The Right Way To Cut & Buff Paint - Polished To Perfection

Follow Along as We Detail the Right Way to Cut and Buff Paint.

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11. First up is a 100 percent wool 8-inch cutting pad from Meguiar’s. The compound used here is Meguiar’s Ultra-Cut. It’s designed to remove scratches from 1,200 grit and finer. The key is not to overload the pad with compound and to be careful not to burn through the paint with the wool pad. Speed comes with practice, so if you’re new to this Lindstrom suggests you go slow and get a feel for the process, or better yet practice on a spare fender to get the hang of it.

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12. The scratches are gone, but they’ve been replaced by even finer swirls. To get rid of these Lindstrom switches to a Meguiar’s Soft-Buff 8-inch polishing pad and their professional Ultra Finishing Polish.

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13. Lindstrom then cleans the panel with Meguiar’s Final-Inspection spray detailer. This cleans the panel, but it doesn’t leave behind any residues so that Lindstrom can look for any spots he’s missed.

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14. Compare this shot to the earlier one, before Lindstrom started buffing, and you can see that the difference is downright amazing. You can also see the orange peel on the gas door to the left. When you think of the work required on this one section and then apply that to the entire car it’s easy to see how a high-end show-quality job can take well over 40 hours to do right.

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15. Here’s a good before-and-after example of the big payoff from doing a proper cut and buff on a car.

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16. This is on the hood of the Corvette.

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17. When Lindstrom can’t find just the right block he switches to small flexible pads. These conform better to curves so that Lindstrom can get consistent results. Again, extra care is taken with sharp body lines, since burning through the clear would mean having to repaint the panel.

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18. Sometimes the larger 8-inch wool pads are just too big to get into the smaller areas around the car. In those cases Lindstrom breaks out this mini wool pad. In areas that are even too tight for this, Lindstrom has to finesse the finish by hand.

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19. To finish up the car we used our Meguiar’s Dual-Action polisher along with the appropriate pads and their Ultimate line of polishes and wax.

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20. And this is the intended result, a mirrorlike shine that sets a high-dollar paintjob apart from a scuff and squirt deal.

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21. Here’s the stash of a guy who’s been doing this for a very long time. Over the years Lindstrom has collected a menagerie of various pads, blocks, and widgets for getting paint just right. We found sections of radiator hose, metal tubes, and even blocks of wood. There was even a small block of aluminum that Lindstrom says is perfect for sanding out runs.

Graphic Interface

Stripes or other graphics painted on a car require a slightly different approach. Sure, they are typically covered by numerous layers of clear, but the lines can still be felt so it’s necessary to do some sanding to get that true “buried” look.

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Lindstrom has been doing this a long time, and over the years he’s picked up quite a few tricks. When cutting down over graphics, like these stripes, he uses a different technique compared to regular panels. As Lindstrom told us, “Charlie Hutton, of Foose and Coddington fame, stopped by the shop and said that we should start with a coarser paper and a harder block to knock down the areas over graphics.” This is because, with today’s high-solid clears, a soft pad will just float over the bumps rather than knock them down. Depending on the condition of the paint, Lindstrom starts with either 400- or 600-grit paper. In this case he chose 600 grit.

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The 600-grit paper is wrapped around this 3M rubber squeegee. Lindstrom has found that it’s hard enough to knock down edges yet flexible enough to conform to the contours of the car. Also key to this process is water, lots of water. Lindstrom ads a bit of Ivory dish soap to the water and lets the paper soak for a bit to get soft. The soap helps the paper slide against the paint and Lindstrom has found that Ivory, over other brands, is easier on his hands.

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Here’s the result after a little bit of work. If you look close you will notice shiny areas adjacent to the white stripe. These are “valleys” in the paint and the goal is to sand until those areas become level with the rest of the clear. Once level, the area is finished in steps like the other sections of the car.


Best of Show Coachworks
San Marcos, 92069
Irvine, CA 92614


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