Introduction: Making & Using Inexpensive Buff Compounds [Plasics, Resins, Etc.]
As the title indicates, this is an instructable about making inexpensive buff compounds for use on plastic, wood and resins.
Once you have the few ingredients needed to make buffing compounds, they are both cheap and easy to make. You can make a batch in around five minutes, or less.
I made and tested my own compound by, roughly, duplicating the buff compound formula I learned about when I attended a local wood turning club meeting, where a member shared about a very good product he used to put a fine polish on turned bowls and things. Of course, the product was not cheap.
Upon looking at the ingredient label, I noted it mentioned diatomaceous earth and pumice, which I had on hand. Over the years, I’ve come to recognize many things we buy and use, and that are impressively labeled and well promoted, can be made, inexpensively, at home.
From working with my own formulas, I can say these simple mixes perform well as buff compounds for plastics, resins and even wood.
Step 1: Ingredients and Items You'll Need to Make Your Own Buff Compounds
To make your own buff compound, you’ll need the following three items:
1.0 BEES WAX.
1.1 You can use the "beeswax" from toilet rings readily available from hardware stores that supply plumbing supplies.
1.2 I’ve bought three different rings and have noted there can be significant variations in how dark the wax is from ring to ring. If you desire or need lighter colored bee's wax, you may want to go on line to order some in bulk. However, I have had good luck with light powders and relatively light wax, even using when buffing very light woods like sycamore.
1.3 You can also buy beeswax in bulk on line, and there are a lot of options.
2.0 FINE PUMICE STONE
DIATOMACEOUS EARTH -
CERIUM OXIDE -
2.1 You do not need all of these powders, unless you want to experiment. I note the commercial versions use both pumice and diatomaceous earth, in the same mix but I haven’t tried the commercial ones, so do not know how they compare in performance. I get excellent results just using the diatomaceous earth. In fact, it has become my go to compound.
2.2 If you use rottenstone, be aware its dark color can be problematic for polishing light woods. It depends on the effect you're trying to achieve. However, it can still be useful for polishing plastics, including poly’s, and lacquer, if you do not have to deal with pits and cracks that would fill with the compound.
2.3 The pumice I have does not bring as fine a shine to plastics as the diatomaceous earth I used to make my compound.
2.4 I mixed up a batch of wax and 200 mesh feldspar and it comes close to the shine I get from the diatomaceous earth, but I think the diatomaceous still out performs it.
2.5 The cerium oxide seems to be the finest of the compounds, but is the most expensive for making the buff compounds. Still, a little goes a long ways.
2.6 I haven’t tried baking soda, but it and other things, like corn starch or flour, might produce interesting results. Of course, they are cheap and easy to find.
3.0 Turpentine. 3.1 Keep in mind, you don’t need a large quantity for even a good sized batch.
3.2 I have not tested using paint thinner, as a replacement for turpentine. It may be it would do fine. As long as it dissolves the beeswax enough so it will mix with the powder, it would be fine.
3.3 Merely heating the beeswax would be sufficient to allow it to mix with the powder. However, keep in mind beeswax can ignite, so should be heated using a TENDED double boiler, or by sitting the container of wax in boiling water, until it can be mixed with the powder.
NOTE: If the container is plastic, too much heat will, of course, melt the container. If the container is glass and if it has not been warmed, such as by setting it in hot tap water to warm, placing the container in boiling water is likely to break it.
4.1 When I went looking for containers to store the mixed compound in, I found prices to be higher than I’d was willing to pay. However, glass containers of shapes that I could both store the compound in and dip a cloth or paper towel in to were readily available at Dollar Stores. I just had to dispose of the jam they held when I bought them.
4.2 I prefer plastic containers for the durability. I did find some I liked that are sold by Lowes or other paint outlets for samples of paint.
Step 2: Mixing Your Buff Compounds
1.0 To allow your chosen buff powder and beeswax to mix, you can dissolve the beeswax using either heat or a solvent, like turpentine, following either of the set of steps set out below:
[METHOD USING MELTED BEESWAX]
1.1(a) Melt about 1/4 cup of wax by placing it in a container capable of withstanding boiling water (a glass container may be preferable for this method) and let it set until it melts. Have more boiling water ready and replace the water the partial container of wax is in, if it’s cooled and the wax has not melted. When melted, go to step “3.0,” below.
NOTE: The wax may not have to be totally melted. For example, if 3/4 of the wax has melted, just stirring the hotter wax with the cooler wax may melt the rest.
1.1(b) Use a microwave, BUT LIMIT THE RUN TIME TO 20 SECONDS at a time, and stir the wax between each run. If melted, after stirring, go to the next step. Otherwise, run the wax in the microwave another 20 seconds and stir again, until melted.
2.0 If you do not want to or cannot melt the beeswax using one of two methods above, place about 1/4 cup of beeswax in your glass or plastic container.
2.1 Add about a teaspoon of turpentine to the container and mix until the beeswax is the consistency of a thick syrup. Add more turpentine, if needed and mix again.
2.2 Add about 1/8 cup of cup of your chosen buff powder to the container. And stir until all the powder and beeswax are mixed together and are the consistency of a paste about as thick as or a bit thicker than toothpaste.
NOTE: Add drops of turpentine or more powder per your preference. The wax is just a carrier and slight lubricant for the buff powder so specific amounts are not critical.
You are, now, done and ready to use the buff compound.
Step 3: Using Your Homemade Buff Compounds
1.0 Essentially, buffing compound is nothing more than the equivalent of soft and really flexible sandpaper. As such, and before you use the buff compound, you need to prepare the piece by sanding through a few, more coarse grits, working progressively finer grits, until near the grit equivalent of the buff compound.
1.1 Though we can, generally, stop sanding at 150 grit for most woodworking projects, working with plastics requires even finer grits, or the sand marks will show, once the polishing is done.
1.2 I have had good luck getting high quality, clear optical finishes sanding to 320 grit, then moving to the buff compounds.
1.3 The grits I use working up to 320 depend on how rough the final turning or other item is. If I have significant chips on the plastic, because, for example, I let my lathe knives get dull, I may have to start out with 100 grit. From there, I jump over 120 to 150, then to 180 or even 220 and, finally, to the 320.
1.4 Interestingly, though the sanding goes quickly doing it as described in the previous paragraph, it can go even quicker by going through the following sequence of grits: 100, 120, 150, 180, 220, then 320.
1.5 When sanding, USE A LIGHT TOUCH, and keep moving around on both the piece you are sanding and on the sandpaper.
1.6 For each finer grit, wipe the piece off (grit left from the previous paper can contaminate the finer grit), then sand until the sand marks from the previous grit are gone.
1.7 When using my buffer, I use a soft, spiral sewn wheel, to which I apply a bit of the compound, spread around the wheel.
1.8 Keep moving the piece around as you buff it or you will melt the plastic and will end up with polished dimples and grooves.
1.9 When polishing on the lathe, use an old cotton T-shirt, a blue paper (shop) towel, or a micro fiber cloth to hold a generous daub of your buff compound.
NOTE: An advantage of the paper towels is, there are no threads that can be grabbed by the lathe or the piece. Regardless what you use, don’t wrap it around your finger so, if it gets caught, you will not be injured. That said, a micro-fiber cloth seems to do an even nicer job of polishing than the paper towel or T-shirt. Just avoid the ends of the item, where it is most likely to get caught.
1.10.1 Press the compound laden part of the cloth or towel against the project piece and keep it moving.
1.10.2 You’ll notice the piece change sheen very quickly. Of course, the wax will alter the color of the wood you are polishing too.
1.11 The plastic may not appear clear. To check the level of clarity, switch to a clean part of the towel or cloth to wipe off the compound. The shine will jump out at this point.
Step 4: Just Some Notes
1.0 Note items will come out of the buff process looking nice. However, because the finish is nothing more than beeswax, the item will look dull in as little as a half hour just sitting around.
1.1 If you like wax finishes, but don’t like the way it dulls quickly, consider experimenting with adding carnauba wax to the mix. Generally, you’d just wipe the piece down, let it sit for several minutes, then buff with soft cloth.
1.2 You can use turpentine to remove the wax based buff compound, before applying a finish. Paint thinner may also work, since you just need something that will dissolve the wax without raising wood grain.