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post #1 of 44 (permalink) Old 11-29-2007, 09:39 PM Thread Starter
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How To Polish aluminum

I started writing a how to a while ago and never finished it then i seen some guys asking how to polish shit so I went ahead and finished writing it. This is how I Polish and it gives me near chrome results. I'm sure other people will have suggestions and revisions so post em' up.



Materials Needed:
Rubber dishwashing gloves

Drill/dremel w/ sandpaper flap wheel ( for smoothing out casting/welds

Sand paper (waterproof kind)

Bucket of water or a sink

Rags

Polishing wheel, cotton or flannel (I like the small spiral sewn wheels that fit in a drill)

Compound (some people use rouge but just about any metal polish will work, some are better than others, I use Wenol, and I highly recommend it)

Lots of time, patience, and work


-Some good places to buy polishing material-

-Eastwood Company: Auto Tools, Body Repair, Classic Car Restoration, House of Kolor Paint, Powder Coating

-Buy Craftsman Tools | Fitness Equipment | Kenmore Home Appliances | Lawn & Garden Equipment | Sears.com - Where It All Begins

-Harbor Freight Tools - Quality Tools at the Lowest Prices



The object is to make the surface as smooth as possible. The reason polished metal shines is that there are no scratches in the surface so all the light hitting it gets reflected in the same direction creating a mirror effect. Rough metal reflects the light in different directions making the surface look dull.


I recently polished my forks so I’ll use them as an example.


Prep Work:

Remove paint with aircraft stripper, this can be purchased at pretty much any auto parts, or painters supply store, fine steel wool will also help with the stripping process.

Oven cleaner will remove anodizing, so will sanding it will just take longer. Buy EZ off heavy duty or generic equivelent (do not buy the reduced fume version). This shit is a caustic and it will burn the shit out of your skin so wear gloves! spray it onto the piece your are going to polish and let it sit for 20 min and then check on it, if all the anodizing isnt gone then respray and let sit another 20 min. (I had to let my swingarm sit about an hour and a half before it was done). Be careful with letting it sit too long without checking on it, some lower quality aluminum will start pitting if it sets too long.

Powder coating needs to be baked off using high heat, this is a specialized procedure.
It’s a good idea to remove bearings from wheels and swing arms so shit doesn’t get into them.



After you have removed the old coating(if there was one) the next thing to do is looke for rough spots like if a piece was casted, has machining lines on it, or welds. These areas can be cleaned up easily with a sandpaper wheel on a drill/dremel. These wheels can be had at sears. Be careful not to take more weld off than what you have to; to try and maintain the integrity of the welds.
example of a flap wheel:


Step 1: First Grit

All sanding done is wet sanding, where you have a bucket or sink full of water that you are constantly dipping the sandpaper into to keep it clean.

Wear the dishwashing gloves while sanding. They will protect your skin. if you don't wear them be prepared to have your fingers rubbed raw. (try and get a pair that fits tight, that way you have a good feeling and a solid grib on the sandpaper).

In this step you want to get all the scratches, nicks, and left over paint off the surface of the metal. My forks had a few rough spots in the back so I had to use 150 grit on these spots to smooth them out. Next I went over the 150 spots and the whole rest of the fork with 240 until it was all uniform.

Do all your sanding in a back and forth motion, not circles. Try and sand the whole piece in the same direction, then on the next grit sand in the opposite direction. This makes it easy to see if your getting all the scratches.

Getting into tight spaces can be a little difficult. I usually use something like a paint stick or an artist style paintbrush and just wrap the sand paper around the end to get into places my fingers can’t reach. Obviously you can use what ever you think will work the best these are just some suggestions.

Step 2: Second Grit

This should be a couple hundred grits finer. Try and use the highest grit that you can, just remember the object of this step is to erase the scratches from the previous step, so if you choose too fine of a grit you will either be there all day trying to sand out step one’s grit or you wont sand it out at all and the final finish will look like garbage. The quality of the final finish depends greatly on your patience, MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE YOU SAND ALL THE PREVIOUS GRITS SCRATCHES OUT! For step 2 of my forks I used 320.
Step 3: Continue sanding

Repeat step 2 with another finer grit and continue doing this until you get to 1500 or 2000. On my forks the grit order went from 320 – 400 – 600 – 800 – 1200 – 2000. You can get away with skipping some of the grits if you take your time I just like knowing I completely covered the previous grits scratches.

Step 4: Polishing

(I like to wear latex gloves while polishing so I dont mark everything up with fingerprints.)

Now just polish with metal polish or rouge. You will need to do this mechanically, by hand just wont get it good enough. The compound is actually a very fine abrasive that further smoothes out the surface and your arm and had just can’t move fast enough to do the job. I use a spiral sewn buff in a drill with Wenol polish. You can buy felt bobs for the hard to reach places, they are just small polishers that fit in a drill some are half circle or cone shaped, they are great for corners.

If you take your time, and it will take a lot of time to do it right, the final result will look like chrome. (If the results are less than satisfying try using a different compound, again I highly recomend Wenol it produces a very nice shine and protects the finish pretty well)


I have recently talked to a few different powdercoaters and they have told me that you can powdercoat over polished aluminum. they said that it will dull the surface slightly, i'm still looking into it and am going to have something done as a test to see how slightly dull it gets in the near future.

Heres some pictures, a before, halfway there, after, and a pic of a spiral sewn buff:


How To Polish aluminum-polish4.jpg

How To Polish aluminum-polish6.jpg

How To Polish aluminum-polish3.jpg

How To Polish aluminum-polish12.jpg




Quote:
Originally Posted by Silic0nJ3sus View Post
If you want an absolute mirror finish, after you've hit it with varying degrees of sandpaper, use diamond paste. You can order it online, an no it's not very cheap. It is, however, the best way to get a true mirror finish. Diamond paste is used on aluminum blocks to produce a perfect mirror finish for use in high powered lasers because a standard mirror would be destroyed.

I wish my grass was emo so it would cut itself

Last edited by 94rf900r; 03-01-2008 at 11:14 AM.
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post #2 of 44 (permalink) Old 11-29-2007, 11:22 PM
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Nice write up! Hopefully the mods could sticky this

[QUOTE=ReadNotReed2007;4152205]

You sound like you lead a boring life my friend.

A very boring, un-baller life.[/QUOTE]
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post #3 of 44 (permalink) Old 11-29-2007, 11:49 PM
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Wow, nice work
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post #4 of 44 (permalink) Old 12-23-2007, 08:48 AM
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I am going to tackle doing this to my wheels 1st week of next year. I take some before, during and after pix.
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post #5 of 44 (permalink) Old 12-23-2007, 06:02 PM Thread Starter
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Thats going to take some time. I had 14 hours in those forks. I'm doing my swingarm right now, havent taken any pics though maybe i'll take an after shot. i'm guessing 20-25 hours for the swingarm because some of its pretty rough and needs smoothed out. rims are going to be a bitch my rims were cast so there was a lot to smooth out, the lips are machined and pretty easy to polish though.

Well have fun and just remeber dont get in too much of a hurry, take your time and be thorough, if you start getting pissed at it take a break. the final outcome is all about patience and making sure you completely erase the previous grits.

BTW http://www.eastwoodco.com/ has alot of polishing products like wheels, felt bobs, and compounds and Harbor freight has spiral sewn buffs like I have pictured.

I wish my grass was emo so it would cut itself

Last edited by 94rf900r; 12-23-2007 at 06:08 PM.
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post #6 of 44 (permalink) Old 12-23-2007, 06:41 PM
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you forgot to mention that the upkeep on bare aluminum is a pain in the ass. I polished everything aluminum on my YSR racebike back in the 90's. If I didn't go over all the aluminum parts after every race weekend, it'd look like shit. I never tried it but I would guess that clear coating it would remedy that. But aluminum is funny with paint, so maybe clear powdercoat?? Not sure. I still have the YSR, it's been neglected for years, the aluminum looks like it's been painted a dull grey color at the moment. I have plans to street it again, only this time with either my RM250 lump or some other suitably over the top powerplant. If anyone has a tip on keeping the aluminum nice with minimal (none) upkeep, lemme know.

oh, and btw, if you soak your polishing wheel in a can of NeverDull, it works awesome.
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post #7 of 44 (permalink) Old 12-23-2007, 07:58 PM
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I am only going to polish the lips for those very reasons...take a long time to do it right and they will dull up. Polishing the lips will make for a lot less time and up keep a breeze.
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post #8 of 44 (permalink) Old 12-23-2007, 10:03 PM Thread Starter
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I paid a guy to polish my rims because i didnt want to deal with it. they are dull and need to be rebuffed. i polished my rearsets at the same time as the rims and they stayed shiny, i think its becasue i used Wenol, i dont know what he used, but that stuff keeps the shit looking beautiful. I never do anything more than wash with soap and water and dry them the same with my forks they stayed really nice i'm going to use Wenol on the rims in the spring and see how they hold up.

As far as powdercoating I'm starting to look into, I talked to a guy in the fall that does it. The problem is that the best surface for anycoating to stick to is rough like a sandblasted finish would be best, which polished is the complete opposite. And the powdercoating wont stick if there is compound on there either. So i am kinda nervous to try it out. maybe someone liek the Powder Barons could help us out on this one. I just dont want to spend all that time polishing and then have the powder start chipping off. I'll Try to pm some people to find out if it would hold up or not.

I wish my grass was emo so it would cut itself
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post #9 of 44 (permalink) Old 01-03-2008, 12:21 AM Thread Starter
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I jsut talked to a couple different powdercoaters and they told me that it can be coated but that it will dull the surface slighty. i dont know how slighty yet, i'm going to have something done as a test pretty soon. I hope it looks good, it would make upkeep so much easier

I wish my grass was emo so it would cut itself
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post #10 of 44 (permalink) Old 01-21-2008, 12:43 AM
 
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I'm going to do the swingarm on my bike. I did a little section and it came up really good so that persuaded me to do the rest.

Going to get started on it tonight. Will take before and after pics.

I used fine steel wool to remove the paint as its less messy and worked really well.
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post #11 of 44 (permalink) Old 02-04-2008, 12:38 AM
 
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Damn good job. I need to do the frame on mine. Hope it turns out as good as your forks turned out.
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post #12 of 44 (permalink) Old 03-08-2008, 08:27 AM
 
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Hi,

I tried this method. Well same method just lazier. I did my swingarm and grab rails.

Took me about 3.5 hours a side for the swingarm. Then about 2 hours a peice for the grab rails (lots of paint on those).

My advice, dont try and sand the paint off like I did. Sure it works and most of the casting marks come off in the process but it takes forever. Buy some automotive paint stripper.

I used 400-800-1200-1500-2000 grit wet n dry. I'm happy how mine came out, beats the hell out of the stock grey paint on the swingarm that had random black marks in it that wouldnt come off.

PICS!



http://img295.imageshack.us/img295/9...mpolishxg5.jpg

http://img295.imageshack.us/img295/3...ghtsideja4.jpg


If your umming and arring about doing this. Don't. Its really easy and cheap. It does however take time, lots of it.

PS. I used mothers and autosol metal polish after the sanding. Applied and removed by hand (no fancy sanding or polishing wheels).
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post #13 of 44 (permalink) Old 03-08-2008, 01:57 PM Thread Starter
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that looks great man. nice job.


now its times for the frame and forks lol

I wish my grass was emo so it would cut itself
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do not use a dremel on any flat surfaces like frame, swingarm, sub frame.

a dremel is to small for parts like this. it will cause waves in the metal. I would use a DA. on the cast areas. and just aircraft striper to remove the paint on the other areas then you can start with 600 grit and work your way to 1000 or if your like me and want it to look like chrome go to 2500
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post #15 of 44 (permalink) Old 03-08-2008, 05:25 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onewheel View Post
do not use a dremel on any flat surfaces like frame, swingarm, sub frame.

a dremel is to small for parts like this. it will cause waves in the metal. I would use a DA. on the cast areas. and just aircraft striper to remove the paint on the other areas then you can start with 600 grit and work your way to 1000 or if your like me and want it to look like chrome go to 2500
DA. ?

I wish my grass was emo so it would cut itself
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