In this article we will break down the process of polishing a steel knife, what products to use and what mistakes can be made so you can avoid them! The two most important tools when polishing are obviously the buffing wheels and the buffing compound bars. Certain wheels and certain bars are used for specific things based on the metal that is being polished. The chart below is a display of the types of hardnesses & aggressiveness that exist with buffing wheels and buffing compounds. One thing to mention here is that we STRONGLY believe that Airway buffing wheels are the ideal type of buffing wheel to use when metal polishing over dense, sewn buffing wheels.
Airway buffing wheels are the "newer" technology in buffing as they use air-flow through the wheel to improve heat dissipation when polishing. This heat dissipation prevents the wheel from continuously holding and trapping in heat which can burn your work piece or cause uneven polishing. Airway buffing wheels have a metal center which is one of the visual/physical characteristics that set these apart from UBM sewn wheels. Airway buffs maintain a consistent heat pattern throughout the duration of the polish and in fact polishes your workpiece much quicker. In every performance category you will find these wheels to be superior over cotton sewn wheels whether it be in finish, speed or safety.
Polishing compounds or "rouges" are made of a mixture of abrasive grains, tallow, wax & stearic acid. These components differ depending on the type of bar that is or surface that is meant to be polished. There are certain bars that are formulated for aluminum, stainless steel, steel and even woods and plastics. You can refer to the diagram below to better understand what bar is meant for each application.
The best way to polish a steel or stainless steel knife is by using a simple process we have developed combining aggressive buffing wheels & compounds as well as fine finishing wheels and bars to bring out that high luster you are looking for. Here is the process we recommend:
Step 3: Pair the Ultra Soft UBM (cream color wheel) with the ultra fine luster Purple bar. In some cases you do not need to go this far, as this will leave your blade with the best luster you can achieve. For many, stopping at step 2 will be just fine!
You can get all three of these steps in one easy to use kit HERE
In this video below we show you exactly how to polish and how simple it is!
The best buffer you can buy, which is used in all of our videos is the Grizzly Industrial buffing system and can be found HERE . The reason why we love this buffer is because it is the best quality and value you can get for a knife making shop. The motor is heavy duty, has a 110V motor and is 1 HP which is plenty for knife polishing! Additionally this machine has a standard 5/8" arbor that fits perfectly with our buffing wheels right out of the box.
It is really important that when you set up your buffing wheel on your polisher to first break in the fibers of the wheel so that compound will properly adhere to the wheel. If this step is not done your polish will essentially not work.