DIY Buffing Compound

I am going away for a few days, after that there will be several more posts from my Auntie’s garden and some knives. I wanted to pre-write a few posts, but I do not have enuff time, unfortunately. But I have enough time to finally give you a functioning recipe for a DIY buffing/stropping compound.

It starts with a bucket full of old nails and other rusty steel scraps. It is outdoors, filled with water and a little solar-powered aerator to help the corrosive process a little.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Once in a while I sift through it and collect the mud that gathers on the bottom of the bucket, I put it in another bucket, let the water settle, skim it, and leave it dry a bit if possible.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Final drying is done on the stove in the shop. When it is completely dry, the final product is de-facto ochre.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I put the ochre in an old paint can and put it directly into the fire in the oven or in a pot on a charcoal fire in a BBQ pit o anneal it. I do not have any pictures of that, unfortunately, I forgot to take some when I was at that step. The final product of this step is a hematite powder/sand.

The powder needs to be crushed and sifted. The best method that I have devised is to put a piece of nylon stocking over a bucket, put in it a bit of the powder and gently agitate it with a spoon, put it in the mortar to crush it, put it back in the stocking, rinse, and repeat. That achieves two things – the finely crushed powder does not float around the shop and make everything pink and it is very finely sieved indeed. I have no idea about the exact grain size, but I do not think it is that important right now.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Next step I have started to make a teensy-tiny batch of dubbin. First I heated up 8 g of olive oil, then I added 8 g of bone marrow fat and as the last step, I added 8 g of beeswax. This is the substance that I am using to treat my handmade leather goods.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I poured approximately two-thirds aside into two samples to give to my most recent customers who bought knives with leather sheaths. Then I mixed the powdered hematite into the rest until it started to thicken slightly when stirred. I guess I did not anneal the hematite enough because I got a chocolate brown color. Finely crushed and sifted hematite powder is the true, original jeweler’s rouge and I sort of expected it to be, well, rouge colored. I will do a better job annealing, maybe with a gas torch and we will see with another batch. At least it is a pleasant and not disgusting brown.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

After it all cooled I have weighed it all to guesstimate the ingredient proportions for the final product and there they are:

1 part of olive oil, 1 part of beeswax, 1 part of tallow, and 4.8 parts of abrasive powder.

The final product has about the right consistency that I need so I think I do not need to tinker with the recipe further. It is hard so it does not smear very easily, but not so hard that it could not be used for manual buffing. I have used it in two ways and it works for both of them well.

The first was to use it to prime a hard leather strop to buff blade edges. It worked marvelously, getting the edge to shaving sharp like no bee’s knees. I am definititutitevely going to use it for that.

The second use was to put it on a piece of cloth and buff the pakfong and bronze on my latest knife to remove the patina. And it worked like a marvel, much better than all the commercial compounds that I have tested in this way in the past because those usually require much faster movement.

So I do call it a success, I have made a usable compound for manual buffing of blade edges and small metal parts. I will continue with the experimentation and perhaps make even bigger batches. I also plan to try my hand at making sharpening stones, I do have a bit of experience with that already.


  1. says

    Most lapidary stores will sell you a bag of carbide for not very much at all; I think it’s about $5/lb and that’s basically a lifetime supply unless you’re into crazy stuff. I add a spoonful to beeswax and yes it makes a great buffing compound. Total time to prepare and deploy: 10 seconds in the microwave.

  2. says

    I’m always amazed by your dedication to making all those things. I think it shows that while a guy may leave chemistry, chemistry does not leave the guy.

  3. Ice Swimmer says

    Bonus points for using the canonical component in “ingenious life hacks”, old nylon stockings or pantyhose! Rusty nails on the other hand is something I haven’t seen much used in those kinds of things. That’s Rust Belt ingenuity. 8-)

    On a more serious note, concurring Giliell.

  4. lochaber says

    I was going to suggest trying steel wool and bleach, or something along those lines, but then I realized that the process is probably more important than ease/efficiency.

    And, I respect that.
    Plus, I learned stuff, just reading about it.
    so, thanks

  5. says

    @Marcus #2, I am well aware that I could buy abrasive powders of a specified size and do with them as I please, and I will do so for tumbling at some point in the future. I would not melt beeswax with abrasive in a microwave though, I would be afraid it catches fire if I do not turn it off at the right time.

    The point of this is not to be cost and time effective (although costs were effectively zero and the time was maybe an hour or so). Indeed as lochaber puts it “the process is probably more important than ease/efficiency”. There are very few things in life that bring me something vaguely resembling joy and finding out how to make useful stuff from scraps and recycled materials is one of them. I do have quite a few professionally made buffing compounds for serious work.

  6. amts says

    Charly said : ” finding out how to make useful stuff from scraps and recycled materials”

    And more power to you. I wish I had that level of talent and or determination in that area -- but as it is, I find your endeavors along those lines to be fascinating.

  7. avalus says

    I admire your dedication to do things yourself and I try to do the same, when ever possible. It is just so satisfying to know: “You made this” and at least for me it helps to notice, and appreciate in a way, the ease we have with many things, not thinking about how much work actually goes into a thing.

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