View Full Version : orbital buffer - yay or nay?

05-05-2008, 10:06 PM
i bought an orbital buffer/polisher at costco today. i saw it yesterday, but got pulled away and spaced it.

went back today on my way home from work and picked it up.

it's nothing special, only $20.

it's got a 10in surface and spins at only one speed, "3200 orbits per minute".

so i unpacked it and plugged it in to check it out and man, this thing is a beast! so much so, i'm a little nervous putting this thing on the gel. i'm scared i'm going to get swirls or marks with it.

it came with an applicator pad similar to what you'd find with your wax can and then these fake lambs whool style polishing/buffing pads.

i've never used one of these, even on a car and i definitely don't want to mess up my boat. it just seems like maybe i could save some time and get a little more out of my detail job with this puppy.

anybody use one of these? i'm not afraid of a little elbow grease, but time is valuable these days and it's tough sometimes to tell the wife i need 5 hours to clean the boat. :)

any advice for, against, and/or tips is appreciated....


92 190 PS
05-05-2008, 10:18 PM

I have the Poter Cable 6" variable speed random orbital and it's awesome. Used it in the MC many times and I've used in on both our black vehicles and it is amazing.

With an orbital you shouldn't have to worry about swirl marks and such like you do with a buffer. Go easy at first and test your work in an less obvious area of the boat. You should be good to go....

05-05-2008, 10:45 PM
I've got a Craftsman 7" orbital. I use 3M gelcoat restorer with it, and it shines up well. I use the terry cloth to apply and go over a few times, then wipe off by hand. Then use 3M wax and polish with the wool pad. I'm far from professional, but it comes out OK.

05-05-2008, 11:21 PM
I concur. I have a 7in buffer and I have been working on a heavily oxidized gel coat for the past two weeks. I set it to the fourth speed out of 6 and I have not done any damage to the gel coat at all, even under the hull where it had some rough spots from being stored on a bad trailer. You'll love getting done with waxing the boat in under an hour.

05-05-2008, 11:52 PM
I bought the same one last month. Works okay, not much better than a terrycloth and elbow grease. Make sure you change the pads often. The ones that came with it were cheap and fuzzed quickly. I wish I had put the $20 bucks towards a better buffer.

Think about it, you spent more on oxidation remover, polish and wax than you did on the tool to maximize the effect.

Good Luck,

05-06-2008, 12:01 AM
i have a 10" Milwaukee and like it. I use a foam pad... more forgiving than wool which tends to heat up fast.

05-06-2008, 12:42 AM
I'd say don't waste your time on an orbital and get a good circular buffers. They work a heck of a lot faster and won't damage you're gel coat. Boat gel coat is a lot tougher than car finishes... they won't cause swirls and such.

This is from an earlier thread:

I thought the same thing M-F. But then I read this from the properboatcare.com web site:
"We recommend using a professional circular polisher to restore and maintain gel coat (Fiberglas) finishes. Unlike delicate automotive clear coats, the gel coat finish on your boat is exceptionally tough and very resistant to damage. Even the first time user can safely use a circular polisher to remove oxidation (chalky dullness) and restore a glass-like shine."

I found this statement to be true. As a "first time user" I was impressed how easy the job was with the buffer. I kept the speed to 2500 rpm maximum and only had to apply light pressure to the surface to get the color to come out.

05-06-2008, 02:35 AM
I don't see why it's an either or between the orbital or circular. I have used both depending on the application.

If I am using a compound to remove oxidation and restore shine, I'll go with a heavy duty circular buffer (although I still haven't mastered it around awkward contours.)

However, if I am merely applying wax or most polishes, I'll go with the orbital.

05-06-2008, 07:49 AM
Get both in one tool. I have the Makita B06040. It has both orbital and forced circular modes. A little expensive put it is two tools in one.

captain planet
05-06-2008, 08:20 AM
I just received a Craftsman 7.5 in. orbital buffer from Santa this last x-mas. I have never used one before I got this one. My Dad had a circular one that he used to make me wax our family boat years ago and he must have told me 1,000 times, "don't hold it in one spot or you'll burn the gel coat". No worries with the orbital. My boat is shinier than it has ever been and it took me about half the time. I used it on both vehicles before I took it to the boat for some practice.

....oh, I guess my vote would be a definate YAY!

05-06-2008, 08:42 AM
i have a 10" Milwaukee and like it. I use a foam pad... more forgiving than wool which tends to heat up fast.Used one of these last week on my 200, w/ varible speed control a real heavy sonofa*****
but must say, it gave it a showroom finish reflectional shine ... foam pads are a must.

Plan to post before / after pic's soon.