No amount of skillful painting or precise formulation can allow for a perfectly flawless glass smooth finish to happen all on its own. It's a virtual certainty that somewhere your finish will have some degree of orange peel or maybe at least a speck or two of dust or lint that just doesn't quite avoid notice. Although all the gloss you could hope for is already there, lacquer requires some extra help to even out the "bumps". The surefire solution for this is a polishing kit.


There can be! It's all up to you.

Paint is not the master of you, you are the master of your paint. Lacquer has all the inherent qualities necessary to achieve an absolutely perfect, and I mean perfect, finish. The only variable is the human factor. How you apply your finish and how you address and correct problems that may occur from the first moment you prep the body all the way to placing your completed model on your shelf determines how perfect your finish will be. Good use of a polishing kit has a lot to do with mastering your paint to perfection.


Typically most polishing kits provide square sections of sanding cloths ranging from 1800 to 12000 grit, a foam sanding block, one or two bottles of liquid polish, and a soft cloth for the polish. Lets look at each of these items individually.

First and foremost are the sanding cloths. These serve the same purpose as conventional sand paper, however cloth is used for the backing material instead of paper to allow for more flexibility when sanding complex surfaces. The grit refers to the size of the sanding particles adhered to the surface of the cloths. The coarseness of an 1800 grit cloth can be easily felt while an ultra-fine 12000 grit cloth feels smoother than the very cloth backing material it's on.

Accompanying the sanding cloths is the foam sanding block. This soft, scratch resistant block is used with a sanding cloth wrapped around it to more evenly apply pressure to a surface area while sanding. This is particularly useful on broad, flat surfaces like a roof or hood of a car body.

Next are the two liquids, one usually a swirl & haze remover, and the other a polish. The swirl & haze remover is a compound that contains extremely fine abrasive materials used to smooth a finish beyond the capabilities of even an ultra-fine 12000 grit sanding cloth. The polish is actually another abrasive compound that contains even finer abrasives and is used to further smooth the work done by the coarser swirl & haze remover. These liquids are applied with the soft cloth material provided, a vital item to have for this purpose.


The first hurtle to overcome is making sure your applied finish has fully cured enough to enable the polishing kit to effect the best results possible. Usually a period of one week after a finish has been applied is sufficient enough to allow you to proceed with polishing. Rubbing out a finish that hasn't fully cured may give you the impression while you're rubbing it out that the surface feels "gummy". In fact, it probably is. Sanding cloths work best when their grits have a hard surface to work on. You won't find the results you're looking for by rushing your progress. Make sure your finish is ready before you are.

From here there are two paths to choose from: regular sanding or wet sanding. Each method has advantages and disadvantages.


Regular sanding is simply using sanding cloths on the bare surface of a finish to rub it out. On the plus side, you are able to clearly see the surface area you're working on. You can better judge how the surface is affected by your sanding and make necessary adjustments with less guess work. On the down side, regular sanding wears out your sanding cloths more quickly than wet sanding so you'll be replacing them more frequently. 

I cut my cloths into three equally sized pieces and use each one twice when polishing a 1/25 scale car body, so a polishing kit for me lasts through six models before I buy replacement cloths. Also, when I buy replacement cloths, I usually buy 3600, 4000 and 6000 grit more often than 8000 and 12000 grit sizes. The finer cloths don't wear nearly as fast as the coarser cloths do.


Wet sanding is regular sanding with water added to the procedure. You can sand by dipping the cloth in water, sanding, then rinsing the cloth free of sanding dust and rewetting it, or you can sand under running water tap water which will provide constant rinsing. Rinsing sanding residue out of the cloths makes sanding more effective and increases the usefulness of the cloths themselves. The down side of wet sanding is that the water obscures and distorts your clear view of the surface. You'll have to dry areas off to visually check if they've been properly sanded, especially when you are at the tail end of your sanding using 6000 grit and finer cloths. At this level your finish will start becoming highly glossy, making it harder to distinguish the actual paint gloss from the wet shine of the water.

Some modelers swear by wet sanding, saying that it provides a smoother shine to the finish than regular sanding. For myself, I have tried both methods and have found that wet sanding is not to my personal liking due to the obscured view of the surface area. I like to be able to see what I'm working on at all times. It's also less trouble not having to maintain the wetness of the sanding cloth unless you do your sanding under a running faucet, but then your view will really be distorted. I've also never had a problem with the smoothness or quality of a finish that's been sanded regularly. I suggest giving both methods a try to see which works best for you.


A perfectly level, uniform surface is the hallmark of a smooth appearance. Although you have many sanding cloths contained within your polishing kit, the most important one is the very first one you begin sanding with regardless of what grit it is. Above all others, remember this one basic rule:


Let the first, coarsest cloth you select do all the work of removing orange peel and leveling the surface. If you've properly sanded your surface level you've also accomplished sanding it smooth even though it doesn't look that way because it's not shiny yet. The subsequent finer sanding cloths in the polishing kit take care of that. They also help level the surface to a lesser degree, but their main function should be thought of as polishing rather than sanding.


Typically, for a finish that exhibits light to moderate orange peel, a good sanding cloth to begin working with is either a 3200 or 3600 grit cloth. The 1800 and 2400 grit cloths impart scratches that are difficult for the finer grit cloths to handle without a lot of extra work. If your finish has what you think is greater than average orange peel start with the 3200 grit. If you have lighter to moderate orange peel start with the 3600 grit. I never use 1800 or 2400 grit cloths for sanding finishes. Instead I use them for light sanding chores unrelated to polishing including scuffing parts to prepare them for priming or painting.

Here are some things to keep in mind while you're sanding with any grit size polishing cloth:

Don't rush! Rubbing out a finish takes hours of tedious work that may cause you to want to hurry through the steps. Very critical to ensuring that your finish's final appearance is scratch free is to make sure each polishing cloth fully removes the micro-scratches made by the cloth used before it. The 4000 grit cloth removes the scratches of the 3600, the 6000 removes the scratches of the 4000, etc., until you are finally polishing with the 12000 grit cloth. If you fail to completely remove the sanding scratches from the cloth prior to the one you're working with you may find yourself having to backtrack to remove scratches later on.

Take it easy on yourself! The task of rubbing out a finish is tedious enough without making it worse by applying excessive pressure while sanding. Only moderate pressure needs to be applied for the sanding cloths to be effective. They're designed to work that way.

Clean sanding residue from the cloths frequently. Wipe them often, or rinse if you're wet sanding, to keep them at their peak performance level.

When sanding an area that has a complex surface such as a body, begin your sanding in harder to reach areas first. For instance, if you're sanding a fender on a 1932 Ford, start at the point where the fender joins the body before you sand the fender itself. The area surrounding the point where you're concentrating your sanding is also being slightly sanded from incidental contact with the polishing cloth. It's less likely this will happen in harder to reach areas so it's safer to leave those areas for last. If you sand the fender first before moving on to the harder to reach area you're likely to be sanding the fender a second time due to the incidental contact. You don't want to inadvertently sand too much material off of the finish.

Be careful when sanding around sharp angles and corners. A paint's finish is thinnest in these areas and wears the quickest from sanding.

Convex surfaces, particularly sharper angles, display less orange peel effect than flat surfaces. Areas that will need the most sanding attention will be wide, flatter areas like roofs, trunks and hoods.

Some polishing kit instructions recommend altering the direction of your sanding when switching from one grit to the next. If you've thoroughly sanded with each cloth along the way it's not really necessary to do this. Your work will be an easier task if you sand comfortably in any direction you prefer without this restriction in place.


You'll find when you've reached the point where you're sanding with the 6000 grit cloth that the finish will begin to lose its dullness and develop a substantial shine. At this point, areas exhibiting any orange peel or other defects that were not thoroughly sanded with coarser cloths will become more visibly obvious. The sooner you can identify these areas and backtrack to correct them the better. Resand these areas, or "spot sand", with your coarser cloths as soon as they are discovered before proceeding with the 6000 grit sanding.

Incidental contact of surrounding areas with your sanding cloths while spot sanding a specific area must be kept in mind when making any corrections. You must overlap the area where you're spot sanding with each subsequent sanding cloth you use until you've corrected the problem area and are back to where you last left off.

For example, let's say you've sanded your entire finish all the way to your final 12000 grit cloth before you notice an area on the roof about one square inch wide that isn't quite as smooth as the rest of the roof. You backtrack and spot sand the area with your 4000 grit cloth. When you go on to the 6000 grit cloth you have to overlap the spot sanding area about two square inches wide, the 8000 grit cloth three square inches wide, and finally you may be going over the entire roof again with the 12000 grit cloth to complete your correction. Without overlapping spot sanded areas you'll be leaving surrounding scratches caused by incidental contact visible. The sooner you can detect and thoroughly correct problems such as these the less work you'll have to do overall.


Indeed, that's what you'll say when you admire the glass smooth gloss of your finish if you've given it the proper care and attention with your polishing kit. However, this tutorial only covers the sanding aspect of the polishing kit. We still have the swirl & hazer remover, liquid polish, and a host of other types of polishes and waxes beyond the liquids included in your polishing kit to deal with. That will be covered in the "Buffing & Polishing Your Finish" tutorial.

You think your finish is perfect now? You haven't seen anything yet!