For the average paint job, the work is done once the paint guns are put away in the booth and the masking tape is pulled off. In the world of custom or show-quality paint, there is still work to do if the goal is to approach perfection. No matter how clean the paint booth might be, and no matter how skillfully the paint is sprayed, there will be flaws. If everything was done to top shelf standards, the texture will be minimal, and the paint surface will have very little contamination, but a glass-smooth surface with a mirror finish demands just that little bit more.
Here's where the cutting and buffing step comes into play. The technique is really not new. In fact, it's a form of burnishing and polishing, which has been around for centuries. What it consists of is fine-sanding the surface until it's perfectly smooth, and then using buffing techniques to polish the paint to a brilliant luster. In the world of automotive refinishing, there are special tools, techniques, and materials designed just for this purpose. A proper cut and polish job is always a part of a custom show-quality paint job.
Technicians have their own favored materials and techniques, but the basic process is well established, beginning with sanding the surface. This is normally a wet-sanding process, using water to clean and lubricate the surface while it's sanded smooth. Wet-sanding is done with very fine sandpaper, with the goal of flattening the surface while removing a minimum of material. A break through the clearcoat can be disastrous while sanding, necessitating starting over and repainting the surface to repair the damage. Properly wet-sanding requires plenty of skill.
Once the sanding process is complete, the job is completed by polishing to bring the surface to a beautiful shine. Usually this is done in two steps, with a coarser cutting step to remove the sanding scratches and quickly bring the surface to a shine, followed by a polishing step to take the surface to perfection. We recently visited Corvettes and Customs in Upland, California, where Brian broke out the supplies to demonstrate how a cut and polish is done. Our subject is Rick Stoner's '62, which was recently painted by Corvettes and Customs in a House of Kolor candy.