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Polishing 102 (my version) for the Newbies

dvbrien

Proven Member
87
24
Nov 3, 2005
Rockton, Illinois
If you find this helpful please contribute to my rep points... Thank You
I had to post these pictures of the polishing job I did on the 20g, I think I did pretty dern good! "I feel pretty, oh so pretty..."
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Then I got real carried away and pulled my valve cover shaved and polished that too... If you look real close you can still see the ghosting letters coming through at a slightly differently color. I think it is because where the metal was thicker it changed the chemical makeup of the aluminum when heat was added over a long period of time.

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If you'd like to know what I did to polish everything... I used a 100 grit in a palm sander, (20 min) 4 pads, then repeated with 160 grit (20 min) 4 pads, Change your pads frequently, the aluminum is absorbed quickly into the paper. I then used a corded drill to power buff fine scratches with a pad that resembles a rough scotchbrite pad (45 min), Creates millions of tiny surface scratches that eventually blend the contour of the housing. I'd suggest using an abrasive polishing wax during this process every 5 min. Then get yourself a Buffing wheel (not the cushion, 2 seem stitching style) get the one that spirals from the center all the way out to .5 inch of the edge. Home Depot $6 dollars (where you get the wax too). Put on a Good quality grinder, use a finer wax for polishing metals and then... buff away! No elaborate long process necessary. When I got to the Buffing grinder wheel, I had an hour and a half invested; it took me 15 min. to complete the job.

With the Valve cover, Repeat the process after you grind and file the letters flush. 3 hours! But well worth it... Be prepared with Drinks within arms reach! :) Don't Be Scurd, Just do it! Do it!

Ok... So as Promised the long and awaited How to.

From the left to the right I will name off everything I used and what I did with them.

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Files.

I used these to knock down the lettering on the top of the valve cover after I had shaved enough off with the Bench grinder. I wish today I would have shaved all the lettering off of my 20g but will not mess with the finish I've gotten. The file with the contour backing (right) has a cross Hatch pattern and is about twice as abrasive as the first file (far left). I use the Cross hatch pattern to really get the lettering down to the surface. Once I get to that point I use the single hatch pattern to blend the surfaces together. This file can easily make unwanted scratches as well but, is far easier to fix. So be careful.

Palm Sander / Sponge Sander (Above the Dremel )

The palm sander is used to get to all the open area surfaces, to start blending the file markings and the natural cast marks (pits) that are usually present on all forms of aluminum /steel. As per the above question. "how do I get in all the tight areas" Well on a 20G Compressor housing there really isn't a lot of those. However I did a Big 16G today and that wasn't nearly as accommodating. So I got out the palm sponge sander. I wrapped the desired grade paper around it and used the corners to sand in the "tight" areas.

Now another solution here is the type of palm sander that has a point on it or a dremel / rotozip style tool would be an excellent choice. I will note my preference here to be the rotoZip. I found the 30 dollars I spent on the Dremel Accessories Simply SUCK!

Remember when sanding start with a course grit 60-100 and then re-sand using a finer grit 160-200. Change the pad every five min. with the palm sanders and every 15 hand sanding.

Corded Drill (Corded.) w/ 3m Stripping polishing pad. First and foremost when you think you are ready for the drill go back and sand for another 15-30 min. This will be very important in the end. Once you have polished the piece out to the "chrome look" EVERY IMPERFECTION will stand out like a "boner in sweat pants." The sanding process is the most important prep work you can do.

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I used this drill / pad combo to blend all the paper scratches together. I used this in combo with the abrasive polishing wax. (Pic above with the brown and white wax) Apply Brown to pad when spinning for 3 sec. (use common sense, don't take off a finger, I am not responsible for any damage you do to yourself or anyone else). Then slowly work the piece up and down using only the outer surface of the pad. This creates less friction on the pad and it will maintain it's speed much better creating a more uniform surface. Soon you will notice the aluminum start to buff to a pretty nice shine. But this is not the Chrome Look we are going for. Continue polishing here for a while. Up to 30-45 min. Once you have laid down millions of swirling scratches your piece will look uniform and nearly done. Your cordless drill will not last. Are you saying "I have a 300 dollar SNAP-ON...?" Ya me too, I laugh at you. I used my Grandfathers nearly 40 year old drill, I fixed when I was 12 and this thing will never, NEVER stop! Almost there...

Grinder...

First off you need a good grinder... (minimum of 1/3rd HP to be effective)

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On this grinder I have used it to shave lettering on the valve cover and contour the surface of the big 16g housing, in the first step.

In the Final step you need to have bought the polishing / buffing wheel from a Home depot or like store. Note it is Critical you buy the pad that is seem stitched from the center to the outer limits of the pad as can be seen in the lower picture.
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Now using the White wax that was in the picture with the drill, Apply a small amount to the pad when turned on 1 full second. This is all you need to get the extra friction, causing the metal to heat up and smooth out. Do it... Try it in one spot and see the magic come to life.
Making sure to keep moving the piece you can see your project finally paying off. By now you have spent almost 2-3 hours on it but, at this point it is all well worth it.

That is it Guys. Try it on something small first, build up that confidence and then jump into the big Bling Stuff...

I am grateful to all the good comments I have received on this how to and in my Pm's...

Maybe I do contribute to man kind after all. 

Daniel
DvBrien

Again please, If you found this helpful please contribute to my rep points... Thank You
 
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