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Paint Polishing Guide - How To Make Good Paint Great

Cut It, Sand It, Buff It, Polish It

Tools for the Trade
The most expensive part of cutting and rubbing paint is your time. Except for one power tool, such as a DeWalt variable-speed polisher, everything else is exceedingly affordable. Santini likes to make his own custom hand-rubbing blocks for radius work and for tight areas. Another important tool is standard wet/dry sandpaper ranging from 800 grit to 2,000 grit. Santini suggests soaking the paper overnight to make it more pliable. As for the polishing, start with a wool pad and work out the big scratches before moving to a softer foam pad for the final steps to completion. There are probably a dozen companies that make liquid rubbing and polishing compounds. If you don't have a favorite, start with the name companies like 3M, Meguiar's, or Mothers until you find one you prefer.

The Art of Sanding
If you're like us, you may never have tried color sanding. In this case, the first step is to work indoors on a cool surface under bright, fluorescent lights. "Daylight hides scratches that will show up huge under fluorescent lights," Santini says. Use the long, straight lines of the reflected light bulbs to help find imperfections. He also recommends first thoroughly cleaning the area to be sanded. Concentrate on a small area about 2 by 4 feet, such as roughly half the area of a hood. If necessary, use masking tape on all the hard edges around hoods and fenders to prevent burning the paint. It's also essential to apply a very soft touch. Let the paper do the work, and avoid digging the sanding block into the paint. Instead, apply light pressure using the entire surface of the sanding block. Be extra careful not to cut troughs or wide grooves in the paint. Always sand with the block at a slight angle to straight ahead.

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