Words of Advice to a Young Rotarians

... "young rotarians"?

Have I joined the masons? No ... I mean a novice of the art of automotive machine polishing with a rotary polisher. I do not call myself a master of this machine, but I have achieved a skill level that is competent and yet I am within memory of when I first started with such a machine. That first tentative pull on the trigger can be nerve-wracking and the experience thereafter can be quite daunting, often leaving the newcomer with a sense that they will never control the machine, let alone master it.

Here are a few words of advice to the newcomer:

Exercise caution! It is not especially difficult to get good results using a rotary, but the risk of damaging paint is significantly increased over other types of polisher.

First, you need to get your balance. Start out with a soft finishing pad and a finishing glaze, remove all the handles from the machine since these can often unbalance a newcomer and select a top panel that is comfortable to work on - bonnets or boots are good places to start. Hold the trigger handle in your right hand and support the machine underneath with your left hand, like lifting up a kitten; and therein you will understand how you need to be definite, but light with your touch.

Prime the pad - mist some QD over the dry pad and then apply 2-3 Smartie-sized blobs of polish equally spaced over the pad. It should be a misting, not a soaking! Dot the pad over the area you want to work, which should be around 24″ square, and then set the machine speed to 1. Spread the polish and then during this first go, simply stay on that low speed and move the machine around.

Your left hand supporting the machine gives you a natural reaction to lift the polisher up if things become uncomfortable. It will also help you to keep the pad flat - this is paramount with rotary polishing and an unevenly placed pad will simply have the polisher running away. You control the machine, not the other way around. Gradually relieve the support with your left hand and keeping a firm wrist understand that a slight dip forwards will have the machine running in one direction and a slight dip of that trigger handle will have it running the other way. Flat in the middle is prefect, but DO NOT let the machine linger for too long in any one spot. Keep it moving!

Once you have finished the set, the pad should be spurred to remove all the polish dust. Set the speed to slowest and start the polisher, pointing away from yourself and the car while gently holding a toothbrush against the pad. This action will purge the pad of polish dust which could result in a clogged pad that becomes incapable of actually polishing effectively and leading to a the pad sticking and skipping on the paint. Remember to mist the pad again prior to applying fresh dots of polish.

Second, a few more words of caution.

Swage lines and edges - I say stay off 'em. Work up to the with the edge of the pad and you can correct scratches down them by whizzing down the at a fairly fast speed with little pressure and the polisher on a medium speed. Gently does it, basically. Those very light creases in bonnet centres are a killer! Keep off 'em and don't go side to side over them. When you meet panel edges, consider the rotation of the polisher and lean slightly to the side that throws off the panel, rather than into the edge with the side that pushed up into the edge. Door tops can be a challenge.

The amount of polish is also paramount. Too much an the polish will bake over, leaving you with a white glazed patch or simply go sticky and roll up into tacky balls of polish. Once again, 2-3 Smartie sized blobs is perfectly adequate. Dot over the area to be polished and spread once on a low speed.

Now we are ready to raise the RPMs and get the job done properly. Set the machine speed to around 1500 RPM (1800 RPM when you're more confident) and then methodically work over the area side to side, and up and down a couple of times - the polish will be broken down now. Successively drop the speed and relieve the pressure with any number of further passes. This will fully work out the polish and on a low speed burnish in the depth. DO NOT stop once the polish has appeared to have cleared - this will leave holograms - this is exactly the point at which you MUST continue to work the polish out.

Now that you have experienced using the machine at a raised speed, let's return to the technique for keeping your pad flat - slacken your grip! Tense arms make rotary polishing especially difficult. You do need strong wrists but your arms should be relaxed, as should your grip.

Now you are comfortable with keeping your pad flat and using that slight angle controlled from the trigger handle to affect the direction of the polisher your left hand is free guide the head of the machine around, but take care not to cover the intake port and keep your fingers clear of the spinning head. Your left hand should regularly drop off onto the paint to check for heat build up. Using your left hand is good because the rotation of the polisher is less likely to remove fingers if you accidentally touch the spinning head when cupping the head of the machine. You will get a nasty scrape and you won't do it again!

Other health and safety measures are to wear eye shields, as you would with any power tool and ear plugs if you are going to be using the polisher for a long time or a few days in succession. Remember, you are dealing with a power tool and all the usual precautions should be taken.

Finally, a note about style.

You will find a lot of videos on the internet showing professional and seasoned rotarians moving the machine quickly all over the panel in an apparently random manner. Some even have a kind of dancing action going on! I'm not saying this is wrong since once you become accustomed to the machine you will understand that you get a lot of feedback from the paint and can literally, although probably not empirically, feel the surface and which areas need attention.

Always think about what it is you are going to do before touching the machine to the paintwork. When starting out, make consistent and definite passes - left to right, then up and down. Do this in a controlled manner and you will get good results.

I hope this is useful and instructive in getting you started with the rotary - simply put, relax, be in control, think about what you are doing ... and the rest is practice.