Can I use a buffing wheel on a grinder?
"Buffing" is the process used to shine metal, wood, or composites using a cloth wheel impregnated with cutting compounds or rouges. The cloth buff "holds" or "carries" the compound, while the compound does the cutting.
The industry refers to "polishing" as the process, which uses abrasive belt finishing. Buffing generally requires two operations, a cut buff and a finish buff. Even the cut buff, which is the coarsest buffing operation, is too fine for removal of pits, coarse abrasive polishing lines, or deep scratches. This is why surface preparation prior to buffing is critical to a high lustre, final finish. Excellent pre-buff surface preparation starts with using the finest abrasive belt that production will allow. It is from this point that removal of the original scratch line needs to be accomplished to achieve the final buff finish.
One or two additional polishing steps follow the original "scratch" or polish. Cross polishing the abrasive lines if possible and buff off of approximately 400 grit or finer abrasive on metals. The cut buff will remove the final polishing lines, but may not be as bright as required. The finishing buff will produce the lustre.
Buffing and polishing using wheels and compounds are somewhat like using wet and dry sandpaper, only much faster. Instead of using elbow grease, you use the power and speed of an electric motor. The face of the wheel is the "sanding block," which carries a thin layer of compound (sandpaper) to the part.
The objective of buffing is to make a rough surface smooth; however, every part does not have the same finish and will need to be worked differently. Some divide is buffing into satin finishing; cut-down buffing for preliminary smoothness; and cut-and-colour buffing for smoothness and lustre.
What is a buffing wheel?
If you're just starting out you may want to start with the basics. So what is a buffing wheel exactly? And what is its purpose? Buffing wheels are an abrasive wheel used to smooth and polish metal jewellery and carry a polishing compound. Once the compound is applied to the buffing wheel, it will spin (either with the use of a handheld rotary drill or an industrial scale motor polisher), consistently applying the polishing compound and leaving the jewellery piece smooth and with a high shine.
What are the different types of buffing wheels?
Abrasive wheels for rough cutting
Useful for: Getting rid of jagged edges and deep scratches
Harder, more abrasive buffing and polishing wheels are generally the first step when it comes to metalwork. They are often made from silicon carbide or tough rubber and are usually only used when the metal you're working on needs to be more aggressively buffed to remove scratches or other damage. More abrasive rubber buffing wheels should only be used for grinding, deburring, and de-scaling to eliminate deeper scratches, and remove jagged edges. Take a look at our current range of Artifex wheels – they range from a very coarse grit to a very fine grit and can help you kick start your jewellery buffing process.
3M Radial bristle polishing discs
Useful for: Buffing smaller pieces without the need for polishing compounds
These unusual looking wheels are usually made of rubber and can be used to buff pieces with hard-to-reach crevices or those smaller pieces that are quite fiddly when it comes to polishing. The rubber is saturated with an abrasive compound, which means you're able to polish up a piece without the use of a separate polishing compound and softer buff, eliminating any messy residues. One of the benefits of using radial bristle discs is that they also come in a range of grits that are colour coordinated, so you're able to clean any hard-to-reach contours while removing any scratches, and work through the range of coloured discs to achieve an excellent mirror finish.
Cylinder, bullet & pin polishers
Useful for: Polishing hard-to-reach details
Using a smaller mandrel and handheld tool, mini bullet and pin polishers are handy for intricate work with small details that are hard to reach with any other metal polishing equipment. You may only ever want to use these miniature polishing tools when you have intricate details to reach and tidy up. However, you can also use them on the entirety of a smaller piece. This will help you save time – instead of swapping between a small and large tool, there's no reason why you can't use the flat edge of a small pin polisher to touch up the entire piece. Similarly to the 3M radial bristle discs, you'll find that all mini buffing tools are impregnated with an abrasive compound, so there is no need to add a polishing compound along with these tools. You can buy sets of mini pin polishers in varying grits (and varying colours to indicate their grit) for use with a handheld polishing motor. Check out Austgens METAL ASSEMBLY
Soft buffing wheels and mops
Useful for: Finishing your pieces with a professional, mirror shine
Soft buffing wheels, also known as mops and buffs, are much softer and made to hold polishing compounds, such as jeweller's rouge. Once the compound is applied, the mops are spun and applied directly to the metal, leaving it with a high shine. This stage in the buffing process is generally the last step you'll need to take, and typically, the polishing mops used can be made from soft cotton, calico, felt, or muslin. These types of buffing wheels can be purchased in various sizes, ranging from small 1 inch mops right up to 6-inch mops or larger. They also range in thickness. This is because the cotton or muslin used is usually layered, so the thicker the mop is, the more versatile it will be, helping you to get the most out of the tool when used with a polishing motor.
Tip: Remember to clean your soft polishing mops regularly, as the polishing compound you use with them will build up over time and harden, making the mop less effective.
Matting abrasive wheels
Useful for: Creating a specific matt effect
Matting abrasive wheels come in handy when you want to create a specific matt effect on sterling silver pieces. They often feature strips of sandpaper along with spongy nylon fibres and can be purchased in a range of grits and sizes to accommodate the size of your piece and the detailed areas that you need to reach. They leave a softer matt finish as opposed to a high shine so are a buffing tool that is only required if you would like to create this kind of finish. Take a look at our latest range of technique matting abrasive wheels and experiment with a matt finish to your latest projects.
There are many different types of buffing wheels, each designed to accomplish different tasks. We have put a list together of the different buffing and polishing wheels that we carry to help you understand some of the differences between them and find the right ones for you and your work.
Most wheels and buffs are made with one of three traditional centres that make them ideal for working with different types of machines or better for being used for different purposes. A stitched leather centre will add stiffness and durability to a buff. A plastic centre works much like the old traditional lead centres, providing ultimate durability without the hazards of using the lead. And finally, a shellac centre is an economical option that provides a tight fit on various tapered spindles.
Cotton and Muslin Buffs
The soft buffs made of muslin style cotton are generally used with paint to produce a final polish. Muslin buffs are very similar to other cotton buffs, like chamois or cotton flannel buffs, and are good at many of the same things. You can get these buffs in many different diameters from small 1-inch diameter buffs to large 6-inch diameter buffs. They commonly range from a ply of 30 to a ply of 60, a rating that describes the number of layers of muslin used in the buff, which will tell you the width of the buff. The higher the ply is, the thicker or wider the buff will be, allowing you to accomplish a number of different tasks with this one type of buff. These buffs come in many different types and styles which are discussed below, however, no matter the type they come in two different versions: combed and uncombed. This difference simply tells you if the buff will need to be broken in or not. A combed buff will not need to be broken in, and you will not need to comb the buff in order to hold the compound in the wheel.
Uncombed – These muslin buffs have a harder surface than the typical combed muslin buffs you can find. If they are used with an abrasive compound, they are great for rough finishing and for removing scratches on your workpieces.
Stitched – The stitched style buffs are the buffing wheels you will want to use with polishing compounds to produce a final, high polish to your workpieces. The stitching adds stiffness to the buff allowing you to apply more pressure against it. Depending on the buff you choose, the number of rows of stitching will vary: keep in mind that the more rows of stitching that it has the stiffer the buff will be.
Loose – A Loose unstitched buff will be a very soft and flexible one. When used with polishing compounds, like a jeweller's rouge, they are perfect for final finishing work. Since these buffs are loose, also described as unstitched, they are highly able to conform to whatever type of piece you are polishing as pressure is applied, making them perfect for things with contoured edges and curves. They also create a lot less heat than a stitched buff.
Treated – Muslin buffs that have been treated generally last longer and provide better compound retention than other muslin buffs. Treated buffs come in many different varieties for a wide range of tasks from aggressive buffing to light finishing work. There is the chemkote yellow buff that is a more aggressive buff excellent to use to remove any remaining scratches before moving on to the final polish, with a Tripoli or other light abrasive compound.
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Felt Buffing Wheel
Felt buffs are made of dense and tightly compressed wool felt. These wheels are medium hardness and suitable for all-purpose polishing and buffing. Available in varying densities from medium to extra hard, they can be used with any compound for cutting or polishing and since they hold an edge well, they are great for working in angles and corners. Most felt buffs have a pinhole centre that allows you to use them on tapered spindles.
A Satin or Matte finish buffs are usually made of synthetic or nylon fibres that have been impregnated with an abrasive material like silicon carbide or aluminium oxide. You can use these buffs to create a beautiful brushed look on watch bands and other items, making them an ideal finishing tool when a high lustre finish isn't desired. Some of these buffs can also be used on wood, plastic, and other materials.
Aluminum Oxide Polishing Wheel
These flap wheels incorporate the abrasive granule aluminium oxide that gives them their name directly into the wheel, making them a two and one kind of buffing wheel. You can use these versatile wheels on watch bands or for light deburring and polishing work on non-ferrous metals. They can also be used to create a satin finish on steel, and quickly remove surface contaminants from the metal.
Carbide Buffing Grinding Wheel
The silicon carbide wheels are extremely strong and are a better grinding wheel than a polishing wheel. You can use them for light grinding, deburring, smoothing and the cleaning of all non-ferrous metals as well as for non-metallic materials like glass.
Nylon Polishing Wheel
The nylon and wire mounted brushes are usually used mostly for cleaning, deburring and smoothing rough surfaces. However, some of the soft bristle nylon brushes can also be used for polishing. These polishing wheels can come mounted on mandrels, or you can get them unmounted as well to attach them to other machines. The brushes can be made of many different materials, though they're generally made with nylon, brass or steel bristles. Each different bristle type is good for different tasks. For example, brass wire bristles can be used for gold, copper and brass work, whereas the steel wire bristles are better used for white metals like silver, white gold, platinum and aluminium.
Can you put a buffing wheel on a bench grinder?
As you can see, it is possible to put a buffering wheel on a bench grinder. The process is not that difficult, and any handyman can do it in a few minutes. Yet there are some more things you need to know before you make the switch.
First, there may be a reverse thread on the side of the bench grinder you want to place the buffering wheel. If there is, you will want to watch how you thread the wheel and the bolt.
Second, after placing the buffering wheel on the bench grinder, you may find that you do not have the space needed to polish all the angles on your project. You can add a second wheel, an arbour extender or spacer to help you get that room.
Third, 8" wheels are better than 6" ones although the latter can work well. You just need to watch how hard you press.
Fourth, all motors are not the same, and if you press too hard, then your wheel will get slowed down and not do a great job. A variable speed bench press may give you the power to avoid this issue. Check out Best Plasma Cutter Reviews Australia: Top 8 of 2020
How to convert bench grinder to buffer?
Converting a bench grinder to be a buffer is not as simple as changing the wheels. This takes a little time and a little ingenuity to make sure you get the parts to fit and work properly.
Here is one way to make the conversion in your own workshop:
- Bolt the grinder down to your workbench or a solid piece of wood. This helps provide you with the stability you need as you work.
- Next, you remove the wheels, protective wheel guards and any other unnecessary part. You do this till you are down to the motor and the axles.
- You may need to cut the axle to the size which means you take a hacksaw with a strong blade and cut down the axle. This is easy if you turn the grinder motor on and place the hacksaw blade on the moving axle. Let the axle do the work.
- After you let the axle cool, just slip the buffering wheels spindle over the axle and screw it on nice and tight.
- Now the other axle on the other side of the bench grinder may be too thick to attach a spindle quickly. In this case, you take a hard tip for a lathe chisel and place it in a pair of vice grips.
- Turn on the motor and place the hard tip next to the spinning axle.
- Take your time and carefully use the hard tip to remove the extra thickness on the grinder's axle. Just remember to remove just enough thickness to fit the spindle on securely.
- After the axle has cooled, add the spindle and screw it into place.
- Now you have to buffer wheels to make your polishing life a lot easier.
How to use a buffing wheel on a bench grinder?
The key to using a buffing wheel on a grinder is to make sure you are safe. Safety is always the king. Wear good eye protection and make sure the grinder is securely bolted to your workbench.
Next, you want to keep sharp edges away from the wheel as those will catch and cause you a lot of problems. Then you need to keep the piece you are polishing cool. Have a glass or bowl of water nearby so you can dip the piece into and cool it down.
The buffing wheel is the actual carrier of the compound or paint. It becomes the transferring agent between the abrasive compound and the workpiece. The construction of the buff becomes important to the desired performance; therefore, it is important to match the construction of the buff to the workpiece.
A harder buff is not as flexible and is more aggressive. It is typically used on flat surfaces. A softer buff is more comfortable and less aggressive, which makes it ideal for workpieces with more complex shape.
The Sisal and Airway ventilated buffs can be treated at the manufacturer by dipping the cloth or sisal in water, or solvent-based resins. There are various degrees of firmness, each colour-coded by the individual manufacturers. The treatments add stiffness, strength, and lubrication to the buff.
Usually, the stiffer buffs will cut faster. The stiff treatments are used on flat surfaces where little flexing is required. The softer treatments are used for reaching into deeper areas and around complex shapes.
In certain applications, many buffs can cut, shape, blend, deburr, and finish in one operation with automatic machines. The manual buffing operations will tend to be a cut buff, followed with a finish buff.
There are many types of cut and finish buffs being produced today, using various cloths or sisal
and a variety of stitching and construction. We will cover the most commonly used buffs and their applications.
You can adapt your bench grinder to a buffering powerhouse with ease. The key is to make sure you get the buffering wheel tight enough that it is safe to use. Also, keep a glass, jar or bowl of water next to your work area.
This will allow you to cool down the item you are polishing and keep you from being burned. Just follow the basic safety tips for bench grinders, and you will be able to polish a myriad of items safely.