Q: Hey Todd,

I just bought my first BigFoot polisher, an LHR21ES, after trying my friends. I see lots of things online where guys say you get the best results with RUPES pads and polishes, but other guys who use different products. Is it really that important that I use your stuff? Will I notice a big difference if I don’t?

Loving these write-ups so far! Keep up the great work.

Matt from Pomona, CA

Hey Matt,

First and foremost congratulations on your new polisher! The LHR21 series (both the classic ES and second gen Mark II) are unbelievably capable machines when paired with the right pads, compounds or polishes, and techniques. The large diameter of the LHR21’s orbit and its random orbital movement created some unique challenges for the engineers at RUPES to overcome when they invented the concept.

First, run your BigFoot 21 in the air without a pad attached at full speed. As the backing plate orbits around a central point, it weights the machine in that direction. The rapid rate of this ever-changing imbalance makes the tool vibrate. The larger the orbit, the more leverage the backing plate’s mass has, the more the tool vibrates. The large 21mm orbit means that the vibration isn’t just annoying; it creates stresses on the moving parts inside the polisher.

Grab your backing plate (with the tool off and unplugged of course) and manually force it to orbit while looking into the little vents just above the backing plate. You will see a silver-colored glimmer appear for part of the orbit. That is the counter-weight and it is essential to balance of the tool. But if there is a counterweight, why does the tool continue to vibrate? Because it matched for the weight of the entire orbiting assembly which includes the backing plate, the bolt which secures the backing plate to the tool, the hook-and-loop attachment material, and the weight of the pad.

So now test your BigFoot 21 again in the air, but with a correctly weighted RUPES 180mm pad attached. Hold the tool lightly, set the polisher to full speed, and squeeze the trigger. The vibration should be near zero. With the massive movement of a large-diameter orbital polisher, pad weight is integral to low-vibration operation. This increases user comfort and reduces the wear-and-tear on the tool. Even a small variance from the pad weight, when moving at high speed and at such a large orbit, can generate noticeable vibration issues. A fraction of a gram can have a profound impact on the operation of the tool and let’s be honest; you didn’t pay premium money for a RUPES to have it vibrate right? Aside from performance the smooth operation and ergonomics are a big part of what sets us apart from the knock-offs and cheap copies.

Another point to consider is the type of foam used to make the polishing pad. The ‘Karate Kid’ “wax-on, wax-off” movement of an orbital polisher means the pad is usually chasing itself in slightly different directions. This requires stiff foam, or short nap on a fiber pad (wool or microfiber), to effectively transfer the orbital polishing movement to the paint. When RUPES developed the first BigFoot Orbital Polishing System, special care was given to the foam structure and pad shapes to harmonize them with the movement of the tool. In 2012, the cropped-conical shape of the BigFoot foam pad was very uncommon. Most pads were straight edge and thin was in! Now, 6 years later, the number of pads which have copied BigFoot’s design is quite astonishing and this is in large due to the fact other companies quickly realized the unique stresses the large orbit tools were creating on foam and they had to adjust their designs to support what was becoming the most popular polishing solution on the market. The foams are also open-cell for a reason, which is to mitigate heat – the compounding and polishing process is, afterall, abrasion which is friction which will produce heat. The foam structure plays a roll in keeping pads cooler during operation.

RUPES BigFoot foams under high magnification show the open cells and unique structure that provide the balance of airflow, rigidity, and abrasive quality.

The last piece of the puzzle was as to develop compounds to work in conjunction with the polisher’s movement and the pad’s unique foams. In development, the engineers discovered that if the compound saturated the pad it would increase the weight enough to upset the balance and thus increase vibration. In addition to the weight issue from saturation, the liquid would soften the foam internally and this softening effect would cause the pad to jiggle on itself as absorbed the polisher’s orbital movement. The result would be significantly reduced pad life and reduced cutting power of the tool.

RUPES engineered a series of polishing compounds, each color-coordinated to the grade of the pad, to complete the system. RUPES is unique in the fact that we manufacturer our own compounds, our own pads, our own tools, our own motors, our own backing plate, etc. Other companies may outsource products and private label them, but RUPES – to our knowledge – is the only company in the world that can honestly claim to manufacture all the components of our systems.

RUPES has developed and manufactured a full line of polishes and compounds specific to each unique tool movement.

So, to address your question’s specifics directly: “Is it really that important that I use your stuff? Will I notice a big difference if I don’t?”

Using the correctly engineered products for RUPES’ components, including the tool, in the manner in which they developed will produce predictable results. We have tested, developed, and validated the performance of our systems. There are great pad manufacturers other than RUPES, and there are great compound manufactures, other than RUPES, who make high-quality products; so it is entirely possible that you could choose other products and achieve great results. However, working within our system allows our team to help troubleshoot any performance issues as we know what to expect and can confidently provide you with a process and a combination that will produce predictable results every time.

When you choose our pads and compounds you don’t just get a performance-proven system, you get the experience and knowledge of the RUPES family. You get a series of products designed and tested, both in the lab and in the real world, from the ground up vs. a series of part numbers piecemealed together that may or may not work as expected.

I hope that answers your questions Matt. I also hope you’ll join us for an upcoming event where we can further your understanding of our systems, you can find our full schedule at www.rupesusa.com/upcoming-events. As always our team remains at the ready to answer your questions, but I’m glad I got a chance to answer yours this week!


Todd Helme | Senior Technical Advisor, RUPES USA


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