3 Hacks for Rotary Polishing

Rotaries are commonly used for compounding, but you’re leaving value on the table if you don’t try using them for polishing. While there are specific polishers, learning how to use a rotary for polishing can reduce the upfront costs of pricey supplies and is great to have in your back pocket when you’re in a pinch! There are multiple techniques with different supplies, so keep reading to figure out the best technique for you.

What You’ll Need – Recommended Supplies

Though using a rotary for polishing will cut down on your list of supplies, there are still critical components you’ll need to get started. It’s important to use the right pads with the right compounds, so be sure to read through each technique below and check that you have the right supplies. Below are the supplies needed for the 3 different techniques:

Basic Compounding Technique

Basic compounding can be done with either a heavy cut compound or a medium cut compound, but I like to use Level R Heavy Cut Compound with the Lake Country Single Sided Wool Pad. You can also use a yellow wool pad and a less aggressive compound like Elevate or Restructure; it’s up to you. The more scratches and oxidation you’re trying to remove, the more abrasive your materials will need to be.

To execute this technique properly, put the compound on the pad, and begin to work it into the vessel while maintaining a slow and steady pace at around 600 or 800. Don’t put the speed up to 2,000 or 3,000 and have it hopping around inconsistently; keep it flat at a slight right angle to let the machine do all the work. One of the most common errors people make while compounding is trying to go too fast, which leads to splotches and patchiness instead of a clean finish. If, after you compound an area, you see some slight discoloration, it means you didn’t hold the rotary there long enough.

Blue Hybrid Pad Technique

The Lake County Blue Hybrid Pad is lamb’s wool blended with foam so it’s a cutting pad that has the qualities of a polishing pad. If you’re using this pad, Elevate is the best compound to pair with it. Starting out, it’s a similar process: apply the compound to the pad and steadily work it into the boat. Once the compound is worked in, turn up the heat the get the surface hotter and melt out the scratches in the gel coat. This technique is incredibly rewarding because you can really see the shine after you finish. Grab a microfiber towel and wipe down the area, then admire your craftsmanship. 

Polishing Pad Technique

For the pure polishing technique, use a Presta Double-Side Pad paired with Starke Ignition Finishing Polish, which can cut 1,500 scratches out and remove swirls. Saturate the pad with the polish, then work it in slowly and consistently. For this technique, avoid adding heat or speed and focus on staying steady. Using your rotary for polishing will keep you from needing to buy a random orbital machine which can be pricey.

Final Thoughts

Though the rotary machine is typically used for compounding, there are ways to make it a more versatile tool in your workshop. With the right technique, proper pads, and correctly paired compounds or polishes, a rotary machine can be used for compounding, hybrid compounding, and polishing. Don’t be afraid to try different techniques and methods; sometimes tricky problems require creative solutions. This is an especially great hack if you’re just starting out and not sure which tools are considered a priority investment. If you have to buy one machine, buy a rotary machine.


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