Waxing & Buffing Made Easy

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danielplainview

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Mar 30, 2014
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I've received several messages asking how I wax and buff pipes, so I took a few photo's to show how it's done.
My ancient buffer gave out a while back and since then I've been using a 3450rpm one speed. A variable speed buffer is preferable. Mistakes or loss of concentration at this speed are unforgiving.
(left is the wax wheel/right is the metal wheel)

I have waxed at least 20 pipes with this block of carnauba, and you can see just how little it takes to get a nice shine.

Start with a buffing wheel that is clean and has never been used with any compounds etc. Using a screw driver blade, fluff the wheel with the flat edge. Run a block of pure carnauba from left to right on the spinning wheel for 1 second with easy pressure so that the wheel is not overloaded with wax.
Here is the briar prepped and ready to wax.

I always keep my index finger inside the bowl while using the buffer. This usually prevents the pipe from being launched into floor at mach speed. I said usually. Lessons learned the hard way. Always keep your flat edges pointed away from the rotation, such as the rim or diamond shaped shanks.
Applying the first coat
This is pretty straight forward. Don't worry about getting an even coat or making it shine. For the first coat, you're just covering the all the briar. It will look uneven, cloudy, and have streaks. When the wax is wearing thin, give the wheel another quick 1 second zip with carnauba and continue on. Light and gentle pressure is the key to waxing. All the wax is in the top loose layers of the fabric. Never press hard and dig into wheel.
After the first coat. Still cloudy and uneven.


Second run on the wheel
For this, I don't apply any more wax to the wheel. Use the flathead screw driver and fluff the wheel again before starting. Gentle pressure is the key. Think of spreading warm butter on toast. Always keep the pipe moving. Don't hold it in one spot, and try not to let the pipe bounce on the wheel. You'll start to see the ripples and cloudiness fade away. At this point don't worry about getting the mirror finish yet, just concentrate on thinning the wax ripples and getting an even coating. It will still look a bit cloudy.
Somewhat shiny and slightly cloudy.


Here is where the micro fiber cloth comes into play. This makes a huge difference in the final outcome of the finish. Give the briar good rub down with the cloth and a hand buffing.
Once more on the wheel.
This time I use a clean buffer wheel that has never had anything applied to it, marked the "finisher." I have all the different buffer wheels labeled for each purpose. Wax, Compound, metal (sterling, aluminum), etc.
After the finisher, one final rub down with the microfiber.


If I've left anything out or didn't convey any of the process clearly, just ask me to clarify. Everyone has their own way of doing things and there is more than one way to skin a cat, but this is what works for me. Through trial and error, I have condensed what I've learned into the most simple and effective way of achieving the best results.

 

davet

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May 9, 2015
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Great little explanation/how to. All my experience in polishing is with metals so this will help me out.

 

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pruss

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Feb 6, 2013
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Nice tutorial, Dave. I too buff and polish on a 3450rpm bench grinder. Man I learned my lesson about buffing before finishing my first coffee of the day. I ended up putting some 1/4" thick rubber floor tiles on the floor under the buffer. That's saved a couple stummels over the years.
-- Pat

 

ssjones

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I recommend a proper "rake" to clean the wheels. You'll be surprised on the effectiveness vs. an improvised tool (screwdriver, I used a hacksaw blade). The proper rake really cleans and fluffs the pad.
On other compounds:

Tripoli: used sparingly, it is really too aggressive for most pipe work. Sometimes I'll use it on a pipe where I've applied a contrast stain, and use it to remove the first coat of black stain. It will erase nomenclature in short order.
White Diamond: I use this to polish the briar before the final wax coat with carnuba. As Dave mentions, a very light load is all that is necessary. Too much rouge of any kind is never a good thing. I've been using the same bar for five years and it still is 90% there. (same for the Carnuba wax bar)

 

pruss

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White Diamond: I use this to polish the briar before the final wax coat with carnuba. As Dave mentions, a very light load is all that is necessary. Too much rouge of any kind is never a good thing. I've been using the same bar for five years and it still is 90% there. (same for the Carnuba wax bar)
Ditto. I'm well over 100 pipes through my shop, and I still have 90%+ of my carnauba and white diamond bars.
On Tripoli... I find that using tripoli, well away from nomenclature, on smooth pipes really helps prep them for buffing. As Al says, it is great for pulling stain when contrast staining, I've also been known to use tripoli after stripping a pipe (soaking in an alcohol bath, or using acetone) to level out the grain prior to staining. It will definitely chew through nomenclature and should be used with caution.
For big smooth stummels and bowls, I often will go tripli--> white diamond --> Carnauba
-- Pat

 

pruss

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So for regular buffing, cleaning I really won't need my tripoli wheel?
Correct. Tripoli really is for sanding. I would suggest that for regular buffing you probably only need a Dunhill pipe wipe.
-- Pat

 

zack24

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May 11, 2013
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I'd suggest to anyone buying a buffer to go with a 1650rpm…most guys put wax on between 600-1750 rpm…and one of the 8x2 unsewn Beal buffs tends to lay the carnauba on very well…

 

brudnod

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Aug 26, 2013
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Great Falls, VA
For the novice (and some of the dumb moves I have made over the years might still include me) the difference here is between polishing and waxing; not the same thing. Using a topographical analogy, a mountain range with deep valleys, polishing is like chopping off the tops of the mountains making the surface more level but loosing some material in the process. Waxing is like filling in the valleys so that the new level is built up. Obviously, a combination is often needed but the less polishing you do the longer your pipe will last and maintain its original integrity. Personally, I only use Tripoli for heavily scored rims. As mentioned, be very careful about the nomenclature; once gone, its gone!

 

ssjones

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I'm definitely a "finger in the bowl" guy!
My buffer (single arbor) is 1725. Jestco arbor and pads (best prices on the web). I like sewn cotton buffs for abrasives and loose wheels for carnuba wax.
One day I'll get a dual arbor machine. (current one is an old furnace motor from my parents basement)

 

ssjones

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For the novice (and some of the dumb moves I have made over the years might still include me) the difference here is between polishing and waxing; not the same thing.
That is a great point. I got my start polishing metal. To get a chrome-like shine on metal (stainless, aluminum, etc.), you have to do a lot of prep work which equates to removing scratches. Less scratches = more shine. Same for auto paint work. For wood, polishing means getting a finer, less abrasive landscape. The Carnuba wax then serves to protect the finish. Unlike autopaint, Briar might soak up and retain some of the wax in the grain.

 

huntertrw

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Jul 23, 2014
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The Lower Forty of Hill Country
Dave:
Allow me to recommend the use of a Variac (such as is shown below) with your buffer, as it allows you to control the speed. I purchased mine at an antique mall for $15.00, and it works wonderfully well.


 

danielplainview

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Mar 30, 2014
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Lots of great info guys. That's what I love about the restoration topics. There's always something new to learn or a simple handy tip to make things easier.
@SS, I'll look into the rake. Google buffer wheel rake I presume?

@ Hunter, thanks for the tip. A variable speed is definitely the way to go.

@ white wolf, 1000's of pipes?! Please elaborate. Let's see some of those refurbs. I'd rather break my finger than my briar, but that's just me...
I thought my original post was too long to start with, so I didn't get into any of the prep work before the waxing process. Most of the questions and comments I had stated they were having trouble with cloudy or uneven wax application, so I covered those issues in the post. Hope it helped.

 

danielplainview

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Mar 30, 2014
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I forgot to mention if anyone noticed there isn't any stampings on the pipe, I didn't buff them into oblivion, that's the way I received the pipe. This pipe was already "restored" when I bought. The grain was raised and the bit was wore down, but I got it cheap and I'm a sucker for silver bands.
While we are on the subject of polishing/ buffing/ waxing.
If you have a delicate or faint hallmark stamping on the sterling, there is a way to remove the tarnish without using abrasives.
The fine ash from a cig, cigar, or pipe can be used to remove the tarnish. It won't remove scratches, but it will shine up the sterling and preserve the hallmarks.

 

ssjones

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Wow, those Variac controllers are pricey.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/351417000403?lpid=82&chn=ps
DON'T waste your money on the Harbor Freight Router speed control for $20, they don't work on buffing motors.

http://www.harborfreight.com/router-speed-control-43060.html

 

huntertrw

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Jul 23, 2014
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"Wow, those Variac controllers are pricey."
They can be. A Variac is one of those things it literally pays to keep your eyes peeled for, especially when perusing antique malls, second-hand shops (e.g., Goodwill or Salvation Army), and auctions. Unless abused, there is not much which can go wrong with one.

 

gambit88

Senior Member
Jan 25, 2015
341
1
Thanks to this I have some of my pipes shining like never before. I've got some time to spend going over my whole collection now. One question though. Is your finish wheel a loose or sewn? I've been using a loose wheel.

 

ssjones

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Every town has an electric motor repair business. A rebuilt furnace or similar should be under $100 as WW stated.
Here's the rake. I drive by Eastwood, so I bought mine in the shop.

http://www.eastwood.com/ew-buff-rake.html?fee=7&fep=332&adpos=1o1&creative=61491485580&device=c&matchtype=&network=g&gclid=CO2wsvrRwcYCFUkWHwodsMoIkg


 
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