To polish steel parts using a buffing wheel works well but you have more control over the job when you do it by hand. A small job is easily flung from your grip using buffing wheels causing possible injury. The edges of the job also tend to be more round when you polish steel using buffing wheels.
Draw filing to polish steel
Draw filing is a technique to polish steel that involves drawing a flat file back and forth over the surface to be polished in combination with abrasive paper. Draw filing is hard work and your hands will ache but the results are very satisfying.
Secure the part to be polished on the bench and start filing the surface until you have a uniform and flat surface of file marks.
A good way to secure small jobs is to hammer small nails around the job until the heads are just below the surface to be polished. Move the file back and forth in the same direction, holding it firmly and keeping it absolutely flat, until you have a uniform flat surface. Repeat this using a finer flat file.
When you have a uniform surface and removed all the previous file marks and scratches you are ready to polish.
150 grit wet’n’dry abrasive paper is wrapped around the file and some penetrating oil sprayed on the surface. Draw the file back and forth as before until all the file marks are replaced with a smooth ‘150 grit’ finish.
Repeat using 800 grit wet’n’dry. Once you have a uniform surface continue draw filing until the penetrating oil starts to dry out and you get a black paste on the surface. Continue rubbing hard until you start to see reflections in the surface of the steel. A better finish is obtained by using finer grit abrasives and rubbing harder and longer.
When you have finished polishing clean the job with penetrating oil. To prevent the surface rusting spray it with clear lacquer.