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How fast of a buffing machine do I need

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  • How fast of a buffing machine do I need

    I have been building custom Harleys for the last 20 years and always sent my parts to a shop to get chromed.I just rebuilt the motor on my friends son's shovelhead and his rocker boxes looked rough.He didn't want to spend 3 or 4 hundred bucks to get them chromed so we looked for someplace local to polish them.We found two guys that said they did polishing but one never returned any calls after we called him about 6 times in two weeks and the other guy said he would look at them but never called back either.I ask the owner at the local machine shop if he knew anyone that polished metal and he said no and that people ask him almost every week if he knew someone that polished car manifolds and he has to tell them no.I figure since there seems to be a big demand around where I live and no one to do it ,I might as well start my own business.The question I have is what is the best buffer to buy for aluminum polishing.I thought I heard somewhere i should buy a 1800 rpm for aluminum or a 3600rpm one for stainless.It seems to me I should get the 3600 rpm one so i could do both since they cost the same but I will be doing 90% aluminum polishing and I am worried that a 3600 rpm one might burn the metal.What do you recommend?

  • #2
    3600 rpm. But download the free buffing & Polishing booklet from the webpage. Lots of info there.
    Mike Caswell
    Caswell Inc
    Need Support? Visit our online support section at


    • #3
      Buffer speed

      Thank you,I would hate to have wasted alot of cash on the wrong buffer.


      • #4
        3450 works fine for aluminum and steel. The 1725RPM buffers work good for plastics and really soft metals.

        For aluminum, you want a surface feet per minute (SFPM) speed of 5,000. On a 3450RPM buffer, that's a 6" wheel. (That puts you a tick above 5400, SFPM) but it's close enough.)

        I'm not sure what the "target" SFPM is for steel, but I use the same setup for steel and aluminum and get nice results for both. I just use different processes for each material. (i.e no sisal on aluminum)

        On your buffer, you want decent horsepower and the higher the AMP draw, the more "grunt" it's going to have. My 1HP buffer draws 8A and while I can bog it down, it takes all of my 225lbs REALLY pushing to get it to do so.


        • #5
          I am looking at a two Chas. F. L'Hommedieu buffer package deal 10 HP but it is 440 volt 3 phase so I would have to change motors.It is belt driven and has one motor that runs the 2 buffers.The two buffers are independent from the motor so changing motors should be pretty easy.I can then have 4 different size wheels set up for different metals.They were surplus from a chrome plant but the dealer is local so I won't have any crate and freight charges if I pick them up myself.They are very heavy.I almost got a dual 20 HP Hammond really cheap with belt drive sanding attachment but it was 440 3phase and would have cost me more than the unit for shipping and handling then it would cost me an arm and a leg to convert it to 220 if I could even do it.If this doesn't pan out I am going to go with a 1 and a half baldor 3600 110 or 220 new unit.Thanks for the tips Skiddz.


          • #6
            Sounds like you've got a plan there. One little issue tho. Setting up multiple wheels on one machine isn't a good idea *UNLESS* you're running the same compound on 'em. Cross contamination of your wheels is a real good way to scratch your pieces.

            Think if you had a tight spiral on one shaft of your buffer and a loose cotton on the other. The spiral wheel you use with tripoli and the loose with white rouge. You get a piece all sanded out and ready to buff and dive in with the tripoli.. All that stuff that gets flung all over the place?? It's bits of wheel, compounds etc.. Guess what wheel it's gonna land on.. Yep, that loose cotton wheel..

            You get your part all shiny and ready for a spell with white rouge and since your wheel is contaminated with "funk", it scratches the hell out of it.. (been there, done that)

            Baldor makes *excellent* motors. Almost all my shop tools have Baldor motors. I've heard good things about their buffers and I almost bought one a few months back. 2 things stopped me.

            1. the shafts on the Baldors aren't that long.
            2. the price.

            For a little more than half the cost of a 1hp Baldor, I picked up a Jet 1hp buffer with 10" shafts - plenty of room to work large parts around on. Like I said before, it's got a lot of grunt and although I CAN bog it down, it takes all of my 225lbs to do so.

            I can wire it 110 or 220 in a matter of minutes (2 wirenuts) and thus far, it's been a very good unit.

            Whichever unit you opt for, it'll certainly make your polishing a bit easier.


            • #7
              Thanks,I never even thought about that.I was thinking I could save time by not having to switch wheels back and forth.I never heard of Jet buffers.Where do you find them?I just saw the 2 horse buffer on Caswells and it looks like a deal.I am going to talk to my friend who is going into this with me and then decide on it or a Baldor.The cheapest Baldor I found was for 440.00 for a one and a half horse with free shipping.I talked to him today and we did decide to buy new equipment instead of surplus.There are some good deals on used stuff but till we get going and make some money we figured we would be better off with new stuff besides if we decide we don't like it ,we would get most of our money back if we sold pretty new equipment.Either way we are going to buy something on Friday.I am on disability and recovering from back surgery so I am looking to do something where I don't have to bend over all the time.I stood for over three hours buffing the cases on my harley and tht didn't bother me so I think I could make a go at this.Thanks again for the info.Any tips help.


              • #8
                I got my Jet buffer online (It's a JBS-10H) but you can find Jet tools at any quality tools store. Jet is part of the WMH Tool Group. WMH also produces Powermatic, Performax, Wilton, Columbian etc.. Industrial tools.. (I've got a Powermatic tablesaw that's almost 25 years old that cuts better than any saw I've ever used... GREAT machine)

                Again, I've heard good things about the Baldor units, but I didn't care for the short shafts. Same with Caswell's units. I've heard good things, but it's on the "short" side too.

                There's a thread here in the polishing forum (At least I *THINK* it was here. Might have been in another forum...) that mentions someone who's had problems with the on/off switch on his Caswell 2hp buffer failing repeatedly. You might want to call and see if that issue has been rectified. (or if it even was an issue)

                Having said that, I'm not trying to push you either way, just tossing out some information you may be interested in.


                • #9
                  To Late

                  I just ordered the Caswell two horse buffer kit,about a half hour before I got your post I doubt I will have any problems and it does come with a year warranty so.Even if it has a problem with the switch I can replace a switch for 3 or 4 bucks.I am a dealer for V-twin Motorcycle parts in NY and when I order parts from them I get them the next day so I hope since Caswell is also in New York I will get my new buffer by Sat.I should have ordered it a few days ago because 4th of July is probably going to slow down UPS,I don't know if they run on Holidays or not,but I wanted as much info as possible before spending my money so I put it off as long as possible.I just picked up my partners Heads and cylinders from the machine shop and am getting ready to put his Harley motor back togeather.I have to wait to get my buffer before I can put the rear aluminum rocker box cover on since there is not enough room to take it off or put it on without removing the head.I glassbeaded them and they cleaned up really good but I want them to look like chrome before I put them on.I will take before and after pictures and post them after I am done.Wish me luck and thanks for your help.


                  • #10
                    Sounds like you're headed down the right track. I'm sure if you do have issues with that buffer, Caswell will take care of it ASAP. Their customer service is top-notch.

                    Do post some pix. I'd love to see before and after images..

                    Good luck!