Polishing and buffing are finishing processes for smoothing a workpiece’s surface by using an abrasive and a work wheel or a leather strop. Polishing is the more aggressive process while buffing is less harsh which leads to a smoother, brighter finish.
Polishing is often used to enhance the looks of an item and is used to create a flat, defect-free surface and can also increase the sanitary benefits of stainless steel.
Technically, polishing refers to processes that use an abrasive that is glued to the work wheel, while buffing uses a loose abrasive applied to the work wheel.
The condition of the metal to be polished and/or buffed determines what type of abrasive will be applied. The first stage, if the material is unfinished, starts with a rough abrasive and each subsequent stage uses a finer abrasive until the desired finish is achieved.
Achieving a mirror finish requires the use of polishing and buffing compounds, along with specialised polishing wheels and high speed polishing machines.