In the last issue of Roadfly, we reviewed the Porter Cable 7424 Random Orbital Buffer, and apparently the article was well received. It was so well received that many of you wrote to request that we review the Porter Cable 7428 Rotary Buffer. Always happy to oblige our readers, we present to you the Porter Cable 7428 Rotary Buffer.
Let us first begin by addressing a few myths, misconceptions and other general notions about rotary (or direct drive) buffers in general. It is the opinion of this article’s author (someone who has been detailing cars since the mid 1980’s) that rotary buffers are “not for everyone.” That being said, they are not the dangerous animals that others make them out to be, but rather, a powerful tool that deserves tremendous respect – let’s find out why.
Typically speaking, rotary buffers are a “direct drive” type of a buffer – in other words, the buffing spindle (the drive system that spins the buffing pad) spins in a true circle, much like a drill or circular saw does. This circular pattern quickly develops heat in the paint’s surface, and when combined with an abrasive pad (wool, foam or synthetic) and an abrasive compound, paint damage can occur quickly and with very little warning.
Furthermore, rotary buffers are usually very powerful – most have motors that pull between 7 and 11 amps, and can generate nearly 1/2 horsepower at speeds that vary from 1,000 to 3,500 rpm. They also tend to be heavier than their random orbital cousins, and generate more “working heat” on the surface they’re being used on. Combine heat, weight, power and abrasives together and you’ve got a recipe for potential paint damage. It is important to note that the clear coat on new cars is very thin – so thin that it’s measured in “mils” or microns, and can be easily damaged by improper rotary buffer use.
If you’ve ever been to one of the “seedier” used car dealerships in your town, you’ve probably witnessed some of the ill-effects of a poorly trained rotary buffer operator – swirls, burns, cloudy or hazy paint are all common signs of incorrect buffer use. Many of these problems can be easily corrected with a rotary, but they can also be “enhanced” with improper use of a rotary buffer.
Again, it is not my intention to scare anyone away from using a rotary buffer, I simply believe it is critically important that you be aware of the potential hazards that a rotary buffer presents to the novice or new user. In the proper hands, the rotary can be a tremendous asset and can make short work of difficult problems. But reaching that point of detailing nirvana requires a lot of practice, a lot of patience and good training from a competent rotary buffer user.
This article will not focus on the intricacies of using a rotary buffer, because that would be nearly impossible to convey through words and pictures. If you’re in the market for a rotary buffer, I’d strongly suggest you purchase some instructional videos and/or try to find someone local to you who is familiar with (and good with) the rotary buffer and can show you the proper technique for using one.
With all of the warnings and disclaimers behind us, let’s take a look at Porter Cable’s awesome 7428 Rotary Buffer (hereon referred to as simply the “7428”).
The Velvet Hammer
On paper, the German made Porter Cable 7428 Rotary Buffer appears menacing – it weighs in at nearly eight pounds, has a 10-amp motor, operates at between zero and 3,000 rpm, and measures nearly 18″ in length. This sucker means business.
Luckily, business is good, because once you lift it out of the box, you realize that it’s actually quite light as far as heavy-duty rotary buffers are concerned. At first look and feel, it’s obvious that the buffer is built quite well – the body is fit together perfectly with TORX screws, the drive mechanism is housed in a cast aluminum body and all of the components and controls are well placed.
The buffer comes with what is referred to as a “bailing handle.” This handle mounts just above the drive spindle, and allows the operator to control pressure and direction of the buffer during operation. It can be mounted in one of two ways, depending on the operator’s preference – left-handed or right-handed operation. The handle mounts to the aluminum housing with two beefy M8x1″ machine screws.
Once the handle is installed, it’s time to install the hook-and-loop backing plate. Porter Cable supplies a backing plate (Porter Cable Catalog Number 54747), but the plate is designed for larger (8″) buffing pads, like those available from 3M. We were able to get the plate to work with the 7″ pads that we prefer from Lake Country Manufacturing, but it would be in your best interest to purchase a slightly smaller backing plate should you decide to use the smaller pads on a regular basis.
The backing plate is attached to the buffer’s drive spindle by way of a 5/8″ right-hand threaded shaft. Porter Cable supplies you with a little wrench that’s used for securing the backing plate to the drive spindle. They also supply you with a hex-wrench that’s used to supply the bailing handle to the buffer body.
Perhaps the most important feature of the 7428 is the speed control set – they are, in my opinion, the best available. There’s a continuously variable finger trigger that’s used to run the buffer, and its operation is silky smooth. The trigger will allow infinitely adjustable operation from zero rpm to 3,000 rpm, and also features a “trigger lock” that helps prevent trigger finger fatigue.
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Thanks entirely to the smooth trigger action, you can easily control the rate of start-up speed for the buffer, which helps to minimize compound sling and contributes to the overall feel and precision control of the buffer. I was so pleased to find this feature on the buffer that it’s reason enough alone to run out and buy the 7428.
Working in tandem with the silky trigger is a speed dial that’s situated on the top portion of the buffer, nearly directly above the trigger. The dial is also infinitely adjustable from “1” to “6.” The numbers don’t directly translate into operating rpm, but that’s ok – I usually rely on “feel” to determine the proper operating rpm. If you’re new to using the rotary, I’d suggest you keep the dial set on “1” until you become proficient with the operation.
Finally, the buffer comes with what appears to be a very high quality power cord that measures nearly 10 feet in length. The power cord is protected with a stress-relief sheath on the “buffer end” of it. The 10-foot length is an asset because it allows the cord to be run up and over your shoulder and then back down to the ground before mating with an extension cord. It’s these little details that really make a big impression – but we’d expect nothing less from Porter Cable.
Swinging The Velvet Hammer
Using the 7428 is nothing short of dreamy. From the moment you pick it up to the moment you set it down, everything about it feels “just right.” It’s light enough that you can use it for extended periods of time and at odd angles, but it has enough heft to get the job done.
The bailing handle is extremely comfortable – it allows you to place your entire palm in just about any position that you desire. This flexibility results in unparalleled control – I don’t feel like I’m carelessly swinging a 10-pound maul around all willy-nilly. As far as rotary buffers go, the 7428 leaves the operator in nearly complete control. I say “nearly” because there are still occasions where you feel like you’re fighting the buffer to go where you want it to, but the 7428 is much more forgiving than many other rotary buffers.
Power-wise, this thing is an absolute animal and won’t leave anyone wanting for more. In one set of tests, the buffer was able to pick-up and sling a 1993 Ford Thunderbird hood from the sawhorses on which it was resting. Now you can see why I’m hesitant to tell anyone that a rotary buffer is completely safe for all applications – that T-bird hood is about the size of a queen-sized mattress, and for the 7428 to sling it effortlessly is pretty impressive.
Luckily, the speed and power is completely manageable, thanks once again to the surgically accurate speed controls. I was able to comfortably operate the 7428 at practically any speed, which is a rear compliment in the rotary world. Regardless of the speed you’re using, the 7428 goes where you want it, all the while providing great feedback and control.
In closing, I must reemphasize the fact that not everyone needs to own, nor should they own a rotary buffer. They can be dangerous when used improperly and can quickly take your paint from shiny to primer in a heartbeat. But, for those in the know, the rotary is a true asset and the Porter Cable 7428 is certainly the top dog in its category.
If you’re in the market for a rotary buffer, look no further – this is the machine for you. With it’s impeccable build quality, top notch operation and the Porter Cable reputation, you can rest assured that this is the finest rotary buffer money can buy. Buy this buffer and you’ll not only have it for a lifetime, you’ll love every minute of it. It’s the type of product that others can only aspire to be.