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What is the Difference Between Polishing And Buffing?

Surface Finish in the Design Stage

It is very easy to get confused between a polishing job and a buffing job? The two of these processes share many similarities, making them difficult to distinguish from each other. Both of them are finishing processes that involve altering the surface of the metal in some way. In the end, the result of both processes also appears to look the same. However, they are different, and this article explains how.


Buffing refers to the finishing process that uses cloth wheels with compound applied. It is done with a loose abrasive on a wheel. Buffing removes the lines from polishing and leads to a very bright luster finish. There are two parts involved in buffing: the cut buff and the color buff.

The cut buff is the relatively coarser process and involves the removal of the lines caused by polishing, leading to a lined finish that is far smoother than that caused by Commercial polishing. This process is fairly time consuming.

The color buff is the finest buff process. It removes the line caused by the cut buff and leaves a bright and shiny finish. This process is an easier process compared to the cut buff.


The finishing process that utilizes abrasive belts is called polishing. Unlike buffing, polishing involves an abrasive that is secured with an adhesive to the wheel. It is a coarse and more aggressive step that involves polishing away defects such as chips, pits, and swirl marks. Polishing involves removing oxidation and improving the condition of the surface of the metal blurring water or sun spots. For these reasons, polishing is therefore often a preparatory step for buffing.

Many people continue to consider polishing and buffing to be interchangeable terms. However, the reality is that there is a nuanced difference between the two, when it comes to how they are executed and what the final result is.

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