Why is painting so much harder than it looks? Why do hobbyists struggle to get as good of results as a professional paint shop? Let’s break it down…

Paint is a sticky liquid pushed through a mechanical device that breaks it into tiny particles and casts it onto a surface. While still wet, those particles flow together and form a wet film that becomes a dry film. This dry film is called a “paint job.” No one ever thinks of it this way, but painting would be more accurately described as casting. But not casting into a mold where the environment is perfectly controlled, but rather casting into the open air, where all environmental variables co-exist. While the droplets are still wet and flowing together on the surface, they are like sticky fly paper, ready to collect every form of contamination for the world to see.

A world-class paint shop and every true professional will utilize all known methods to control that environment so that the wet film of paint has a chance to reach its potential. But even the most controlled environments are imperfect and carry the risk of defects. This is why every painting operation, whether for a supercar factory, a collision shop, or a motorcycle painting operation will also have a well-staffed and proficient buffing and polishing department.

While most people like to glamorize the art of painting, the skill of buffing and polishing tends to be overlooked. The fact is it is a skill that takes time to learn, requires an eye for detail, and when done correctly, nobody ever knows they were there, just like an exterminator.

"While most people like to glamorize the art of painting, the skill of buffing and polishing tends to be overlooked."

When a motorcycle part gets painted at CPV, it goes through different steps and departments to achieve a world-class paint job. Paint preparation, sealer, color, clear coat, and finally, buffing and polishing. This is why Rhonda, our lead finish technician at CPV, knows the importance of her role and says, “It is the last finishing touch to a perfect meal.”

Our buffing team first inspects the freshly painted part for normal defects that occur in the painting process, such as a dirt particle that landed in the wet clear coat film. Then they will use the correct tools to level out the defect and polish the fine sand scratches created during the leveling process. This buffing and polishing process is technically a “repair” of the scratches the finishing technician made. The goal is to bring the shine back to the clear coat surface, therefore making the repair undetectable.

“It is essential to have an eye for detail,” said Rhonda, “we are the last to touch the part besides shipping.” An incredible level of detail goes into buffing. All our buffers at CPV have a keen eye for noticing minor defects. You will see the world differently if you spend time working in the finishing department (or anywhere in our paint shop). Suddenly the world is covered in paint, and you see things no one else can!

The best painting operations in the world have the best buffing and polishing operations. Many of our painters started their careers in the finishing department, where they learned how to see color and finish in a new way. A painter who is proficient in buffing has a solid foundation in understanding dry paint film. Therefore, when they become responsible for creating a wet paint film, they have a greater appreciation for the process and adhere to best practices.

If you love your defect free paint job, don’t just appreciate your painter, but also thank your exterminator because they were there!

Authored By: Steve Wright

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