Aluminum Polishing

Discussion in 'General VFR Discussions' started by zoom-zoom, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Well, my wife mentioned that the rear sets on my 97 VFR750 looked really good and since the rear sets on her newly purchased 96 VFR were looking rather weathered, she asked if we could polish the rear sets on her bike. Seeing as her bike is silver, I agreed that the polished rear sets would be a great addition to the bike.

    As a result my son and I left the house with the purpose of procuring the tools required to polish up the rear sets. My son Liam and I headed first to the local tool outlet store to see if I could find a buffer. When I did the polishing to the rear sets on my last bike I used a 3" sewn cotton buff attached to a corded drill, and though it worked fine, it took about 8 to 10 hours per rear set. I also managed to just about kill the drill.

    I figured this time around I would try to find the right tool for the job. When we got to the local tool store I talked with one of the employees and he suggested a 1/4 HP Baldor buffer with a pair of 6" sewn cotton buffs. For those who are unsure what the polisher looks like it is nearly identical to a bench grinder with two exceptions. The shafts that you attach the buffer wheels to are about 5" long and provide you with increased clearance from the buff wheel to the motor housing. The other major difference is that the buffer operates at a much lower speed (1600 RPM versus 3800 RPM).

    I polished up the first piece, the left hand drivers rear set, as it was the easiest to remove and the least complicated piece to polish. After using just the jewelers rouge the piece turned out really good, but it did take a fair bit of time as the rear sets have a minor amount of texture (likely from the casting process) and are not perfectly smooth. After polishing the first rear set I learned two things.

    One - This was going to take a bit of time, though not as long seeing as how I now have the right tool.

    Two - Getting rid of the texture with polishing alone was just not going to cut it (pardon the pun.

    The solution, after watching a few videos on YouTube, was to wet sand the parts first in order to knock down the texture, and then polish them afterwards. First step was to thoroughly clean the parts and then wet sand them with 600 grit sand paper. I followed this with 1200 grit sand paper to smooth out the sanding marks. After this I used the buffer with black tripoli (jewelers rouge) and then finally with green tripoli to really bring out the shine.

    Here are a couple of pictures of the actual process.

    First picture shows what the right side, drivers rear set looked like prior to polishing. All the rear sets looked a little weathered and not very shiny. The driver's rear set looked the worst by far and thus the reason my wife wanted to do something with them.

    Polished Rear Sets (10).jpg

    This next picture shows what the parts looked like during the process. Working from left to right in the following photo you see the drivers right side right side rear set - untouched, the passengers left rear set - after wet sanding with both 600 and 1200 grit, and the passenger right side rear set - after polishing.

    Polished Rear Sets (2).jpg


    Here is a picture with all three process done on one part. From left to right in the following picture you can see the polished part on the left, 1000 grit wet sanded area in the middle, and the 600 grit wet sanded area on the right.

    Polished Rear Sets (5).jpg

    And last but not least. THE FINISHED PRODUCT. All the pieces in the following picture have been wet sanded and polished and to prevent the lustre from disappearing I decided to apply a layer of automotive clear coat paint to all the pieces. Originally I was going to use an aluminum sealer of some sort, but the guy who owns the wheel repair shop a few doors down from me at work suggested that the clear coat would last longer and look better.

    Polished Rear Sets (8).jpg


    What I learned during this process is that wet sanding the parts to prep them for polishing, though a bit time consuming, was more than worth the effort to achieve the luster of the finished product. If I had tried to use the buffer to get rid of the light texturing that existed on the pieces, I would have been there for a long time. The other thing worth mentioning is that this is a MESSY job. DO NOT wear your average jeans and a t-shirt while doing this, you will get so dirty that your wife will NOT let you back in the house.

    A couple of things that I discovered to come in very handy were a full body disposable painters suit to wear while doing the polishing saves a whole lot of time in cleaning up yourself. It is a good idea to wear a dust mask of some sort to prevent breathing in all the polish compound that flies off the buffer wheel. Safety glasses are a definite must for the exact same reason as the dust mask. Another thing that came in handy was a sheet of plastic to cover the work area and the floor to keep everything from getting aluminum dust and polish compound all over the floor, and thus clean up was a snap. Just take the plastic sheet outside, shake it off, roll it back up and leave it for use at some later date.

    The total amount of time taken including the wet sanding was about 8 hours. This also included a couple of breaks to partake in a cool beverage of the barley variety. I will add a picture of what the parts look like installed on the bike once I get a chance to put everything back together.
     
  2. TOE CUTTER

    TOE CUTTER Mullet Man

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    The only real problem with polishing is that you have to tend to it constantly or it looks terrible.
     
  3. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    I knew polishing them would require more polishing at a later date, so I clear coated the parts to prevent them from losing their gloss.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2013
  4. Scubalong

    Scubalong Official Greeter?

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    Nicely done :thumb:
    I will drop off my bike for you to work on.......:rolleyes:
     
  5. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Any time Scuba, don't forget to install snow tires before you come though.
     
  6. Outboard John

    Outboard John New Member

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    Nice write up Zoom and the parts look great, can't wait to see the pictures of them installed. I'm assuming you clear coated the parts rather than cleat coating them:eagerness: Nicely done sir!
    John
     
  7. Badbilly

    Badbilly Official VFRWorld Troll Of The Year!

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    DIY clearcoating raw aluminum has some pitfalls. Aluminum alloys outgas and will eventually push off most clearcoats. Best deal, IMO is to have those parts powdecoated by somebody who knows what they are doing excluding the boutique outfits. Painting of same is the same deal.. the wrong primer and you will have paint failure.

    Buffing and polishing is a process and there are many types and grades of abrasives that can be used on wheels. Even the metallurgy plays a role. Some alloy parts are from billets which can be cast or forged as well as individual components which can be cast or forged or even extruded. Ain't no one size fits all in this scenario.
     
  8. VFRkat

    VFRkat New Member

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    Looks great Zoom. The pic showing the 3 stages on the one rear set looks amazing. Nice work.
     
  9. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    As mentioned I had them clear coated by the wheel repair shop a few doors down from my shop. They specialize in cutting and re-clearing of aluminum wheels so I'm certain it was done right judging the shops excellent reputation. Besides my wife wanted them shiny, so I made them shiny.
     
  10. DfnsMn69

    DfnsMn69 New Member

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    And that right there is all that needed to be said. :moony:
     
  11. 34468 Randy

    34468 Randy Secret Insider

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    She's a sweety. She just has to bat her eyes and that is all that needs to be done.

    Nice work Bill. Soon as I get my gawdamed bathroom sinks to stop leaking, I will go at my metal parts on the bike and clean them up.

    I HATE PLUMBING!
     
  12. Badbilly

    Badbilly Official VFRWorld Troll Of The Year!

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    Shiny is fine both as a finish and on the home front..Just making sure both areas are adequately covered for long term exposure. ;)

    I figure if Randy hates plumbing he doesn't have natural gas...
     
  13. safetypro10

    safetypro10 New Member

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    We are talking about the place where your feet go? Right?

    OK.

    Larry
     
  14. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Yeah I know, I know, but the finish of the rear sets was so bad that something had to be done, and when compared to powder coating which would have been relatively inexpensive, the wife like the idea of the rear sets being a chrome type finish.
     
  15. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Awwwwe, Thanks Randy. I love you too.

    Angie

    P.S. I think I liked your old avatar better Randy, the coat makes you look too much like a bear. Not a smokie-the-bear though, just a cute cuddly bear.
     
  16. Badbilly

    Badbilly Official VFRWorld Troll Of The Year!

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    On the pegs or on the rearsets unless frostbitten or frozen is pretty much OK. Climbing into the sack with one's wife with cold feet is not a great idea even in Canada.
     
  17. Badbilly

    Badbilly Official VFRWorld Troll Of The Year!

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    Jesus..No wonder that jacket leaks. from the looks it would also eat up a shitload of shipping costs wet or dry.
     
  18. Badbilly

    Badbilly Official VFRWorld Troll Of The Year!

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    Sorry for the muddle. Just passing along info. Maybe look up the many types of powdercoating applications including the "clearcoats" which come in several levels of transparency from matte to what is called in the paint business, "water white" all of which are especiall formulated and ideal for buffed out alloys including aluminum.

    Some of the crud and weathering on those rearsets might well have been failed clearcoat or if not , some of the oxidation could have been removed chemically using one or more of the mild acids in gel form under the general name of "Aluminum Jelly" .
     
  19. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    No worries BB. When we picked up the bike from the previous owner it looked as though the rear sets had been cleaned with a wheel acid or some sort of harsh detergent. I tried using some aluminum wheel acid to clean them up but no such luck. The parts easily turned a rag with some aluminum polish on them totally black with a couple of swipes. Honestly I was unaware that you could get a clear color in powder coat.

    I had planned on polishing the rear sets on my bike at some point so I may look in to a few of the other powder coat options you mentioned and see if they are available by my local powder coating company. I had checked with the company that powder coated my wheels for me a few years back, but they discouraged me from using a chrome finish powder coat as it does not usually turn out as shiny as what most people would assume.
     
  20. Badbilly

    Badbilly Official VFRWorld Troll Of The Year!

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    Like so many things and products, we (the collective we) tend to go for the more is better school of thought.. The acidic cleaners for non-ferrous metals should really only be on the surface for minutes. The polishes starting with the old standby "Brasso" will turn the rag black.

    The "chrome" powder coat has a long way to go.. IOW it sucks.. Krylon makes a product in rattlecan form called Mirror Bright. On a bike it would last maybe five minutes..

    "Ny" powdercoater is an industrial outfit that does any plating, or exotic coating I need short of flame or plasma spray. They do work for Kenworth, Boeing ect. Not a pretty place but they sure do great work. My jobs to them are more like favors than big moneymakers... I find the botiques a bit pricy and limited in the big picture.

    Like most thing technical, powdercoating is not especially a new thing on the market. Best bet? Check the depth before jumping off the pier. The tide changes..

    Then we got your anodizing too..;)
     
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