Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Floor Buffers Work

Floor Buffer Components: How They Work Together
The angle of the floor buffer's handle affects the end result of your polishing work.
The angle of the floor buffer's handle affects the end result of your polishing work.

The business end of the floor buffer, where the buffing actually takes place, is housed inside a conical metal sheath -- a little like a cowcatcher on the front of a train. Called the deck, this front area contains a drive belt, which attaches to a vertical spindle. The spindle attaches to a flat cylindrical buffing disk that lies parallel to the floor. When the engine powers up, the drive belt turns the spindle and a buffing disk; when a buffing pad is attached, the buffer is ready to work [source: Warren].

Even though it's not actively involved in the buffing process, the handle is a key component of both commercial and home floor buffers. Not only does it enable the user to steer the machine, much like a vacuum cleaner, but it also contains the controls that determine the speed at which the buffing disk will turn [source: Fitzel]. However, the long, upright handles on buffers are attached to a flat head that, unlike a vacuum cleaner, is round instead of square or rectangular. At the top of the handle, you'll find a set of buttons or switches that control the buffer's actions.

With both home and commercial models, the intensity of the abrasive pad's cut is determined by the height of the buffer's handle. Generally, the handle should be around the height of the user's waist or an inch or two (2.5 to 5.1 centimeters) lower. By changing the position of the buffer relative to the grain of the floor, you can adjust the aggressiveness of the cut [source: Fitzel]. Because many people think of the buffer's position in terms of the numbers on an analog clock face, the process of adjusting the intensity of the cut is called clocking the buffer.

The cut is also affected by the angle of the handle. Picture a clock: If the handle represents the 12-o'clock mark, the sharpest cutting area is between 2:00 and 3:30. Depending on the kind of job you're using the buffer for, by turning the handle, you can affect the intensity of the cut [source: Fitzel]. For example, if the floor is very damaged or if you need to strip off a thick wax coating, a sharp cut will be much more effective. If the floor has a thinner, softer finish however, a sharp cut may do more harm than good.

But the clocking process isn't the only way to adjust the intensity of a floor buffer's cut. To learn about other methods and why they might be difficult if you're colorblind, read on.