This is uncanny. Richard sunnbobb Mattrass beat me to this subject by posting his Polishing aluminum in eighteen hundred steps just slightly over 12 hours ago. His method will result in much higher gloss and is waaay more thorough than what I'm presenting here. But, I've got more pictures.
You should also read two other great sources of polishing info here at NGW:
Polishing Aluminum by Bryan MD
Polishing With a Grinder by Paultjack
I like shiny bits as much as the next guy. But I'm not too over-the-top about it. The OCD part of me is pretty much saved for adjustments and cleaning in the guts of the machine. But sometimes a guy has got to have some bling. And besides that, I hate to sand. So presented here is my quick way to shine up aluminum parts and keep them shiny.
The wheel had never been one of my tools before getting this bike. But with all those crusty covers and forks I knew that it was time to find out the best way for me to polish aluminum. I say, for me, because there are a gazillion ways to do it and everyone has their own opinion. I am hoping that this thread kicks off some discussion and we all learn something about it.
My carbs are out for a rebuild so it's time to attack those intakes.
The first thing to do is to peel off the tape labels and do some etching. I scratched a number on the inside edge of each one. But, I got my carb kit today from Randakk and Howard Halasz tells of a better way in his excellent GL100 Repair Guide. His idea is to put a punch mark on #1, two on #2, three on #3 and none on #4 (4's the one w/none). Cool. Next time, that's how I'll do it. Thanks, Howard.
Clean the parts with Mineral Spirits and lots of rags and it's off to the wheel.
Here's everything all clean. I went at the screws and clamps with WD-40 to clean them up.
The buffing wheels are layers of cloth that are sewn together. When you use them, clouds of fine particles will fill the air. Wear a mask.
I built a mini enclosure to contain some of it.
My carbs were in the same space, partially open, so I covered them tightly with a drop cloth.
Here are the wheels and paste that I use.
The grinder and the finish (red) wheel is from Harbor Freight. Cheap. The firmer wheel and pastes are from Ace Hardware. Start with WR1-White paste and finish with JR1-Jewelers Paste. The white wheel is firmer and has extra stitching. Always think of these as sets. Don't put the wrong paste on a wheel or you've just trashed it.
FirstYearDeek wrote:...snip... no one uses all the steps! So here it is; in order from MOST to LEAST abrasive, if you want to use every step in the aluminum polishing/buffing locus:
Parts in good condition might be able to skip the Emery. Previously polished parts may be able to skip the Emery and the Tripoli ...snip...
- Emery (BLACK in color)
- Tripoli (BROWN in color)
- Rouge (WHITE is the one you want for aluminum. The liquid stuff is nice.)
- Rouge (RED "Jewelers rouge")
- India Ink (I'm not going to argue with NASA! Or sunny for that matter.)
From Deek's thread, Inconsistencies in buffing methods
Don't put a lot of muscle into grinding, it don't take much.
CAREFUL! I always stand to the side anytime I'm using a grinder. And especially here with the cloth wheels. These wheels can grab a part and fling it across the room or into your forehead before you can say "Bob's yer uncle".
Here's the result on the first intake after about 5 minutes with the white wheel.
Then I did about another 2 minutes with white on that one to get an even finish. Then the white wheel on the other three and switched to the red wheel with Jewelers paste.
The one on the left below shows the result of 5 minutes with the red wheel.
Edit 23 June 08: I no longer recommend the application of clear-coat over your polished aluminum goodies. I had to pull off the forks that I worked so hard on 8 months ago to install my new headlight. That's when I noticed that they have become corroded under the clear-coat. I'll have to strip and polish them again to regain that shine.
Edit 7 Oct. 09: The jury, it appears, is still out on the clearcoat issue. I want to have what was on the bike when it was new. The covers and forklegs had some kind of magical Honda clearcoat that we all fight so hard to remove. My covers now look like crap. I clearcoated wrong and now must pay the piper. I washed my parts after polishing them to remove all that black, sticky stuff. Then I wiped with alcohol and sprayed the clear. I just learned that you never paint on top of soap. DOH! Where's my slap-head Homer when I need him? I will solve this, even if I have to pay Honda for the paint.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled thread.
Rub on some Simichrome polish and you're done. Repeat the polish at least every six months. Like, on the spring day you'd planned to ride and it rained and on the fall ride day when it snows. This does not apply to you guys in the desert, of course. Your stuff don't corrode, does it?
And here we have the shiny bits all lined up and ready to go back on the bike. After the carbs have been Randakk'd, that is.
This is a fairly easy process. But do remember that the cleaner is caustic so you must wear gloves. And the jewelers wheels kick off LOTS of tiny fibers that can be a bad thing for your lungs. So please wear a mask. Be careful with that dang grinder too, it's got tons of torque.
This entire process (with the pictures and paragraphs, too!) took less than 3 hours. Yeah, I've had a little practice but what I'm saying is that it doesn't have to consume your life.
Bling it up my brothers and sisters!
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