"Buffing" is the process used to shine metal, wood, or composites using a cloth wheel impregnated with cutting compounds or rouges. The cloth buff "holds" or "carries" the compound, while the compound does the cutting.
The industry refers to "polishing" as the process which uses abrasive belt finishing.
Buffing generally requires two operations, a cut buff and a finish buff. Even the cut buff, which is the coarsest buffing operation, is too fine for removal of pits, course abrasive polishing lines, or deep scratches. This is why surface preparation prior to buffing is critical to a high luster, final finish.
Excellent pre-buff surface preparation starts with using the finest abrasive belt that production will allow. It is from this point that removal of the original scratch line needs to be accomplished to achieve the final buff finish.
The original "scratch" or polish is followed by one or two additional polishing steps. Cross polishing the abrasive lines if possible and buff off of approximately 400 grit or finer abrasive on metals.
The cut buff will remove the final polishing lines, but may not be as bright as required. The finishing buff will produce the luster.
The follwing pdf will give you detailed technical information about buffing.