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My Finishing / Buffing Process


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I have adopted a new finishing technique that has evolved over about 4 years now.

It started with my hatred of using water at all in the finishing process, I hate the stuff, too many lifting episodes of the past.

So I started using Abralon pads DRY. Abralon pads ar SO cool. You can use them dry or wet, you can use them on an orbital sander or a grinder (if you have a hook-n-loop fixture), you can use them in your hand for the edges, I just love Abralon pads. They come in 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 grit.

So what's new?

Well, I have adopted a new system that has evolved over time. This may not be new news for some finishers, but it's the way that has evolved for me. And this applies to nitro only (or shellac) any coat that melts the previous coat.

This is the way I'm doing it now, and I pick up the story -after- any color coats or airbrushing has taken place and nothing but clear coats are going on now.

1. Several clear coats.

2. Orbital sand w/ 320 until level and flat, then follow up with 500 grit Abralon until the 500 grit sheen has set in. Abralon pads do NOT level for you, they are like a sponge, so you have to use regular sanding discs to get yourself level.

3. 2-3 more clear coats.

4. 500 grit Abralon followed by 1000 grit Abralon until the 1000 grit sheen has set in.

5. 1-2 more clear coats.

6. 2000 grit Abralon bla bla bla

7. 1 more clear coat, thinned down to 3/4 thinner, 1/4 lacquer

8. 4000 grit abralon followed by my 3M Imperial Microfinishing Compound on the buffer, then the 3M Swirl Remover, and it's done.

The point I'm making here is this:

Since lacquer melts the present coat into the last coat, and one of the most common problems is getting all the scratches out from the previous sanding, this way all the scratches are filled in by the next coat of lac, and all your levelling has taken place long before you're done, which I think throws a lot of people off, they sand too aggressively with the first grits to get themselves to level, and make scratches so deep that they never get them all out again with the following grits.

This way, you're still shooting lacquer coats long after you've levelled with your 320 or even 220, and your deep scratches are getting filled in as you go, not all at once.

By the time you're shooting the last thinned coat, the finish already looks dang near done, it's perfectly levelled and smooth, and attaining that 'sweet liquid plastic' feel to it.

So long story short, I am slowly working towards the end result instead of trying to go from 500 all the way to done all at the same time, it's a gradual process, and is working very sweet.

But again, this only works with a finish that will melt the previous coat (and the previous scratches)

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Cool, thanks man! What do you buff with?

I use the orange Stew-Mac buffing pads chucked to my electric drill, but I would like to move that to my grinder, since the right-angle handle would make things a lot easier.

How long would you wait to start your process?

With lacquer, about 2 days between coats and sanding until you're getting to the 4000 grit stage where I then would leave it for a month to harden completely before final buffing.

This method probably wouldn't work with brushed on since it counts on you spraying perfectly flat coats as once you're levelled, you're levelled. Brushing would introduce more humps and bumps along the way to some extent, although I still would recommend the use of the Abralon pads reguardless, they have been my lifesaver and I haven't had a lift in 5 years now, and I am loving that inDEED. :D

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is this what you are talking about? Would you use the power sander on a carved top?

Yes, you could use the Abralon pads on an orbital sander on a carved top with some practice, just keep it moving and don't bear down, the abralon pads are like a sponge, and flexable.

I have never sprayed anything before, how do you avoid orange peel in the clear coats following leveling?

To tell you the truth, I have never had orange peel as one of my problems I've had to deal with, probably because I mix everything myself, I have control over the amount of lacquer, thinner, retarder, air pressure, tip size, air velocity, etc., so if I'm having a problem, I can always adjust it out by changing the mix somewhere along the line, that's one of the reasons I recommend everyone get a spray rig, mine is very 'on the cheap', but still works great and is very versatile for changing conditions.

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Another cool thing about Abralon pads (if there wasn't enough already) is that instead of them just wearing out quickly like regular sandpaper, when an Abralon pad wears down a little, a 500 grit becomes like a 'smooth 750' grit. They still work and get a little finer and smoother, I have 2 sections, new pads and used pads, and I look at a used 500 like a 700 smoothie, when I DON'T want serious scratches. Like on edges when I polishing/sanding by hand only, I'll use the used pads for that, a little extra protection that I won't get a rub-thru scratch using a new pad.

Those pads are really great for my little backyard operation. :D

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For those of us with only palm 1/4 sheet sanders and no RO sander, what do you have to say about using the hand sanding abralon pads?? Or are the "sheets" the right size for my 1/4 sheet type sander and would that work just fine?

I guess what I'm trying to ask is "is there a specific reason you're using a RO sander over other types?"


Edited by verhoevenc
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No, I've always used RO sanders.

The 4" square jobs would probably work, but you'd have to squeeze the abralon pad into the clip. The pads are sort of like sponges, but I think it would work.

The RO sanders have the hook and loop pads on the bottm, which is what the abralons have, so it's a match.

Even if it didn't work, I'd have them anyway. :D

I think the abralon pads are 6" round pads. Don't know if they come any other way or not.

I guess I should take a pic of one and post it, pic being worth a 1000 words and all that...

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It probably would.

The main thing this way buys you is that you're not starting out with a levelling grit which will usually leave pretty deep scratches that are hard to get out with the following grits. And less chances of a burn thru chasing those deep scratches.

That part is long done before you're finished, but it depends on you applying perfectly flat coats thereafter, something that might be hard to do with a rattler, but could probably be done.

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If I read this thread correctly, are you using ratle can poly over stain? If so this is something I have really wanted to do but haven't heard anybody say anything good about spray poly- sounds like you are getting miniwax brand?

If so, what are your results? I'm guessing it is less likely to chip or fade than nitro?

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