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Updated Buffer Recommendations

I’m ready to buy a buffer for straight razor restoration. I’ve taken hand sanding and Dremels as far as I can. I expect to do a dozen or so razors a year, so I don’t need an industrial setup.

I’ve searched the forums and find a lot of the information is outdated. Everybody says slow speed for buffers, but there aren’t a lot of those around at low cost.

I’d buy the Harbor Freight 6” 3450 RPM model and use 4” wheels if you guys tell me it’s ok.

I’m also seeing jewelry polishers with low speed. Jewelry Polisher. Would this one work?

Slower speeds mean less heat, so easier to work with esp when compounding. So that is a consideration.
Doesn't mean you can't use higher speeds, but you will have to be careful.

Online you can find a formula to calculate SFPM based on wheel size and rpm, it might even be posted in a thread on B&B.

If the device you are interested in meets the criteria you wind up looking for after sorting out the particulars, try it out. What is "OK' really depends on you, your skills, your comfort zone, and how you want to operate.

I had an old craftsman 5" grinder (~$20 @ a yard sale about 15 yr ago) and I was able to work with it easily enough using 6" cotton wheels & greaseless compounds, as well as typical polishing compounds, diamond pastes, etc.
Is it ideal? technically - no. But it works and was cost effective. Arbor is 1/2" I think.
I can't recommend that set up because, obviously, it falls outside of what many consider ideal. I did scores of blades with 80x greaseless and never killed temper, but it could have happened if I didn't go easy & take precautions.

I don't buff blades anymore, once in a while I'll do the scales with rouge though, and it works fine. If I was going to start over today, I'd go the same route. I try to buy quality tools on the used market locally first. I also try to make what I have work before going to buy specialized stuff for what might be a lark I get bored with.

Buffers and grinders can be extremely dangerous. Wear proper protection always.
It Does not matter if you use smaller 4-inch wheels, lots of guys have produced great work with Harbor Freight highspeed cheap buffers.

I have a Baldor low speed and high-speed Harbor freight, they both work just fine with 4 inch wheels. You will not be burning up any razors or destroying the temper, if you did you would not be able to hold it in your hands.

You should buff with bare hands and stop when they get warm. The only time I had heat issues was using Greaseless compounds.

I buy all my wheels and compounds from Castwell’s, buy quality wheels, they are just a bit more, but produce better results and last longer.
SFPM = 1/4 x wheel diameter x rpm

So SFPM is:
A) 5250 for HF 3500 rpm 6 in wheels
B) 3500 for HF with 4 in wheels
C) 1750 for other at 1750 rpm with 4 in wheels

For my mind, let’s consider miles per hour:
A) 60 mph
B) 40 mph
C) 20 mph
Don’t know the exact speed at the wheel. But I do know a lot of guys that have used the Harbor Freight buffers, without any issue and with great results.

I use 4-inch wheels for compound and finish/buff with unsewn 6-inch wheels for years.

You will be fine with the Harbor Freight buffers.
You will be fine with the Harbor Freight buffers.

Thanks all. I bought a harbor freight today. Did a little buffing with the 6 in wheels on a screw driver to see what it’s all about. Not scary.

Working on an order for Caswell.

@H Brad Boonshaft , those 1/2 inch thick wheels seem pretty thin. Do you use something thicker or use 2 at a time?

I am planning to get black, white and green stainless compounds.
I use larger wheels than my grinder is designed for. For me it's a big whatever....Have done plenty of mirror finishes with it.
Just gotta be more careful than usual.
At the same time, one cotton wheel grabbed an 8/8 Wade out of my hand and shot it a good 15 feet across the porch.
So, there's that.

The SFPM gives you an idea of what's going on. Slower offers more control. Some abrasives don't like speed. You just learn to work with it.
If you're using greaseless you may find higher speeds to be tricky when loading.
Higher speeds with 60x or 80x compound and some pressure can wipe temper easy.

1/2 in wheels work fine with razors. If you think using 1" wheels would float your boat then get one to see. No rules there.

I wouldn't try to gang two 1/2 in wheels into a 1". It probably will work but it's asking for grief.
If I needed that I'd buy a 1" wheel. Wheels are cheap enough.
I treat those machines with much respect. Always wear proper protection.
You can gang wheel together, but they will fluff up to about an inch after raking and a bit of use.

There are many ways to buff and tons of compounds. A lot depends on what you are buffing and the condition of the object to be buffed.

For example, are you buffing razors in good shape with very little rust? Just want a bright finish, buffing scales, plastic or horn, removing rust from eBay beaters or want to make a Crocus, Sheffield Black mirror finish.

Castwell’s has a good tutorial primer. (How To Buff and Polish).

I mostly use Green Stainless compound, Zam and Blue compound mostly, with 4 inch sewn wheels. Make some spacers with 1/2-inch PVC pipe sprinkler nipples, so that the wheels are at the end of the shafts when using large 2-inch washers and the nuts for quick easy wheel change. You do not need to use a tool, hand tight is plenty tight for buffing.

You can get a set of small assortments of compound sticks, they will last for years unless you are buffing daily. A small tube of Zam is not expensive and great finisher on a lose 6-inch wheel. Zam works on steel, stainless, brass, plastic and horn to polish to a high gloss.

You need at least one 4-inch wheel for each compound,(4-inch wheel fits perfectly in the hollow of razor, with a 6-inch you must angle the razor to get in the hollow) and 2, 6-inch wheels one for Zam or Blue compound and a clean one for final buff. Write on the side of the wheels which compound you will apply. I have all the compounds but use these 3 mostly. I buff every razor that comes through my shop, and lots of antique tools.

Buy the Castwell’s rake with large wooden handles, it is the safest way to clean your wheels. A 6x6 inch piece of 36 grit sandpaper works well for final cleaning, but the rake does the heavy lifting.

Polishing to a Crocus, Sheffield Black mirror is a whole other process, there is a lot of great information online and other razor forums. It is doable but a bit of work. There are a bunch of new generation knife makers that are producing some great knives in Sheffield with real Crocus finish.
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