Polishing Aluminum

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BryanMD
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Polishing Aluminum

Post #1 by BryanMD » Sun Jan 13, 2008 11:09 am

I posted this a long time ago (1996) in rec.motorcycles describing my experience with a Yamaha XS 650 I did a frame up rebuild on.

I hope the info is useful to someone.

Polishing of Aluminum Motorcycle Parts

Preface:
My experience with this is based on years of working in the restaurant equipment fabrication ( s/s ) business where I had access to all the tools, equipment and chemicals commonly used. Undertaking this sort of project without these items is questionable.

An alternative is to seek out this sort of company and more importantly a key person there, ply them with beer and sexual favors as may be required, in order to gain access to the facility, the tools, the supplies and the expertise of those within it. Good luck!!

( btw these places are the best source for experienced tig welders )

Theory:
Polishing is essentially grinding but on a finer scale. Tools and techniques are very similar. The object is to remove excess material from the item such that the surface is as smooth as humanly possible, making it reflect light as opposed to refracting light. At the molecular level there are all manner of inconsistancies in surface condition. The objective is to minimize these.

Note:
This is all based on an out of frame total rebuild. Beware that once you start this it will become addictive and you will want every item on your bike to sparkle and it can… but when reinstalled will just make the rest look pitiful in comparison. For this reason I recommend doing this only as part of a rebuild job along with painting the frame, tank, etc for contrast effect.


Tools & Supplies :
MOST important is a commercial grade pedestal (or bench) grinder.
3 hp minimum, 220 volt, (3 ph if possible), 5000 rpm, with an 8 inch diameter buff wheel capacity, and securely bolted to floor.

Second is an end grinder. 6 amp motor, ( Milwaukee makes the best ) with a 5 inch diameter buff wheel capacity.
General & Misc.
A good quality face shield and work gloves.
Coveralls (unless you don’t mind looking like a coal miner when done).
GOOD lighting (no such thing as too much) fluorescents work well.
Storage table(s) and shelves to lay the assorted bits on.
Solvents and pans for cleaning bits prior to polishing (and afterward).
Paint Remover (the thick orange “aircraftâ€ÂÂ
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Post #2 by wombat24 » Mon Jan 21, 2008 12:14 am

Thanks for that detailed "how-to". After polishing the covers on my '81, they proceeded to oxidize again in a short time. Next time I will try some clear coat as you mentioned. I was looking for additional reccommendations from others who have clear-coated their aluminum as to brandname or type. (rattlecan that is)
1981 GL1100 Std.

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Post #3 by BryanMD » Mon Jan 21, 2008 12:25 am

wombat24 wrote:Thanks for that detailed "how-to". After polishing the covers on my '81, they proceeded to oxidize again in a short time. Next time I will try some clear coat as you mentioned. I was looking for additional reccommendations from others who have clear-coated their aluminum as to brandname or type. (rattlecan that is)


I'm not up to date on the current clearcoat products.

Eastwood is a good company but I also understand POR makes one too.

Maybe start a thread on it or search the forums?
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Post #4 by Old Fogey » Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:58 am

Here's your link for the Por product.
http://www.por15.com/prodinfo.asp?grp=GPC&dept=6
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Post #5 by billbmsn » Mon Jan 21, 2008 7:08 am

My Norton has a lot of aluminum. Have you tried Autosol metal polsih after you finish with your compounds? I get the best results for final chrome-like finish, if that is what you want, with Autosol metal polish and a buffing wheel. In fact, I can go from fine Scotchbrite directly to Autosol without a lot of grinding and friction as it is a chemical rather than abrasive peel.

Edit: smaller version of bike photo:
Image

Link to larger version, if you want:
http://billsworkshop.com/Norton/MkIII01.jpg
Last edited by billbmsn on Mon Jan 21, 2008 10:49 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Post #6 by Brant » Mon Jan 21, 2008 9:41 am

Nice looking Norton there.
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Post #7 by Old Fogey » Mon Jan 21, 2008 11:01 am

Solvol Autosol comes in small tubes!


That there Norton is a whole lot of small tubes!!!!!!!!!!!!

( No, officer, I wasn't hiding my identity. I just polish my bike. A lot! ) :lol:
--------------------------------------------------------

'The Swan' complete rebuild album - See the result here!

ENGINE REBUILD TIPS - Stuff you won't find in the manuals!


"Impossible Is Just a Level of Difficulty!..."
If I'd wanted you to understand, I would have explained it better! (Johann Cruyff)
I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous! :-D

click the banners below:
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( Seriously, you haven't read all 115 pages of the WinGovations website ?? :shock: )

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Post #8 by ElPiloto » Mon Jan 21, 2008 12:42 pm

A good, quality paste wax will help to prevent oxidation, just as it does on painted items.
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Post #9 by Geno » Mon Jan 21, 2008 2:30 pm

Bill, that is one beautiful Norton, Nice work. I also use a wax type treatment rather than clearcoat, I use MAAS paste. I have had two experiences using clearcoat products, and they both left the polished aluminum dull looking after being sprayed. Once I get the aluminum polished and waxed, I dont have any problems with further oxidation, besides, I like the idea of being able to quickly buff out a nick or scratch without having to go through the hassle of removing clearcoat and prepping the surface all over again. Just my .02 worth, Geno.
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Post #10 by Alley Kat » Mon Jan 21, 2008 5:15 pm

I've tried several clears on polished ally. Results seem to depend on the grade of alloy, oddly. On this one particular bike everything was polished up till shiney as a shiney thing. With lots of bare alloy (engine, rims, forks, yokes, risers etc etc) I was keen to protect it all.

Normal rattle-can acrylic clear. Some parts were fine and clear, others pretty cloudy. Seemed to depend on the alloy grade, all parts were pretty equally shiney before clearing.

Special rattle-can clear intended for alloy. Crazed after a while, let in moisture. Not impressed. In fairly pre-internet days it took a bit of tracking down, a waste and more work to get it all off.

Water-based brushing clear intended for alloy. Easy to apply, left the shine well. Useless at weather protection.

In the end on this bike I gave up and went with regular waxing and attention.

That all said though, they do love to salt the roads here and it does test things out pretty hard if you ride all year.

Haven't tried 2-pack, but I wonder how well/how long it'd stay put on a shiney surface. I'd like to see an example of clear powdercoat too, that could be really good.

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Post #11 by billbmsn » Mon Jan 21, 2008 10:31 pm

Old Fogey wrote:Solvol Autosol comes in small tubes!


That there Norton is a whole lot of small tubes!!!!!!!!!!!!

( No, officer, I wasn't hiding my identity. I just polish my bike. A lot! ) :lol:
Autosol is interesting stuff. I use very little of it. It builds up a black residue on the buffer or rag that actually continues to work - you don't need to clean it off as you do with compunds. I just add a tiny dab of Autosol to the black residue every so often to keep it moist. The small tube will last me a decade. I don't put any wax or clear over the aluminum, and it stays shiny.

Egad, let me resize that photo!
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75 Norton Commando 850
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Other bike history: 62 CL72 (stolen), 67 CB350 (stolen), 71 Norton Commando 750, 71 CB450 (x2), 75 400F, 76 400F, 87 GSX-R750, 92 YSR-50, 08 Daytona 675

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Post #12 by billbmsn » Mon Jan 21, 2008 10:55 pm

Geno wrote:Bill, that is one beautiful Norton, Nice work. I also use a wax type treatment rather than clearcoat, I use MAAS paste. I have had two experiences using clearcoat products, and they both left the polished aluminum dull looking after being sprayed. Once I get the aluminum polished and waxed, I dont have any problems with further oxidation, besides, I like the idea of being able to quickly buff out a nick or scratch without having to go through the hassle of removing clearcoat and prepping the surface all over again. Just my .02 worth, Geno.
Autosol is a chemical metal polish, on the order of Semichrome or Flitz, not a wax. I haven't waxed over the aluminum, but the bike is stored indoors and hasn't seen rain in ages. It does get ridden on Norton Club rides, although I must say my GoldWing has displaced the other bikes as my favorite ride since I got it in October.

I have clearcoated the valve covers on my CBXs with plain acrylic clear. It holds up well for about 4-5 years. It doesn't yellow quickly but it degrades over time. Common paint removers will take it off for refinishing.
Bill in Alamo
76 GL1000
75 Norton Commando 850
79 CBX
82 CBX
91 600F2

My Gallery
Other bike history: 62 CL72 (stolen), 67 CB350 (stolen), 71 Norton Commando 750, 71 CB450 (x2), 75 400F, 76 400F, 87 GSX-R750, 92 YSR-50, 08 Daytona 675

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Post #13 by wombat24 » Mon Jan 21, 2008 11:43 pm

Thanks for all the great input. What I did have on the aforementioned aluminum was Meguires showroom glaze (a light polish?) and since I have to store the bike outdoors (with a cover), the protection probably doesn't last very long. Before I go the clear-coat route, I'll try a good paste wax.
1981 GL1100 Std.

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Post #14 by Old Fogey » Tue Jan 22, 2008 10:48 pm

Incidentally, Solvol Autosol is also great for removing scratches form plastic components such as rear light and indicator lenses.
--------------------------------------------------------

'The Swan' complete rebuild album - See the result here!

ENGINE REBUILD TIPS - Stuff you won't find in the manuals!


"Impossible Is Just a Level of Difficulty!..."
If I'd wanted you to understand, I would have explained it better! (Johann Cruyff)
I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous! :-D

click the banners below:
Image Image Image

( Seriously, you haven't read all 115 pages of the WinGovations website ?? :shock: )

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Post #15 by billbmsn » Tue Jan 22, 2008 11:26 pm

Old Fogey wrote:Incidentally, Solvol Autosol is also great for removing scratches form plastic components such as rear light and indicator lenses.
So, I guess it must have some abrasive in it too. Didn't realize that. For plastic I use 3M Finesse-It II, which is a fine paint finishing compound.
Bill in Alamo
76 GL1000
75 Norton Commando 850
79 CBX
82 CBX
91 600F2

My Gallery
Other bike history: 62 CL72 (stolen), 67 CB350 (stolen), 71 Norton Commando 750, 71 CB450 (x2), 75 400F, 76 400F, 87 GSX-R750, 92 YSR-50, 08 Daytona 675


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