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Acrylic Buffing 101

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I decided since i aquired a pretty scratched up acrylic tank(BEYOND BELIEF) that i woud walk people through the steps i took to make this tank look brand new! i used two different kits. The most important thing to point out is that with one kit or the other the job would look horrible! but with the two kits combined it looks like a brand new tank all together!!!
This tank was not only scratched but was also covered in calcium and coraline that couldnt be scraped off

You will notice on the back of the tank how much coraline algae has grown, this is how the front also looked before i began to buff it out.

MAKE SURE: you buy 100% cotton rags or "sheets" to apply and buff the polishes on or you will scratch the acrylic when doing certain steps..

heres is the front glass of the tank before i began

i used sandpaper( 1500, to 12,000) and a sanding block, i also used Novus #2 and #3. i wet sanded instead of dry sanding because of the fact that wet sanding saves your paper and gets alot more use out of it instead of junking the paper up and going through multiple sheets.
NOTE: you can also "wet sand" inside your tank if its filled with water, it will cloud your water but should not hurt anything in the tank( DO NOT use NOVUS in your tank!)

First you must identify the scratches contour.. if the scratches are vertical you sand vertical if horizontal you sand horizontal..Dpending on how deep the scratches arfe you can start at a higher grit sandpaper. IF the scratches are bad start at a low grit so you can sand them out..

start with 1500 grit sanding paper

wrap the paper around the sanding block as shown..NOTE: dont try to hand sand as you will never get evan lines, you NEED a sanding block!!!

DONT GET FREAKED OUT.. your acrylic will look like you completely ruined it and scratched the heck out of it after sanding with 1500 grit!( because you did) for deep scratches sand more until you are evan with the scratches and you see them dissapear, once you see them dissapear you move on to the next grit sandpaper
post #2 of 19
Thread Starter 
the sandpaper will get junked up after you start sanding so dip it back in the water and wash it off, or use a different part of the paper or you wont fully get the grit to the glass

1800 grit is next.. sand with that a few times until the lines get finer

After a few passes move to 2400 grit

once again you will panic on how bad the tank is scratched

move to 3200

BE SURE to wipe the glass of acrylic and debree after each grit sandpaper if the acrylic starts to build with residue.. if not the sandpapers will not be affective

Move to 4000 grit.. this to me is the most important step sandpaper.. once you reach 4000 start overlapping your original start and stop point so that the scratches blend into the orignal "unscratched" glass since this is a finer sandpaper and it can be masked

you will start to notice your glass will get ALOT better looking in this step

Move to 6000 grit once again the glass will appear blury but clean

Then move to 8000, remember sand until the scratches get finer and finer then stop, dont oversand! a few swipes of the block will prove wearthy
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Move to 12,000 this is the last grit so take alot of passes to be sure everything is smooth, remember to sand evanly and straight to get nice lines NOTE: 12,000 girt sandpaper basically feels like a piece of leather with no grit AT ALL.. do not take this paper for granted evan if you think it will do nothing it actually does ALOT for your surface!

after the sanding is complete get a DAMP rag and apply some finishing polish

you want to "wax" or "buff" this stuff in circles for effectivness.. make about 5-10 passes from front to back in cirlcular motion really rubbing this stuff in good with ALOT of pressure.. your forearms should burn!

after your done wipe evreything clean, your acrylic will look good but it will be cloudy

NOW comes the most important steps... Use # 3 Novus and rub the substance with the contour of the scratches... go back and forth about 20 times.. WAIT 2-3 minutes and then "buff" clean

Now comes #2.. apply a generous ammount when applying #2 and #3 .. The difference is #2 should be circularly buffed onto the surface where as # 3 was buffed on "with" the contour of the scratches

Wait 2-3 minutes and then circulary buff the #2 off of the acrylic.. when buffing off it will feel sticky at first.. Buff the compund off until the cloth you buffing with feels nice and slick as if it just "slides" across the surface...THEN YOU KNOW YOUR DONE...

REMEMBER:START with 2-3 inch sections at a time , when you get the hang of it go to 6-7 inch sections at a time dont try to do the whole length of the glass that your sanding or it will be unevan!

Here are some before and after shots


post #4 of 19
Nice job. I was in charge of returns when I worked in hard goods at the warehouse and I could buy stuff for the net refund $ after shipping and got a 125 Oceanarium reef system for $20 that some idiot cleaned with a razor blade. It took me about 20 hours to buff out but looked brand new when I was done.
post #5 of 19
This post should be put in the archives. Very well done.
post #6 of 19
Great contribution, Your method is slightly different then mine but if it works it works. Ive always prefered to remove the isolated scratches by hand, but when doing a large area a buffer can be faster I suppose. Havent had to rub that hard. Then again with aircraft canopies you are limited to how much material you can remove due to distortion and pressure fluctuations.
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
it only took me about 3-4 hours to do the whole front pain of glass..the only reason i would never use a buffing wheel is because you cant "feel" the scratches and when your done you also wont be able to feel when you should move to the next grit sandpaper..
post #8 of 19
post #9 of 19
I did the big ones by hand first then used a wheel because mine was completely scratched all over.
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
same with mine.. iw ould just be afraid with a wheel.. did you use the wheel witht he novus?
post #11 of 19
Yep, #1 and #2. The wheel had a real thick foam pad and very fuzzy acrylic. Mine tank seriously gouged. Put it this way, he couldn't get his van up to the door cuz we were so busy so he dragged the stand 20' across the asphalt, the inside of the tank itself was about half that bad.
It was well worth the labor, we were wholesaling that setup at $3400 and it came out looking new. Well, except for the huge hole in the lid where he stepped on it.
post #12 of 19
Good deal. Glad it turned out that well.
post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 
BUMP for Bronco
post #14 of 19
I had similar fun with my 65g acrylic that I am working on getting set up. It was a lot of work, but very rewarding.

post #15 of 19
great thread PSU, and you said you had sworn off acrylic tanks forever . All joking aside, fantastic job on that tank
post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 
thanks guys

hammer, honestly i will never buy one again!
post #17 of 19
thanks ps...i've used the lifeguard some and it seemed to help quite a bit, not completly...i just don't have the time right now to dedicate with the new house etc...but i did get the novus and will be using it once i get the garage cleaned up more!
post #18 of 19
Thread Starter 
it is a real time consumer! but just take your time and relax and it will look great!
post #19 of 19
fantastic thread. bravo psu.
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