Home > Tips and Tricks


Please don't take this the wrong way but... If your buffs or compounds were not sold to you from us do not call or E-mail us asking how to use what you have. 

We are in business to sell products and make a living. We can't do product support for someone else’s products. We have dozens of calls and emails a week from people who just bought some "stuff" from E Bay, Lowes, Home Depot, or Sears or other random I found it in grandpas garage or un-supported stores and now they want to know why it doesn’t work or worse how to use it. 

I promise we can help match and support any project Large (1000 buffs a month and 10,000# of polish) or small (1 bar and 1 buffing wheel a year), we do it every day. If you buy from www.swmetal.com we can help you take care of your polishing needs and support. 

—Steve G. Owner 


Use tighter sewn buffig wheels (1/8"ss or1/4"ss) with more aggressive compound. The looser the stitching (3/8" 1/2" or larger) the softer the buffs are. This means the less aggressive compound should be used with the softer (looser sewn buffs). A loose buff is typically used with jeweler's rouge, or chrome rouge. The thickness of the buff can also adjust the amount of pressure you apply in a specific area. Compounds are listed and used in order from most aggressive to least aggressive. 

P-145 Stainless Steel 

Gray/black (cut and color) Used for more aggressive deep cutting/polishing when you want to cut down the top layer. This product is generally used before Tripoli when Tripoli cannot provide sufficient cut. Use a tighter sewn buff in this step, typically 1/8/" ,1/4" in or 3/8" in sewing. 

P-327 Tripoli 

Brown (all-purpose cut and color) Used for basic clean up on minor scratches and light work, many times the first step to get an even finish and good color. Use a medium spiral sewn buff here, typically 3/8" , 1/2", or 3/4" sewing. 

P-126 Chrome Rouge 

White (fine cut mostly color) Used in many applications as a final finish on very good quality metal or to color after Tripoli o stainless steel compounds. Using a 1/4", 3/8", or 1/2" spiral sewn buff is acceptable and for final application a loose buff is used. 

P-130 Jewelers Rouge 

Pink jewelers rouge (fine compound color only for mirror finish) Used to achieve a custom high quality "mirror" finish which is a final application after Tripoli, Chrome or stainless steel polish. A loosely sewn buff is appropriate. Most often a loose buff is used with jewelers rouge and run fairly dry (not too much polish). 

Plated Parts 

Note: All compounds can cut through plating. You can do more damage than good polishing a thinly plated part. Also be careful polishing clear coat. Generally, you should remove all clear coat to do any polishing. Try not to mix aggressive compounds with color compounds on the same buff. If you need to use the same buff, clean it with a raking action. A file edge is best, but any heavy gauge metal, hard and straight will work. 

Aluminum Wheels 

For polishing or cleaning an aluminum wheel or wheels first check for clear coat (this has to be removed to polish ex: Sanded off). The Polishing is usually a two step process. First using P-327 Tripoli and a buffing wheel remove scratches and blend out for the first step. Second using P-130 Jewelers rouge and a new buff, finish out the fine lines and blend. The last product we recommend is our new liquid L-1000 hand polish for basic cleaning, polishing, and protection. 

Stainless Steel 

The best polish for stainless steel is based on the abrasive you need the most common is 143 a medium cut (gray) stainless steel compound or polish (good for a consistent finish and light scratches) or 126 white bar for a mirror finish on stainless steel. These compounds both work well with an 8 inch X cs (concentric sewn) buffing wheel X 40 ply the tighter the stitching the more aggressive and faster it will polish. Then using the same type of buff with less stitching for mirror finish. Stainless steel Polishing stainless steel requires two steps to polish. First step cloth covered sisal buffing wheels and 143 stainless steel compounds and second 126 chrome rouge with a tight sewn 1/8 or 1/4 stitched buffing wheel. 


Tripoli 327 is the first step to polish brass and copper, the second step is 130 jewelers rouge with a separate buffing wheel for each. We recommend a 40 ply concentric sewn buff 3/4 stitched you choose diameter and arbor to fit your buffer. 


Tripoli 327 is the first step to polish brass and copper, the second step is 130 jewelers rouge with a separate buffing wheel for each. We recommend a 40 ply concentric sewn buff 3/4 stitched you choose diameter and arbor to fit your buffer. 


When polishing aluminum, brass copper, pot metal, and soft non-ferrous metals, use tripoli or gray compounds by holding the bar up to the wheel while it is spinning. Let the buff spin about three or four turns on the compound, while moving the compound in a clockwise motion. (NOTE: Do not use water with compounds). If you can hold the part under the wheel after loading, you'll notice the compound spitting on the part when there is enough on the wheel. At this point your wheel is loaded and your ready to begin the polishing process. It is very important to load your wheel every 20 to 30 seconds and keep the heat up on your part. Keep the part moving under the wheel, this will keep you from burning the metal. Never touch the edge of the part to the wheel, this will keep the part from being pulled from your hands. 

Emery Compounds 

These compounds contain emery grit, a very fast cutting action. It is used for coarse buffing, removing scratches, and buffs from iron and other hard metals. Use with sisal or a tightly sewn buff to bring from cast to smooth surface. 

Gray Compounds 

Gray compounds are for cutting ferrous metals (iron, steel, stainless, and aluminum.) They have cutting action to remove minor scratches. Use with sewn buff. 

White Compounds 

White compounds are primarily a coloring compound to produce a brilliant mirror- like shine for all metals. This is the final step before plating. Use loosely sewn or loose buff.

Yellow Compounds 

This is primarily a coloring compound that produces a brilliant mirror-like shine for all metals. Use a loose buff to add a high luster and color to all metals.

Tripoli Compounds 

Tripoli is for general cutting of non-ferrous metals (aluminum, brass, copper, and zinc die-casting), and mild cutting action. Use with sewn buff.

Jewelers Rouge 

Jeweler's rouge is a fine abrasive for gold and silver. It is a final color for all non- ferrous metals, and is excellent for high gloss on soft precious metals. Use on a loose buff. Works well on plastic at 1800 RPM or less.

Green Compound 

These are Ideal for tail light refinishing. Great for color action and removing scratches from plastic. Use with loose, flannel, or string buffs to avoid heat build up. For deep scratches simply block sand the imperfection. Then buff to a shine. The ideal speed is 1800RPM, a faster speed will build up heat. Keep your buff clean and soft, rake every 20 to 30 seconds, and keep the part moving under the wheel.

Glass Polishing

Glass polishing is used to clear wiper haze. Try this simple test to find out if you can remove the scratches. Run your fingernail over the damaged area. If your nail does not get caught then your windshield can be renewed. Use a buff at a low speed (1800 RPM or less). Keep the glass as cool as possible, never hold buff in one spot, move around the buff to avoid heat build up. Keep a spray bottle of water near by to prevent heat build up with the glass polishing compounds.

Anodizer Remover 

This solution will strip the anodized coating from aluminum trim. This leaves a satin finish that can be buffed to a mirror finish with the white compound. Use loose or canton flannel buffs.

Preparing the Part 

First, prepare your part by stripping any anodizing, clear coats or paint, etc. from the part. This can be done by using our Anodize remover. Paints and clear coats can usually be removed by using paint or aircraft stripper. Wash the part with soap and water to remove the extra grit from the part, this will save you from adding any extra scratches to the part that will have to be buffed out later. Another way to prepare the part is to sand the clear coat, anodizing, or paint off the part.

Removing Dents

To remove dents, start with a small tapping hammer, tap around the dent in a circle until coming to the dent itself. The dented piece can be hammered with a sandbag under the dent, this will help to form the piece you are working on. Check the dent after you finish, file away any high spots and always crosshatch to prevent the metal from gualing or rolling. Sand the area starting with 120 grit, 180 grit, 240 grit, 320 grit, till you reach 400 grit. Remembering always cross hatch to prevent the part from gualing and rolling. Now your ready to buff once you have removed the dent.


All of your sanding operations you will generally pick a coarse enough abrasive to smooth out or remove imperfections in the part you want to buff. For example, on a cast aluminum intake you would start off with 80 grit and follow up with 120, 180, 240, 320, and finish with 400 grits. If you are working on a part that is stainless steel you will be better off taking it to a 400 grit finish before you begin buffing. Always use grinders grease when working on aluminum, and be sure to use a crosshatch sanding motion to prevent the metal from gualing or rolling. Sand all large areas first, saving the smaller tighter areas for last. Once the part has been sanded completely, rinse off and let dry, this will remove any grit from sanding. Now you are ready to buff.

How Do I Tell What I Am Buffing? 

The first step in polishing is to determine what type of metal you are working with, such as cast aluminum, billit aluminum, or stainless steel. If you are dealing with aluminum wheels, but not sure which type, do a test patch on the part where the tire goes. Sand a patch with 2000 grit sandpaper, then buff to see if the scratches buff out. If they don't buff out, you are probably working with billit aluminum.

Billit Aluminum 

Buff the part or wheel with emery first, with a sewn wheel, then switch to a sewn stitched buff with a white compound, then switch wheels again and go to a yellow compound, with a loose buff. Make sure you rake the wheel every 30 seconds to a minute so you don't get any scratches.

Buffing Plastic

Apply the blue compound or jewelers rouge to a canton flannel buff or a loose section buff. Apply compound as you did when you used the gray or white compound. ( 3 to 4 turns on a spinning wheel, for 20 to 30 seconds.) On a plastic lens heat is not your friend, keep the lens as cool as possible, and keep the plastic lens moving. Do not use too much pressure against the wheel, let the compound and the wheel do the work. Too much pressure will build up heat and could melt your lens.

Super Sisal Wheels

Super sisal wheels are made of layers of woven tampico and cloth, and are aggressive. Extra firm buffs are used mostly on stainless steel. The emery compound (gray) is used with this buff to remove heavy scratches, sandpaper scratches and marks after straightening. You will need to tame this buff before its first use. Do this by placing the buff on a motor and turning the motor on, allowing it to run between 30 seconds and one minute. Turn off the motor and then trim the wheel with a pair of scissors (not a knife). You are now ready to apply compound. It is important to work the part by criss crossing your passes, you will actually leave scratches. These are easily taken out in the next step using the sewn wheel. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of your time will be spent with the sisal buff and the gray compound. Do not use too much pressure against the wheel, let the compound and the wheel do the work.

General Buffing 

If you are buffing aluminum, brass, copper, or pot metal; start off with the tripoli compound. If you are buffing stainless steel, use the emery (gray) compound. Gray can be used on aluminum if you have some scratches to remove. Ninety percent of your buffing time will be spent with the cutting compound tripoli or gray. Here again, buff all the large areas first then move to the smaller ones last. Some people prefer to heat up there part first. This can be done by putting it in the oven @ 150 degrees F, setting it in the sun, or in front of a heater. By keeping the part warm the compounds will stay on the buffs. If the part is cool the part will draw the compound out of the buff, leaving deposits of black glob on the parts. People may preheat their parts because it is hard to build up heat on a part when you are using a small buff.(Note you will need to wear cotton gloves to be able to hold onto the part). Once finished with the cutting step, the white rouge will bring out the shine. Remember that heat is still very important in the final white stage. You still only spend ten percent of your time with this step, but in order to eliminate the finishing haze you will have to keep the heat up.

Finishing Your Parts 

Finishing your part with the white compound brings in the mirror shine to the metal. To do this you will need to use either a canton flannel or a loose section buff with white compound. You can use the sewn buff with the white compound for the finishing step if you like the sewn buff (being careful and keep the buff clean and soft). It doesn't have the flexibility the loose and flannel buffs do, but sometimes it may be the better choice. Apply the white compound to the buff the same way you did while using the cutting compound. On a used buff , rake it before you start, and every 20 to 30 seconds to keep the buff soft and clean. Only ten percent of your time is spent buffing with the white compound. Keeping the heat up will eliminate streaking or cloudiness. You may need to pre-heat your part by placing it in the sun, or near a heater, and remember heat is your friend and a very important part of the buffing process. Do not use too much pressure against the wheel, let the wheel and the compound do the work.

Remember, my job is to make it easier not do your work. I can't tell you how to work with someone else's product (call them). If you don't like the suggestions don't use them just remember what you paid for them and you found us. Polishing is not easy, clean or fun but the end results are worth the efforts.