub is cut off & cemented to lock the bearing in the housing.

1/4-20 hardware is used to create the axle. The bushing flange is cut off (shorter than the bearing width) to center the axle.

We need two of these.

Step 2: Turntable

Picture of Turntable

Thrift stores are my first stop when I need material. Floppy disk storage box. Fifty cents. Great source of plastic sheet.
By the way...what's a floppy disk?

While you're there browse the wood things section and get pieces for the rest. Look for shelves, curio cabinets, hat racks.

The center nubbin is a piece of 9/16in OD nylon tubing. Press fit into the platter.

The pad is cut from a rubberized place mat.

Attach the platter to the bearing assembly with #4 wood screws.

Step 3: Alignment

Picture of Alignment

This shows the position of the pad upon the disk.

The buffing pad front edge must cross the disk as close to perpendicular as possible.

Keep this in mind while positioning the disk platter and the buff motor assembly.

Note from author: 20 years ago I fixed a Jimmy Buffet CD that skipped. Instructions at the time said use toothpaste, a damp cloth, and scrub across the disk perpendicular to the tracks. The method has not changed. Any polish lines that are not perpendicular to the track will scatter the light and make the track unreadable. Or I may be full of shit. Further research required.

Step 4: Base

Picture of Base

The platter motor is a 5 rpm microwave oven turntable drive. I found a junk oven in my alley.
A short length of tubing on the shaft gives good traction.

(Note from author: If you haven't figured yet, I've got a sh*t-load of parts I've collected just waiting for worthy projects.)

The drive belt is from an upright vacuum cleaner. Use a sharp utility knife to split it into two belts. This is (was) a Hoover 'Y' belt.
Maybe you can buy a 2-pack for your home vacuum, then sacrifice one for the cause.

Mounting locations depend on the belt length and the buffer motor configuration. Make some sketches and figure out approximate positions.

Ponder this step until the buff motor assembly is finished.

Step 5: Buff Wheel

Picture of Buff Wheel

The plastic backing pad is thin (.050in) flexible plastic cut from a Sterilite storage container lid. Diameter is 3 inches. The center hole allows access to screw head for height adjustment.

I drew six quadrants on the buff pad to use as a guide.

The buff material is 1/2in wide felt weatherstrip with adhesive backing.

Use six separate pieces to keep the pad flexible. Cut to fit, peel backing to attach, then trim with scissors. 

Step 6: Buff Motor

Picture of Buff Motor

My motor is from a B&D 12v cordless drill. Goodwill. 2 bucks.

I extended the shaft with a length of brass tubing, staked it, then added a piece of plastic tubing to help grip the belt.

Google your motor part number. My 12v motor is rated for 24v. I run it at 18v with PWM speed control. More power. Higher rpm. Yessss.

Mount the drive belt without stretching, but with solid contact.

Step 7: Buff Motor Assembly

Picture of Buff Motor Assembly

1/8in brass pins mount the buff motor assembly to the base so that it swings freely. Gravity creates the working pressure.

If the drive motor can handle it, add weights for more pressure.

I needed to add a cage to keep the belt centered on the motor shaft. It is made from 1/16in brass rod and pressed into drilled holes.

Step 8: Setup

Picture of Setup

The pad position?
Passed: Well within Specs.

The back view shows the angle of attack between the pad and the disk. The front of the pad is doing the work. The back of the pad makes no contact.

Move the platter up or down to adjust the angle.

Step 9: Controller (waaaay Optional)

Picture of Controller (waaaay Optional)

I built this with a PWM speed controller based on the LM324, and a relay to supply AC to the platter motor.

Power comes from a separate 18vdc 5 amp power supply.

You see in the video that the buff motor I use goes damn fast (my guess >12,000 rpm). Better to start at slower speed or else the whole area gets a shower. If you start at full speed, build a shower curtain.

These little motors suck 3+ amps, more at stall. Choose a power source that can handle the current.

Pardon my lacing tape, I've worked in aerospace and can't help myself.

Step 10: Let's Run It

Picture of Let's Run It

Use plastic polish for polycarbonate (auto headlight lenses). Expensive but it works great.

NFG is techspeak for 'could not find disk'.

Saturate the felt with water, then rub in a small amount of polish.

Run for five or ten (or twenty) minutes. Add polish to the buff pad every few minutes. Keep the disk surface oily.

Result from this run: Couldn't save this one as a data disk. Status went from unreadable to recordable, with errors. Still good for movies or music. (Do not buy cheap disks for archives.)

Note to builder: No operating instructions are available. This is your new toy. Tweak the shaft positions & angles & weights & fluids until you get the results you want. Mine works great, but took a little fine tuning.

And don't tell the librarian you fixed her DVD. She would not understand.

Thanks for looking at my baby


electric guy (author)2016-03-06

try it

pmk222 (author)2014-02-21

i remember i had a game disk that had some VERY bad scratches (from around 8 years of being face up on my sisters floor) and i used a cotton ball and toothpaste to fix the disk it took a very long time but those scratches were much better, not gone. using toothpaste to start with (if there are bad scratches) might work well with this system just make sure you clean well when done

Gabse (author)2013-02-10

The microwave motor also can be used as a taser. :-)

gilbertferms (author)2012-09-02

This is indeed a great idea for retrieving those CDs & DVDs.

I suppose if a fibre optic polishing paper would be of a great help here. I have not got an opportunity to try it on CDs but feel confident it would work on them.

mh76dk (author)2012-06-22

This could be used to rewinding those rental dvds before returning them. no more fees!

espit (author)mh76dk2012-06-25

huh?? Are you thinking of VHS tapes?. Geez I feel old

Lildevil963 (author)espit2012-07-11

its ok im only 16 and i knew tht he was refering to VHS tapes.

dreiseratops (author)mh76dk2012-06-22


Brad I. (author)2012-06-29

This looks like a great project. Well done. I can think of another use I'd like your opinion on. How about polishing iPhone screens where the gorilla glass has become scratched?

wotboa (author)Brad I.2012-06-29

Hiya Brad I.
Corning Gorilla Glass (alkali-aluminosilicate)
My machine polishes polycarbonate plastic.
You're on your own, my friend.

erichans (author)2012-06-25

Thanks wotboa!!

Well explained IMHO, in spite of your being so deprecating. And something I need badly as I lost lots of valuable invaluable stuff.

While I have a pwm unit I made for something else, I won't use this. I have instead 2 other ways out. One, a 1 Amp mains transformer with with 3 to 12V taps every 3 Volts. If this has insufficient power for the motor I get hold of, then I have a 12V, 4A mains transformer which I can use with series hi-wattage resistors (I have a boxful!!) to give me a couple of 'acceptable' speeds. Inefficient, sure, but OK for a once-in a-way thing.

Thanks for kicking this lazy bum!!


wotboa (author)erichans2012-06-28

Hi Erich
I like the visual of your kitchen table covered with a half dozen live wires. We've all done that, yes?
Build one of these machines. Post it. Help unlock the mystery of disk repair. The more versions that are built and used, the stronger the solution.
My machine works just fine. Let's see how other builders might do it.
PS pardon my sarcastic and cynical humor. It may be construed as deprecating.

kdlan (author)2012-06-27

If you decide to do an Instructables on just this step alone, that would be well worth reading! Unless you know of some other useless reference for an aspiring maker to learn more about powering and controlling motors.

mrwild8 (author)2012-06-26

Get a Skip Dr.!
The motorized version will polish it/sand it smooth. There's enough layers of plastic there above the data layer to buff it up well and get rid of those scratches that bend the laser and cause the issues. Any filler compound wil do just that - FILL IN the marks. It doesn't clear it up.

The product just works!

wotboa (author)mrwild82012-06-27

I never researched the polishing compound until after I published this project. Should have done it, I guess, but my results are always positive. If it works, etc.
The Meguiars 10 that I use is based on Micro Abrasive Technology. It does cut the disk surface and removes shallow scratches. The finished disk does not have a mirror finish, but my repaired disks seem to show that the polish lines are so fine they do not affect the disk performance. Perhaps the next step would be to use Meguiars 17 to bring the surface up to a mirror finish. Or not.
PS I don't work for Meguiars

I checked out the Skip Dr before I settled on my design. If I had a machine shop, I could make a Skip Dr.

Instructables celebrates the tinkers of the world. I am one. My machine uses no fancy BS. It runs well. It does the job it was designed to do. Any project meister with a work bench and a few hand tools can build one, like I did.

Imagine that.

Please consider this: True hobbyists do not buy something that they can build themselves. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Mouserz (author)2012-06-25

Does it rewind it though? I always have trouble rewinding my CDs.

wotboa (author)Mouserz2012-06-25

Take your unwound CDs to the local loonie bin.
They will help you.

Mouserz (author)wotboa2012-06-26

i tried but they said that they didn't have a rewinder either.

wotboa (author)Mouserz2012-06-27

Let me rephrase that...They will help YOU.

thebeatonpath (author)2012-06-25

Great idea plus getting the stuff cheap at Goodwill is always a win-win! I may have to break down to put this together!

zappenfusen (author)2012-06-24

Best Instructable I've ever read. I've often pondered "Perpendicular" as reasonable myself while giving advice as a pro. I often think Instructables itself is basically Full of Dung but it's the folks' not instructable's!

Thanks Guy's,

wotboa (author)zappenfusen2012-06-24

Hiya zappenfusen
I agree that instructables has wandered away from Eric's dream. But...we must bow to the masses.
Myself? I'm an old frustrated engineer and a technician. I have many things I can share.
This is my first step-by-step post, and it is truly going the way of the stars.
I am overwhelmed. In my tiny world, I would call it viral.
Thank you for speaking your mind.

zappenfusen (author)wotboa2012-06-25

I've spent years polishing destroyed discs' the Perpendicular way. I have no idea where I picked it up but, I too, state as fact any other motion worsens the condition. Your explanation is the best I've read, but then again, we could both be full of shit. Enjoyed the read.


Zombie_BBQ (author)2012-06-25

Very Nice I Am Making One Of These ,Thank You For The Instructable.

lumpee (author)2012-06-24

Great idea and execution. I don't mean to be over-critical,but you can't divide anything into 6 quadrants,only four. Sorry.

wotboa (author)lumpee2012-06-24

Jeez,you're right. Too many Star Trek reruns, I guess.
So now the question is...what is the proper word for dividing a circle into six sections?

lumpee (author)wotboa2012-06-24

A sixth of a circle is a sextant. Not to be confused with the astronomer's or mariners navigation tool. A sextant in a circle is 60 degrees.

wotboa (author)lumpee2012-06-24

I was hoping for more of a pie (not pi) slicing reference, but your answer is accurate.
More useless information I will never use.

lumpee (author)wotboa2012-06-24

By the way,great project.I'm going to see if I can make one using a barbeque rotisserie motor I have. I've used one in the past for a turntable that I used for spray painting some small woodworking projects I made. As for buffing compound,I'm going to use ordinary toothpaste. My neighbor and I polished her car headlight lenses with it and it worked extremely well. Two minutes per lens and they are crystal clear.Looking forward to seeing more of your ideas. Thanks.

wotboa (author)lumpee2012-06-24

Hi again lumpee
A rotisserie motor should work great! I would love to see your final build. Please post it.
I've tried a few different compounds for the buff. Once I started using the polycarbonate polish I stopped looking for something better.
Toothpaste makes a horrible mess. You must keep it so wet that the froth goes everywhere.
Car waxes, in general, are not compatible with plastics. Many are hydrocarbon based. Cleaning the disk after is a project in itself.
Rouges are just a pain in the ass to apply to the buff and to get off the disk after polishing.
With Meguiar's, a thin film on the disk will last for several minutes during an intense polish session. The disk cleans up easily with a little Windex.
I hate to say this, but, trust me (some of you know what that means in New York), start with plastic polish then go on to experiment with other compounds.

lumpee (author)wotboa2012-06-24

I was going to use the pie reference but I cut one slice too big and thought I'd eat it to equalize it and,well, one thing led to another and now all I have is an empty pie pan. I'll try again though as I'm very diligent. Perhaps blueberry this time. :o)

offtherails2010 (author)2012-06-24

Absolutely AWESOME !!!

many thanks for taking the time & effort to properly document this with stunning pictures and with very well written instructions!

Finally i can get to work acquiring everything needed to build my own and buff my collection of iffy-cd/dvd's !!!! (especially those that were LENT and got back looking like they'd been used as a car's "wipe yer feet on this mat" mat, lol {& if a car had feet but you know what i mean, lol x 2 !})

anyhoo as i start my adventure finding the right bits for my mean polishing machine i have one question about your controller PCB, please would you be able to upload a schematic fo it or even the PCB artwork, ive only started learning electronics this year and made some real-nice progress into making homemade PCB's and would very much like to make your controller for adding pulse width modulation control to my buffer machine or if you could point me in a good direction of where i could find a circuit that your using i'd be most-grateful !

many thanks in advance & also another thank for the great 'ible !!!

wotboa (author)offtherails20102012-06-24

Hiya offtherails2010
I like your name a lot. Hmmm. Unless your bipolar.
Here's a link to the circuit I used, LM324 PWM:

I etched a circuit board, but the schematic is so simple that a beginner would be better off using point-to-point wiring on a perf board.
The most important issue is making sure that the buff motor has enough current. Get that solved and you got the thing running!


offtherails2010 (author)wotboa2012-06-24

Howdy wotboa !!!

no not bipolar, lol ! Generally considered to do everything big and buy big (bulk, lol) always because overkill is so under-rated, lol !!!

Thanks so much for the PWM direction, once again many many thanks & another good helping of 5-Well-Deserved Stars Rated !!!!

yoyology (author)2012-06-22

Your machine is wonderful. I'm giving the 'ible a high rating. However...

Just as your background means you can't wire without lacing tape, so my background means I must comment when the word "librarian" appears in any Instructable.

Please please please let us librarians buff our own discs!

Every buff cycle removes a small amount of the plastic surface of the disc. We have a buffing machine, and when a disc is reported scratched, we buff the item and make a note on the case. That way, we know when the disc is approaching the end of its life and we need to order a new copy.

Though it may mean a movie-less night with your honey, please save your machine to use on your own discs.

Thank you.

wotboa (author)yoyology2012-06-22

Hello yoyology
Now that I have reread my intro, it does seem to imply that the primary use for the machine is to fix library disks.
That is not what I use it for (maybe a little) but let me tell the readers DON'T EFF UP THE LIBRARY'S PROPERTY.
There, I feel atoned.
This was built to use as a maintenance device for my archive data DVDs. If a disk is struggling to be read properly, a trip through the buffer works wonders.

PS I would love to see what a library disk buff looks like. Let's see. Government issue, bought with taxes, used rarely. Must be as big as a minivan, right? Post a picture if you choose to reply.


tcarney57 (author)wotboa2012-06-24

Yeah, well the library in my county (population 210,000) is open only a few days each week--a very slim majority of taxpayers refuse to pay operating costs for more. So, if the library has a niffy buffer machine, it was no doubt purchased by the Friends of the Library group (a private-sector organization) that sells donated books and holds bake sales to keep the library going!

Now, thanks for this project! I think I'm gonna built one. I too have little kids who aren't very careful.

wotboa (author)tcarney572012-06-24

Most libraries are going that direction. What a shame. If it weren't for the volunteers working, and the private donations, they would close completely.
Pardon me if I sounded like a basher, I use my local library a lot.
If it were up to me, I would keep the libraries open. What's more important? Having less potholes in the road or teaching your kids to read?

e5frog (author)2012-06-24

Looks like you're old enough to know what a floppy disk is. ;-)

wotboa (author)e5frog2012-06-24

I bet it was my 'Casablanca' song that gave me away.
That's another 'huh, what?' for under-50s.
Thanks, Bogie.

bgeorge98121 (author)2012-06-24

I've had great luck over the years with wiped out CD/DVD/Games using car paste wax. Turtle Carnauba.

Fred82664 (author)bgeorge981212012-06-24

Turtle wax works for me as well ! 95% of the time the 5% that it dont I did not need what was lost anyways

gingerbaker (author)2012-06-24

I can get the occasional bad Netflix rental disc to play by rubbing on some clear auto polish sealant, letting it dry, then gently rubbing away the excess.

Why remove material, if you can simply fill in the scratch with a non destructive transparent coating?

tn. (author)2012-06-24

you are my hero. i have a whole box of disks i couldn't bear to part - they were backups of photos and videos from a hard drive that died and then my kid (then 2) got into the box. some were clearly trashed (damage on data layer) but the ones i saved are scratched all to heck and i've been hoping i could save them. i did have a "disk doctor", a gadget i paid $40 for plus $7 for the refills (new belts) but i can't find them anywhere now (ex's son thought it would make a great disk-thrower and demo'd it).

mr.frob (author)2012-06-23

mmmm cable management. love it!

Bobblehead Einstein (author)2012-06-23

I found this instructable the best so far.The best way to utilise old stuff & a way to fix my old cd's.
I can't wait to make mine.i have all the parts approx. so ill start building mine as i get a bit spare time.
Thanks for sharing :)
Have a Nice Day

mr fat (author)2012-06-23

This is one of the best projects I have ever seen on the net! I have all the parts except for the roller blades! I will build a unit for myself having small children kill DVD's
Thanks for sharing!

rimar2000 (author)2012-06-22

This seems an useful device, thanks for sharing.

wilgubeast (author)2012-06-22

This might be one of the best-written projects that I have seen. And that image for step 10 is GLORIOUS. Reminds me of sitting down with a hand-crank disc scratch repairer when I was a jewel-case-spurning teenage rebel.

wotboa (author)wilgubeast2012-06-22

Why, thank you wilgubeast. A compliment I may or may not deserve.
You see my stats. Notice that this is my SECOND publish.
I have a few completed projects sitting around the house I will publish, but posting on the net is still new to me.
I surfed your projects page & must say you are quite the dude. Many interesting builds.
Thanks again for saying I did a good job. It means a lot.

About This Instructable




Bio: I ain't no physicist, but I knows what matters.
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