What is Polish?

Polish is one of the most common finish you ever found in metal industry. The reason behind that is it very cheap, easy & time saving finish. The running cost of these types of machines is very low and the setup requires low maintenance. Another reason why vendors love this finish is that the manpower required by this machine is easily available in  the market. If speaking technically to achieve this Finish it requires polishing and buffing compounds, polishing wheels and high speed polishing machines or other machine tools that can be used for polishing, like an electrical drill. Lubricants like wax and kerosene may be used as lubricating and cooling media during these operations, although some polishing materials are specifically designed to be used “dry.” Buffing may be done by hand with a stationary polisher or die grinder, or it may be automated using specialized equipment.

When buffing there are two types of buffing motions: the cut motion and the color motion. The cut motion is designed to give a uniform, smooth, semi-bright surface finish. This is achieved by moving the work piece against the rotation of the buffing wheel, while using medium to hard pressure. The color motion gives a clean, bright, shiny surface finish. This is achieved by moving the work piece with the rotation of the buffing wheel, while using medium to light pressure.

When polishing brass (a softer metal) there are often minute marks in the metal caused by impurities. To smooth out the finer marks, the surface is polished with a very fine (600) grit, copper plated, then buffed to a mirror finish with an airflow mop.

Polishing operations for items such as chisels, hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches, etc., are given a fine finish but not plated. In order to achieve this finish four operations are required: roughing, dry fining, greasing, and coloring. Note that roughing is usually done on a solid grinding wheel and for an extra fine polish the greasing operation may be broken up into two operations: rough greasing and fine greasing. However, for inexpensive items money is saved by only performing the first two operations.

Polishing knives and cutlery is known as fine glazing or blue glazing. Sand buffing, when used on German silver, white metal, etc., is technically a buffing operation because it uses a loose abrasive, but removes a significant amount of material, like polishing.


White & grey aluminium oxide abrasives are used on high tensile strength metals, such as carbon and alloy steel, tough iron, and nonferrous alloys. Gray silicon carbide abrasives are used on hard and brittle substances, such as grey iron and cemented carbide, and low tensile strength metals, such as brass, aluminium, and copper.

Green chromium oxide is the abrasive used in green compounds that are typically used to finish ferrous metals (steels).

Polishing wheels come in a wide variety of types to fulfil a wide range of needs. The most common materials used for polishing wheels are wood, leather, canvas, cotton cloth, plastic, felt, paper, sheepskin, impregnated rubber, canvas composition, and wool; leather and canvas are the most common. Wooden wheels have emery or other abrasives glued onto them and are used to polish flat surfaces and maintain good edges. There are many types of cloth wheels. Cloth wheels that are cemented together are very hard and used for rough work, whereas other cloth wheels that are sewn and glued together are not as aggressive. There are cloth wheels that are not glued or cemented, instead these are sewed and have metal side plates for support. Solid felt wheels are popular for fine finishes. Hard roughing wheels can be made by cementing together straw board paper disks. Softer paper wheels are made from felt paper. Most wheels are run at approximately 7500 surface feet per minute, however muslin, felt and leather wheels are usually run at 4000 SFM.

Buffing wheels, also known as mops, are either made from cotton or wool cloth and come bleached or unbleached. Specific types include: sisal, spiral sewn, loose cotton, canton flannel, domet flannel, denim, treated spiral sewn, cushion, treated vented, untreated vented, string buff, finger buff, sisal rope, mushroom, facer, tampered, scrubbing mushroom, hourglass buff, rag, “B”, climax, swansdown, airflow, coolair, and bullet.

The following chart will help in deciding which wheels and compounds to use when polishing different materials. This chart is a starting point and experienced polishers may vary the materials used to suit different applications.

Polish Finish