Tech Tips
Buffing Safety

AKA: You really didn't need those fingers....... DID YOU?


I don't mean to sound like the "Bob Vila" of the buffing world but I I have been so involved in buffing aspects and discussions that I have neglected to cover a very important aspect of buffing.

Safety First

I am the first one to admit I don't always reach for the goggles or follow "recommended" procedures when I work with tools, spray equipment, etc., but there are some basic safety issues I feel compelled to pass along.


Because of some things that I have learned the hard way. Hopefully I can keep you from making some of the same mistakes I made as I can assure you they are not pleasurable. This will not be a fancy article with pictures just some basic recommendations and guidelines.

Respect: I was fortunate enough to start and learn on a small buffer about the equivalent of a bench grinder. It did not have that much power or torque but it taught me some respect for buffing wheels and rotational power that I had not previously heeded. You will not believe the speed at which a bolt or part can be propelled when a buffing wheel grabs the part. Now that I have my new buffer which sports 3/4 HP and more torque than my car this becomes even more important. Occasionally I will "lose" a part and it will fly half way across the room at the speed of a bullet. Be aware of this and design your buffing area accordingly. I now set my buffer next to a metal wall which is much safer.

Gloves: The day I got my new buffer in I couldn't wait to try it out. Gimme' something....... anything to polish. I dragged out an old stainless hubcap from my 68 Jeep Wagoneer. I polished it to perfection and it was beautiful. About the time I was putting the finishing touches on the corners the wheel grabbed the lip and yanked it out of my hands with a big ol' THUD. Well that THUD was the part slamming all eight of my fingers (thumbs escaped) and cutting all eight of my fingers. I was just standing there dripping blood all over the floor with my hubcap on the floor AFTER it slammed into the wall. Needless to say I did NO buffing for two weeks and I am thankful that I still have my fingers. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS wear leather work gloves. If you get into it seriously buy 3 or 4 sets and label them so you only compound with one set of gloves for each compound you use.

Dry Run: With your buffer OFF make a dry run as to HOW you are going to buff your part. Move it around like you are buffing it. This is very important. This will safely give you the "visual" of what could get you in trouble or not, where you have clearance or not. Sometimes in order to get to a certain corner or section of your part you have to put yourself in a dangerous position (see above paragraph). It is best to discover these potential trouble spots and find solutions to them (like hand or drill buffing) in advance. The smaller the buffer, the larger the part, the more trouble spots you will encounter because of clearance. Watch those edges, lips, and any protruding areas of a part. Have the guts (or brains) to know when to "just say no" I'm not going to buff this part that way or I'm not going to buff this part at all. Your body parts will thank you.

Heat: Buffing parts create a very serious heat. You can feel it through the gloves. Be aware of it when you handle your parts or go to rub a spot off or hand it to your girlfriend "Honey see what I did"............. ssssssssssssss.

Goggles: OK, Bob Vila here. Always wear some of the plastic goggles. Even if you wear glasses (I do). Sure a part could fly towards your eyes at 120 MPH and put them out as well as some hot compound could be slung towards your face, BUT, the most important reason is after buffing for awhile your face is going to be covered in black compound. Goggles just keeps this muck away from your eyes and makes cleaning yourself up, as well as keeping your glasses cleaner, if you wear them.

Respirator: Always wear some type of respirator filter over your nose and mouth. This is not some OSHA warning type scenario where you are dealing with deadly chemicals. The whole purpose of this is because your wheels will be slinging fibers and filaments as you buff. These will be small and large. I found out the hard way about breathing these compound laden sticky fibers for a few hours and then hacking my brains out all night long. Additionally the more of your face you can cover (mouth, nose, eyes) the cleaner you will stay.

Clothing: I am sure I am a sight to behold when I "suit up" to buff. I wear all of the above plus I got a neat ski mask when I was flying ultralight airplanes. It is not the thick knit but rather thin material. I use it to keep the crud off my neck, hair and most importantly my ears. I started using it when I was doing some sandblasting about the first time I started digging sand out of my ears. I also put on a hat and apron. The more you are covered up the cleaner you stay and buffing is a very messy job. Wear clothing that is not baggy, remove your jewelry and tie your hair back if you have long hair. You do not want to be face to face with a buffing wheel if your golden locks get wrapped around the arbors at 3600 RPM.

Attention: Never for one minute look away from your work, not even for a second. If you live with someone let them know when you are about to buff. You will be consumed with what you are doing and it will be somewhat noisy. Nothing like someone tapping you on the shoulder at the critically WRONG time. Try to face the doors or at least be able to keep a glimpse of them while you are buffing so you will know when your sweethearts trying to tell you "the pizza guy is here".

Fatigue: Standing up and buffing is hard work. You WILL get tired. When you get tired you will start making mistakes. You will start dropping parts and shooting parts across the room. You will also be tempted to say "good enough" when it's really not. Take a break. I usually split most of my task over several days doing a bit each evening. You get better results and you actually ENJOY what you are doing instead of it being a chore. NOTHING is so important that is has to be done so quickly and if you lose some fingers or break or lose your part how "worth it"..... was it?

Take your time..... enjoy.

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