Dealing with Fine Scratches in Black Lacquer

Suggestions for effective final buffing of a black finish. March 9, 2008

I am a general contractor in New York City. We installed floor-to-ceiling black lacquer panels and cabinets in a bedroom suite. The client is complaining about super fine scratches visible from some angles. My cabinetmaker's method was as follows: four coats of lacquer, sanded in between, the final coat with a 2000 grit random orbital sanding, finished with a polishing compound, using a polisher. After the client complained about the hazing the polisher left, we hand-rubbed a glazing compound on all the doors and panels. The look is better, but still, very fine scratches are visible, especially under bright light. Does anyone know if there is a way to eliminate these scratches? Is this normal?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor J:
Get a finishing wheel and either a super soft cloth or a sponge pad for it. You have to rub this on the lacquer dry. What happens is it heats up and the scratches melt out. Same thing happened to me on the east side by the 59th street bridge; the sun shone right onto it everyday for about 5 hours. I had to go there with a buffing wheel and just buff it out using no liquids whatsoever.

From contributor R:
What does the in-house sample look like? Does it have some slight polishing scratches? If so, what's a guy/gal to do? Try and get a hold of a product sold at auto body shops called Liquid Ebony. This is a liquid colored polish that's meant to be used on a high gloss black surface and its job is to eliminate swirl marks and buffing marks on a black high gloss surface. On top of all the solid black that's been applied, you should have a few coats of clear! It's easier to buff a clear coat than it is to buff a colored coat.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. The cab guy already tried the auto body stuff. I'm not sure if it was Liquid Ebony - probably not - it didn't look black. I'll check into it. What exactly is a finishing wheel? Is it something that goes on a grinder/polisher? Where do I get one?

From contributor J:
A finishing wheel is what the finisher used to polish the unit to begin with, same as a grinder, but slightly different.

From contributor D:
3M sells an auto polish called "swirl mark remover" that might help.

From contributor J:
No polish will get out the final scratches. You need to heat it up with a buffing wheel. I have tried every single polish on the market, before I tried none - and it worked.

From contributor R:
I have had great results with Liquid Ebony, but to each his own. At this point, why not clean the existing finish real good and then apply a few coats of clear gloss? Rubbing or polishing or buffing a clear gives super results and won't present the kind of problems you're having trying to buff a color coat. Dry machine buffing a color coat with the intention of heating it up can be absolutely disastrous and could result in ruining the coating beyond repair. Think about the clear coat option.

From contributor E:
Check with a local auto body shop. They use a sponge polishing pad to take out any buffing marks, which might help.