- Published: 19 February 2009 19 February 2009
“You can’t be serious! Mark, you mean to tell me you company top-polishes every seam?”
In the immortal words of Gary Cooper: YUP!
It takes 10-15 minutes on most granites, and it makes a great job perfect! At first, though, it’s going to take a little longer; top-polishing takes a lot of practice to master.
Top-polishing of seams should be done to make an install look perfect. The difference is that you finish with a seam that simply can’t be felt. It’s as smooth as glass.
What top-polishing won’t do is save your butt when things go wrong onsite. If you’ve botched the install and try to use this method to flatten a bad install ... believe me, it’ll look wavy and weird when you’re done.
Once you get the hang of it, the process is fast and proven. Here at our shop, we know it works; we’ve been doing this for more than four years.
I’ll often get calls from other fabricators in panics who’ve decided to practice on someone’s kitchen. They’re desperate and can’t make it work.
Take a tip from your friend Mark: DO NOT practice on your client’s kitchen; practice in the shop. Start with the light colors, as they’re easier to polish. Once you get the hang of it, start doing dark ones
I’ve come across several stones that were almost impossible to top-polish. They took longer than 15 minutes, but we’ve always made it work.
This system defies conventional wisdom, but – trust me – it works. The items below are what I’ve found to work best. I am certain that similar products will do the job; I’ve used many of them myself as we developed this method.
The only tools you need to perform this task are:
• a Metabo 125 quick variable speed polisher;
• an Alpha® turbo backer;
• 200-grit Alpha turbo;
• 500-grit Alpha turbo;
• 1000-grit Alpha turbo;
• 4" Alpha hard backer;
• 1000-grit Alpha resin pad (not ex);
• White and black buff (Alphas are the best we’ve found);
• Polishing powder (used occasionally and seldom);
• A roll of masking tape;
• Razor blades; and
• A Pentel Presto™ Correction (whiteout) pen.
Note #1: When you get your new turbos, you must index them. Make a mark on the turbo holder and the turbo, and run them on the back of some Absolute Black until the turbos no longer chatter. Put them on the same way every time; don’t attempt to top-polish with a chattering turbo!
Note #2: Just so you know this is important, I’ll say it again – top-polishing is no substitute for a crappy install. You must have your counter flat and true, or you will create optical distortions when you’re done.
Step One: Scrape down the seam with a razor blade, make a tape dam on either side of the seam, and make some reference lines at a 90° angle from the seam with the Presto pen.
Step Two: Set the speed on the Metabo between 1-2 (kinda slow). Start with 200 grit; use a small amount of water and work the polisher in little figure-eights until you mill the seam down. The whiteout lines give you a reference.
Don’t go hog-wild here; you can easily overdo this. Once the whiteout-pen lines start going away, you’re getting close. Use you fingers to feel the seam, and work until minor lippage is removed most of the way.
Note the shiny spot on the right in the 200-grit polish. That’s the natural bow in the material, and we’re going to fit it.
Step Three: Switch to the 500-grit turbo to take the seam all the way. It’s the same procedure as with the 200-grit. (We’re talking about microns of difference here, but your finger can feel this!) Make those work strokes a little bigger than the 200 grit.
At this point, it’s critical to dry and examine your work area closely. Make certain you’ve removed all 200-grit scratches with the 500-grit, because the next step won’t take them out. (There is nothing more-annoying than finishing a seam and finding a 200-grit scratch.)
Step Four: Repeat the polishing procedure with the 1000 grit, once again making your work strokes a little bigger than the 500 grit. Take your time and use plenty of water.
Now you’re done with the turbos, and ready to go on to the killer trick.
Step Five: Switch to a hard backer and use the 1000-grit resin pad and, with a normal amount of water, work the area. After you have worked the whole area wet, start to polish wet to dry. Set the speed to 2 on the Metabo.
This is an art; you make a small puddle, dip into it, and run to dry. We do not run the 2000 or the 3000 grit; we stop at 1000. It will shine as you go wet to dry.
Step Six: Time to bring out the bling-bling. Switch to your buff pad (I’ve always found Alpha to work the best here) and work wet to dry; don’t use much water. The tool will start to get real hot. We always use two polishers, but it can be done with one.
Sometimes you may need to sprinkle a little polishing powder to get the polish to pop. We rarely use it; when we do, the amount is miniscule.
Step Seven: After inspecting the job, use a good enhancing sealer. (We like AquaMix’s Enrich’n’ Seal™ around here.) This will color-correct any issues that may arise from the procedure when polishing resinated or dark slabs
Step Eight: It’s time to watch your customer’s surprise when he or she realizes that there’s no feel to the seam. You’re a hero (and you can charge for your good deed, too).
Again, if you try this with different tools than those listed above, the system will work. I’m noting what we use because, for us, it works, and it’s easier to walk you through the procedure.
This simple process has solidified our company as a high-end custom operation. We make more money and get more referrals.
If you want to ask specific questions about this procedure, go to the forum at www.stoneadvice.com. All of the moderators there understand and use this system and can answer your questions. Until next time – Mark Lauzon, stonecutter.
Mark Lauzon is a fabricator in Oregon and the administrator of www.stoneadvice.com, a Website dedicated to slab fabrication.
This article first appeared in the January 2006 print edition of Stone Business. © 2006 Western Business Media Inc.