Although a floor buffer employs principles similar to sanding in its mechanics, simple manpower just isn't enough to achieve the kind of gloss that both home and commercial floor buffer models can. These buffing machines employ careful arrangements of parts and power for maximum effectiveness and efficiency.
Power, first and foremost, is what enables a mechanical floor buffer to bring a floor to the kind of high gloss that simple manpower can't. Generally, floor buffers are powered in one of two ways: with electricity from a battery or electrical cord, or with fuel (usually propane) [source: Donegan]. Most home models are electrical or battery powered, but models designed for commercial use -- where a long extension cord draped across a large building would be impractical -- use gasoline or propane [source: Fitzel].
In the case of propane buffers, a fuel tank and a large battery are placed behind the engine. These counterbalance the weight of the hefty front end, where the engine is located and where the actual buffing takes place. Even when a buffer runs on propane, a battery is required to provide the electricity needed to start the engine. To enhance agility and reduce lateral bulk, the battery is mounted above the fuel tank, which is then attached to the machine's handle [source: Shaw].
The battery provides the startup energy to the motor through relay contacts. The engine then powers an alternator, which -- much like in a conventional automobile -- keeps the battery charged and ready [source: Shaw].
In a gas-powered buffer, the engine is a traditional combustion engine-- again, much like the cars you see on the road every day. To offset the heat it produces, a water tank is mounted nearby to cool the motor. When the buffer is in operation, a vacuum force starts water flowing through a hose; as it enters the combustion chamber of the engine, it cools the engine in the form of a mist that turns to steam when it encounters the engine's high temperatures. For added efficiency, that steam also helps to power the pistons and the drive train [source: Shaw].
To find out more about these components and how they power the business end of the floor buffer, keep reading on the next page.