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"The edge, or face, of the wheel is the 'sanding block', which carries a thin layer of 'compound' which is the sandpaper. Varying types of wheel are available, and the different grades of compound are scaled similar to sandpaper. The compounds are made from a wax substance which has the different abrasive powders added to it. When this hard block is applied to the edge of a spinning buffing wheel, the heat from the friction melts the wax, and both wax and abrasive are applied in a thin slick to the face of the wheel.
The objective of buffing and polishing is to make a rough surface into a smooth one and, of course, each work piece will be in a different condition, so will need different procedures. Imagine the surface magnified thousands of times, it will look like jagged mountains and valleys. By repeated abrasion, you are going to wear down those mountains until they are old, soft, rolling hills! Then they will not dissipate the light, but reflect it. It is the reflection that makes the buffed part appear shiny."
by Caswell, Inc.