Some buffing concepts

There are a few very important concepts to keep in mind when buffing or polishing paint.  These concepts are far more important than any techniques or product recommendations.  These concepts are for people looking to have as nice of paint as possible.

  1. Lighting.  By far, having the proper lighting is the most important thing when it comes to buffing.  You have to actually be able to see exactly what is happening with the paint in order to correct it.  More lighting isn't better, it's actually worse.  Obviously there needs to be 'enough' light, but if there's too much light, it will drown out and hide the problems with the paint.  Fluorescent light tubes work very good when using a wool pad.  They show the texture of the paint better than anything.  Fluorescent lights also don't really show any 'swirls' in the paint.  A spot light works great for polishing to get swirls out.  I really like LED flood lights, around 800-1,000 lumens is perfect.  These lights barely show any texture in the paint.  So it's important to use to right light for the right step of buffing.
  2. Texture.  The entire goal is to get the paint as flat as possible.  That means removing as much texture as possible.  Even after the orange peel is sanded completely flat, there is still texture remaining from the sandpaper and just the clear coat itself.  This looks more like a grain.  Using a wool pad and a good strong cutting compound is the best thing to get rid of this.  The first step with the wool pad is by far the most important step.  There should be a lot of time spent here.  Always pay attention to which direction the grain is going, and always try to be buffing against it to try to get rid of it.  
  3. Each step has a purpose.  Step one is wool pad and compound and removing texture and scratches.  Do not move forward until all the texture is out, and every scratch is out.  This is very important.  The remaining steps are polishing.  The clear should already be flat, and there should be no scratches to get out.  So using a polishing pad and compound is step #2.  It is basically just removing the swirl marks from the wool pad and catching any remaining light scratches.  Step 3 is the final polish.  
  4. Slow Speed.  There is no need to ever run the buffer faster than 1,000 rpm's.  I usually buff around 800 rpm's.  If you're using the correct pads and compounds, this should work just fine.  Do not use heat to correct the paint.  There's a whole list of problems that can happen when a lot of heat from a buffer is suddenly concentrated on a panel.  So keep it slow, and use the right pads and compounds.  (wool and a heavy cut compound)
  5. Pay Attention!!  This usually answers all questions.  Just pay very close attention, don't just go through the motions.  Watch what the paint is doing in the light reflections.  Actually pay attention.