How does the shop get that perfect no-scratch shine when polishing?

Hi all,

I had a chip in my guitar repaired at the shop, and they did an absolutely fabulous job -- you almost can't even see the spot where it was repaired, and there's isn't even a single visible hairline scratch or swirl mark after final buffing.

As for myself, I have a simple polishing attachment I can put on my drill (I don't have a polisher or buffer), which I can put a 6" terry bonnet on. When I use it in conjunction with Meguiar's #9 Swirl Remover, it does a pretty good job of buffing out the scratch marks left after final sanding, but there are still super-fine scratch marks visible in the right light.

Can those of you who work in a shop or do professional finishing tell me how you achieve that perfect, absolutely zero visible scratches finish? Does it require a buffer, or can it be done with a polisher if you have the right combination of compound and buffing pad/bonnet?

I'm finally dipping my feet into minor repair (rewiring, setup/fret-leveling, fixing blems), mainly for my own interest and on my guitars. I don't mind having something done at the shop if it really necessitates it (for example, I can't justify the cost of a $400 buffer), but I would like to do as much as possible myself. It's more fun that way, and in the long run it costs less as well.

Many thanks in advance,

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Lots of practice.

Then good equipment and materials.

Then more practice.

A serious buffer is a bit improvement over most hand held devices, in my experience. But, finishes vary in hardness, resistance to heat damage, and all kinds of other parameters, so there's no escaping the need for - you guessed it - practice.

Just as in playing music, the operator and techinque mean more than the equipment.

That said, some really good general results can be had with a soft flannel buff on a stationary butter, using Menzerna compounds.
Thanks, I assumed that the machine buffer would do the better job, but that's definitely out of the question. It's a big expensive device that would see only see occasional use, since I don't own a shop or even do work on the side other than simple stuff for friends.

Can the same concept of using a flannel buff with Menzerna compounds be translated to an orbital polisher? I can make a soft flannel bonnet by just wrapping a flannel polishing cloth around over my synthetic wool bonnet and pulling it tight by tying the excess at the spindle.
Sorry, I realize I said orbital polisher, but I meant rotary! :)

Try a hand- or machine glaze. It has a slight pullover effect and I find that it gives me a mirror finish. I use Farecla G3, G6 and G10 compunds followed by machine glaze with a separate sponge buffing mop for each. In fact since I started using sponge backed abrasive discs down to 4000 grit on an orbital sander, I've found that I can drop the G3 compund and start at G6. I don't know if you can get Farecla in the States but a good auto finish supplier should be able to help you.

A handheld buffing machine is not particularly pricey and should be within the range of most budgets; you can get straight rotary or orbital, but don't use an angle grinder as most have a far higher rpm than the 1500-2000 that you wil need. You will need to make a cradle to hold your guitar firmly as a buffer requires two hands to hold. Keep the buffing head flat on the work as it can burn the finish. Particularly, avoid pushing the side of the head against any finish as it builds up heat quickly and will take a chunk out of your nitro. With the compunds I use, it ise a good idea to mist-spray the work first and at any time that the compund starts to dry out and leave hard flakes on the surface. When you use the glaze make sure that you polish it out completely, so use very sparingly. It softens the finish, so any left on the surface will leave a mark you have to polish out.
Here's a good link for these techniques:
I would rather use these methods than a buffing wheel any day; they may take longer, but at least my hard built instruments don't end up as matchwood if I have a slight lapse of concentration.
That's my take on it..hope it's some help!


Thanks, I'm not familiar with Farecla. I've mostly only seen Meguiar's for rotary polishers, but then again, I'm obviously not very experienced in this area. I actually stopped by the local Harbor Freight Tools on my way to work and picked up a simple rotary polisher. It was on sale for $30 and claims 300-3000rpm, seems like a good range for guitar work.

The main question for me is regarding whether to use a buffing pad or bonnet, and what compound to use with what. I've seen the Meguiar's foam pads, but wasn't sure which foam pad to use and which polish should be used with it. I mainly want to get rid of the final super-fine scratches, I do all the previous sanding up to 8000 grit by hand. Maybe not the fastest, but definitely the safest for me.

Also, all of my guitars have a poly finish, so they're pretty resilient.
I did some more research based on your suggestions of using the sponge pads. I don't see any Farecla products available in these parts, but I have ready access to Meguiar's. It seems their Soft Buff Foam Polishing Pad would be the appropriate one, and people seem to think highly of the new M205 Ultra Finishing Polish.

Any comments on either are welcome and appreciated.
Before I got my S/M wheel buffer, I used 1200-grit w/d paper with a felt block followed by white compound, rottenstone and water(and elbow grease) and then either Meguiar's or 3M Swirl-Mark remover. I love my buffer, one of the best tools I ever bought. Now they have one with a longer shaft, which I always thought was a needed modification.
The buffer certainly looks like a great tool to have, but it's just not something I can justify -- it's just too big and too expensive and would see too little use. I already use Meguiar's Swirl Remover, but my terry bonnet leaves fine scratches of its own. I would like to learn how best to do the hand polishing without leaving marks. I think I'll probably need to try one of the foam polishing pads and see how they work.
I'll give an update here, since I've had some more time to experiment. I first want to give a huge shout out to Dave Yelverton for his suggestions. While the Farecla brand doesn't seem to be available in the US, I was able to achieve fabulous results with Meguiar's new M105 and M205 compounds. M105 is an ultra-cut compound, supposed to be able to buff out scratches 1200 grit or finer, and the M205 is the finishing polish.

The M105 compound is recommended for used with the W5000 wool cutting pad, but that's too aggressive for my needs, so I used the W7006 instead. Absolute perfection! The W7006 pad with the M105 leaves no swirl marks whatsoever, and leaves a near-final finished result. Following it up with the W8006 with M205 produces an absolutely brilliant shine with zero swirl marks.

If any of you (who don't own a professional buffer) are getting less than stellar results from rotary polishing like I was, please give the new Meguiar's M105 and M205 products a try with the Soft Buff cutting/polishing pads. This is exactly what I was looking for.
I thought I would cut the cost of a good buffer seeing that a good freind gave me 20 -10" buffing pads and I wanted a 36"x1" shaft. I could not find one at the time so I had a do the work for me and it still cost me $300.00 by the time I bought the hanger bearings and hardware plus i had a good motor. If I had thought Stu-Mac was going to come out with the one they have now I would have waited and bought there's.I have had my buffer for 2 years now and I would not want to be with out it .I tryed the sponge buffing pads and didn't care for the job they did. Bill.""""""""""""""""
I spent ~$120 total including polisher, pads and compounds. About half was the cost of the polisher and pads, the other half the polishing compounds. I'm thrilled with the results, the new Soft Buff pads with the M105/M205 give fantastic results.

I'm sure I would love a full-size professional buffer, but I have nowhere to put it, and wouldn't want to spend the money for the small amount of work I would use it for anyway.


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