Posted June 12, 2014 by Esslinger Staff
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 centers that make them ideal for working with different types of machines or better for being used for different purposes. A stitched leather center will add stiffness and durability to a buff. A plastic center works much like the old traditional lead centers, providing ultimate durability without the hazards of using the lead. And finally, a shellac center 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 rouge 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 jeweler’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.
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 pin hole center that allows you to use them on tapered spindles.
A Satin or Matte finish buffs are usually made of synthetic or nylon fibers that have been impregnated with an abrasive material like silicon carbide or aluminum 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 luster finish isn’t desired. Some of these buffs can also be used on wood, plastic, and other materials.
Aluminum Oxide Flap Wheels
These flap wheels incorporate the abrasive granule aluminum 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 de-burring 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.
Silicon Carbide Wheels
The silicon carbide wheels are extremely strong and are a better grinding wheel than a polishing wheel. You can use them for light grinding, de-burring, smoothing and the cleaning of all non-ferrous metals as well as non-metallic materials like glass.
Nylon and Wire Wheels and Brushes
The nylon and wire mounted brushes are usually used mostly for cleaning, de-burring 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 aluminum.