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Making Your Own Buffing / Polishing Compound

12120 Views 7 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Dejure
I was at a turning club meeting and the conversation turned to buffing wood. At the time, I'd been playing with laminating some of my acrylic between two pieces of wood, turning it, then polishing it. One of the guys brought his polish, which did a nice job, but wasn't cheap.

I play with polishing on several copper, wood and acrylic projects from time to time and have jugs of cerium oxide, diatomaceous earth (there's a mine near and it's free), pumice, rottenstone and so on. As such, I thought I'd play, so I just added a few ingredients and gave it a test drive. The results were very satisfactory and a lot cheaper than buying swirl mark remover or the stuff the fellow shared information about.

To help others, I wrote a short article about making buff compounds using simple ingredients and it can be seen on the instructables web site.

Sadly, this sites program doesn't recognize me, or that I've listed hundreds of other posts and photos, so you'll just have to guess as to what the photos looks like, since it lists the ones I tried to load as urls. Alternatively, you can to to the instructables or LumberJocks web site and type my name in (Kelly Craig /KellyCraig) and see photos there.

Meanwhile, I'll go over to those sites and focus on pages that'll better show the processes.

This is the article, but, again, the one on the instructables web site has (allows) pictures.




As the title indicates, this is an instructable about making inexpensive buff compounds for use on plastic, wood and resins.

Once you have the few ingredients needed to make them, they are both cheap and easy to make. You can make a batch in around five minutes, or less.

I made and tested my own compound by, roughly, duplicating the buff compound formula
I learned about when I attended a local wood turning club meeting, where a member shared about a very good product he used to put a fine polish on turned bowls and things. Of course, the product was not cheap.

Upon looking at the ingredient label, I noted it mentioned diatomaceous earth and pumice, which I had on hand. Over the years, I’ve come to recognize many things we buy and use, and that are impressively labeled and well promoted, can be made, inexpensively, at home.

From working with my own formulas, I can say these simple mixes perform well as buff compounds for plastics, resins and even wood.


To make your own buff compound, you’ll need the following three items:


1.1 You can use the beeswax from toilet rings readily available from hardware stores that supply plumbing supplies.

1.2 I’ve bought three different rings and have noted there can be significant variations in how dark the wax is from ring to ring. If you desire or need lighter colored bee's wax, you may want to go on line to order some in bulk. However, I have had good luck with light powders and relatively light wax, even using when buffing very light woods like sycamore.

1.3 You can also buy beeswax in bulk on line and there are a lot of options.








2.1 You do not need all of these powders, unless you want to experiment. I note the commercial versions use both pumice and diatomaceous earth, in the same mix but I haven’t tried the commercial ones, so do not know how they compare in performance. I get excellent results just using the diatomaceous earth. In fact, it has become my go to compound.

2.2 If you use rottenstone, be aware it is dark, so can be problematic for polishing light woods. It depends on the effect you're trying to achieve. However, it can still be useful for polishing plastics, including poly’s, and lacquer.

2.3 The pumice I have does not bring as fine a shine to plastics as the diatomaceous earth I used to make my compound.

2.4 I haven’t tried baking soda, but it and other things, like corn starch and flour, might produce interesting results. Of course, they are cheap and easy to find.

2.5 The cerium oxide version seems to be the finest of the compounds, but is the most expensive to make using the powders mentioned.

3.0 Turpentine.

3.1 Keep in mind, you don’t need a large quantity for even a good sized batch.

3.2 I have not tested using paint thinner, as a replacement for turpentine. It may be it would do fine. As long as it dissolves the beeswax enough so it will mix with the powder, it would be fine.

3.3 Merely heating the beeswax would be sufficient to allow it to mix with the powder. However, keep in mind beeswax can ignite, so should be heated using a TENDED double boiler, or by sitting the container of wax in boiling water, until it can be mixed with the powder.

NOTE: If the container is plastic, too much heat will, of course, melt the container. If the container is glass and if it has not been warmed, such as by setting it in hot tap water to warm, placing the container in boiling water is likely to break it.


4.1 When I went looking for containers to store the mixed compound in, I found prices to be higher than I’d was willing to pay. However, glass containers of shapes that I could both store the compound in and dip a cloth or paper towel in to were readily available at Dollar Stores. I just had to dispose of the jam they held when I bought them.

4.2 I prefer plastic containers for the durability. I did find some I liked that are sold by Lowes or other paint outlets for samples of paint.


1.0 To allow your chosen buff powder and beeswax to mix, you can dissolve the beeswax using either heat or a solvent, like turpentine, following either of the set of steps set out below:


1.1(a) Melt about 1/4 cup of wax by placing it in a container capable of withstanding boiling water (a glass container may be preferable for this method) and let it set until it melts. Have more boiling water ready and replace the water the partial container of wax is in, if it’s cooled and the wax has not melted. When melted, go to step “3.0,” below.

NOTE: The wax may not have to be totally melted. For example, if 3/4 of the wax has melted, just stirring the hotter wax with the cooler wax may melt the rest.


1.1(b) Use a microwave, BUT LIMIT THE RUN TIME TO 20 SECONDS at a time, and stir the wax between each run. If melted, after stirring, go to the next step. Otherwise, run the wax in the microwave another 20 seconds and stir again, until melted.

2.0 If you do not want to or cannot melt the beeswax using one of two methods above, place about 1/4 cup of beeswax in your glass or plastic container.

2.1 Add about a teaspoon of turpentine to the container and mix until the beeswax is the consistency of a thick syrup. Add more turpentine, if needed and mix again.

2.2 Add about 1/8 cup of cup of your chosen buff powder to the container. And stir until all the powder and beeswax are mixed together and are the consistency of a paste about as thick as or a bit thicker than toothpaste.

NOTE: Add drops of turpentine or more powder per your preference. The wax is just a carrier and slight lubricant for the buff powder so specific amounts are not critical.

You are, now, done and ready to use the buff compound.


1.0 Essentially, buffing compound is nothing more than the equivalent of soft and really flexible sandpaper. As such, and before you use the buff compound, you need to prepare the piece by sanding through a few, more coarse grits, working progressively finer grits, until near the grit equivalent of the buff compound.

1.1 Though we can, generally, stop sanding at 150 grit for most woodworking projects, working with plastics requires even finer grits, or the sand marks will show, once the polishing is done.

1.2 I have had good luck getting high quality, clear optical finishes sanding to 320 grit, then moving to the buff compounds.

1.3 The grits I use working up to 320 depend on how rough the final turning or other item is. If I have significant chips on the plastic, because, for example, I let my lathe knives get dull, I may have to start out with 100 grit. From there, I jump over 120 to 150, then to 180 or even 220 and, finally, to the 320.

1.4 Interestingly, though the sanding goes quickly doing it as described in the previous paragraph, it can go even quicker by going through the following sequence of grits: 100, 120, 150, 180, 220, then 320.

1.5 When sanding, USE A LIGHT TOUCH, and keep moving around on both the piece you are sanding and on the sandpaper.

1.6 For each finer grit, wipe the piece off (grit left from the previous paper can contaminate the finer grit), then sand until the sand marks from the previous grit are gone.

1.7 When using my buffer, I use a soft, spiral sewn wheel, to which I apply a bit of the compound, spread around the wheel.

1.8 Keep moving the piece around as you buff it or you will melt the plastic and will end up with polished dimples and grooves.

1.9 When polishing on the lathe, use an old cotton T-shirt, a blue paper (shop) towel, or a micro fiber cloth to hold a generous daub of your buff compound.

NOTE: An advantage of the paper towels is, there are no threads that can be grabbed by the lathe or the piece. Regardless what you use, don’t wrap it around your finger so, if it gets caught, you will not be injured. That said, a micro-fiber cloth seems to do an even nicer job of polishing than the paper towel or T-shirt. Just avoid the ends of the item, where it is most likely to get caught.

1.10.1 Press the compound laden part of the cloth or towel against the project piece and keep it moving.

1.10.2 You’ll notice the piece change sheen very quickly. Of course, the wax will alter the color of the wood you are polishing too.

1.11 The plastic may not appear clear. To check the level of clarity, switch to a clean part of the towel or cloth to wipe off the compound. The shine will jump out at this point.


1.0 Note items will come out of the buff process looking nice. However, because the finish is nothing more than beeswax, the item will look dull in as little as a half hour just sitting around.

1.1 If you like wax finishes, but don’t like the way it dulls quickly, consider experimenting with adding carnauba wax to the mix. Generally, you’d just wipe the piece down, let it sit for several minutes, then buff with soft cloth.

1.2 You can use turpentine to remove the wax based buff compound, before applying a finish. Paint thinner may also work, since you just need something that will dissolve the wax without raising wood grain.


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This is one great post....
I use automotive buffing and polishing compounds when working towards a mirror finish on projects.
This might well be worth a look!!

Thanks KC
This is great! I have printed it for my shop. Thank you.
I make a similar compound using diatomaceous earth, beeswax, and mineral oil. I melt and mix mine in a small crock pot. Works very well.
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I've been thinking about doing this so your post will save me a lot of time experimenting.
I make a similar compound using diatomaceous earth, beeswax, and mineral oil. I melt and mix mine in a small crock pot. Works very well.
Your addition of mineral oil takes yours a bit closer to the Yorkshire compound a guy was showing us.


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I made up a batch. 1 of straight pumice, 1 of pumice & diatomaceous earth, 1 of diatomaceous earth and 1 of baking soda. I have used pumice mixed with mineral oil for years, so the matte/satin finish this gave was no surprise. The combo gave a satin finish, the DE by itself gave a satin/gloss finish. What surprised me was the baking soda, I assumed it would be a satin or gloss finish, but it was the most coarse and gave a dull matte finish. For me all will have a use.
What I don't like it how "grabby" the mixtures are, I tried using a cloth soaked in mineral spirits and that helped a little, what worked the best was using a butane torch to create a puddle and dip the cloth in that for buffing. I am going to melt these concoctions again and add in some mineral oil to see if that helps, using a torch or setting up a double boil pot each time isn't going to cut it. Still, this was very interesting, and once I figure out the best way to apply, it will be a great addition to my sanding schedule.

Kelly, thanks again for sharing!
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Bob, a lot of the turners use paper towels for buffing for safety reasons. If you get near the drive spur or live center, they can grab cloth and paper. The latter will tear and give your fingers a fighting chance.

To those not aware of the foregoing and using machinery to polish, don't wrap the cloth or paper towel around your finger. If the machine does grab the cloth or towel, it'll just pull it out of your hand, which is a whole lot better than having a machine try to wrap your finger around what you're polishing.

Rather than mineral oil, I use mineral spirits / paint thinner or turpentine. It dissolves into the mix easily may have the same effect you're shooting for with a torch, which wouldn't be a good idea, if you switched to thinner, or turpentine, of course.

Since this is so cheap to make, when I get grabbing or too much heat, I just add another generous daub of compound.
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