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DIY Glass Buffer

Polishing a small mirror with the buffer
As a product photographer I have collected an assortment of props, backgrounds and miscellaneous stuff for use in my shots. One material that shows up a lot is glass. Glass drinkware, glass mirrors, plate glass surfaces, a glass fish tank and now my brand new see-through product shooting table. That doesn't include the countless other shiny surfaces I have to deal with. If you have ever tried photographing reflective surfaces you know how much of a pain they can be. They show off dust and fingerprints with a vengeance.

There is no way of getting around it. If you photograph these items you will be polishing them first. What a pain. If there was only an easier way of doing this. Fortunately, there is. Here's what I came up with.

Taking a cue from the big guys, I decided to start looking for a miniature version of a car buffer. I found it in a facial exfoliator kit at Wal-Mart (everybody loves Wal-Mart, right?) of all places. The item is the Olay Pro-X Advanced Cleaning System, a small battery powered facial buffer. With a few modifications it became the answer to my dreams.

The unit has two parts, the motor body and the cleaning brush. It is this brush that needs to be modified to accept some form of replaceable  cleaning pad. As luck would have it these cleaning pads are also available in the health and beauty section. They are the soft round cotton facial cleaning pads sold in sleeves of 60.

The soft bristles are designed for the tenderness of skin, not the hard surface of glass. Certainly not for holding on to a cleaning pad.

With a sharp razor blade I carefully trimmed off all the soft nylon bristles. This is messy as the bristles go all over the place. One solution is to take a lighter and melt the ends of the bristles together before trimming them down. Make sure the bristles are trimmed all the way down to the base.

Once trimmed, get the hook side of self adhesive velcro strips and apply it to the de-bristled pad. The hook part will help hold the cleaning pads securely. You can also use a small piece of paper towel folded in half instead of the cotton pads. I haven't tried it yet but I'm sure a small square of lens cleaning micro cloth will work great.

About a year ago I was turned onto a great glass cleaning and polishing product; Kent Marine acrylic glass cleaning polish. It is sold in pet stores that sell aquarium supplies. This product cleans and polishes the glass with no streaks and low static build up. When cleaning glass for the first time you will need to put some effort into the cleaning as you will see how dirty glass can really get.

When using this DIY buffer you can't press hard. Let the machine do the work. I cleaned a small wall mirror and it took me almost a half hour for the initial cleaning. As long as you keep your glass protected the upkeep is easy. Use a small square of paper towel moistened with the cleaner and you are good to go.

Not everyone needs an electric glass buffer, but if you do I hope you found this DIY modification a good solution. Keep the discussion going and share your methods of getting glass clean.


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