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Polishing Old Aluminum

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  • Polishing Old Aluminum

    You start out with something ugly as this Air Cleaner.

    If the metal is thick you can do like I did and hit it with a D.A. sander and some 220 grit sand paper to get the heavy ugly out and basicly clean it up. This cover has 3 screws in it and I just removed 2 at a time as I went along, moving the one screw holding down the cover.

    If its thin metal, sorry but hand sanded is the way to go, 220 grit paper to start with. If you use wet paper and keep it wet and clean it goes a little better.

    The next step is go up on the sand paper grit, 400 or 500.

    After sanding you can clearly see any cuts and grooves and scratches in the surface, this is where the fun starts!

    Then comes the hardest thing to do is file the deep grooves out, you must use a flat mill file for this and don't push hard! Pushing hard will just cut grooves into the surface and then you have remove that! Just ever so lightly file the deep cuts and scratches out!!! Pratice on a piece of scrape aluminun first, you'll see what I mean, its not easy to file aluminum!

    Then go back to sanding the surface again to blend the filed spots into the sanded surface. Once you have an even surface with the 220, 400, 500 grit sand paper its time to start polishing. (you can use a higher grit paper if you like)

    I use a cordless drill and rosin wheels, start polishing with red rosin and a hard rosin wheel, then polish off the red rosin and move to white rosin on a hard wheel. After you have an even surface with the hard wheels and white rosin move to a softer polishing wheel and buff to a high luster shine!

    I went outside in the shop and it took me about 1 1/2 hours to get the cover to look like this, my guess is about 5 to 6 hours total to make the air cleaner look show quality.

    Here's a few photo's, remember Herdster's, the first time I did this to something I had to go out and but a new set, yes I fugged it up BAD!!! Aluminum Rocker Covers on a Chevy Engine!!! But I was 18 or 19 years young!!!
    Attached Files
    OLD SKOOL BIKERS RULE, WE DO WHAT IT TAKES AND LIKE IT!!!
    With age comes wisdom, yeah right!
    FIRST "HERD BIKE OF THE MONTH CLUB MEMBER"
    RIP Rick.....Ride On Forever In Our Hearts My Brother!

  • #2
    Amazing it cleaned up like that Croc

    thanks for posting and explaining the process
    2018 Road Glide
    Member #00014

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    • #3
      that cleaned up real good, you're one heck of a craftsman, an artist
      Expectations managed for free

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      • #4
        Croc, you brought it back to life! Patience, experience and hard work - that's a great combination!
        H1E2R8D

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        • #5
          Nice.
          Ear Tag no. 00030

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          • #6
            I remember doing some polishing on an old HONDA that I had once and it's not easy! Your process seems a lot easier than using "mothers". Mrs. said that does not look like the same one you bought. You did very well......
            .
            2010 FLHX - Street Glide
            HERD MEMBER #00003

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            • #7
              A brillo pad that has the soap in it works good also. As you are cleaning the part you will notice that going one direction will scratch the part and the other will smooth it. The best thing I found was to go against the grain to get the heavy stuff out, keep them wet and go with the grain and it will shine up real good. After that a nice bit of metal polish, Wicked lightening in a yellow bottle that is gritty works real nice.
              HERD Member #114
              2007 FLHTCU Ultra Classic
              When all else fails, GET A BIGGER HAMMER!
              If common sense was so common, wouldn't everyone have it?

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              • #8
                I wet sand them and then use the rouge, black pink and white compound. It is messy but ends up looking like chrome.
                Dale
                Official HERD Member #00145
                Keep The Rubber Side Down

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by o8h0g View Post
                  I wet sand them and then use the rouge, black pink and white compound. It is messy but ends up looking like chrome.
                  Same thing, only different!!!!!
                  OLD SKOOL BIKERS RULE, WE DO WHAT IT TAKES AND LIKE IT!!!
                  With age comes wisdom, yeah right!
                  FIRST "HERD BIKE OF THE MONTH CLUB MEMBER"
                  RIP Rick.....Ride On Forever In Our Hearts My Brother!

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                  • #10
                    The Finer the Sandpaper you use, the more sheen you get. When I was polishing back in the truck shop, we'd start with 500, and go to 2000. but these were trucks that came in regularly and weren't badly pitted. then use they rouge blocks and wheels. For Repo trucks, we would just acid them, hose them off good, and use heavy duty rubbing compound and a wool pad, looked better than when we started and didn't cost much. Polishing is a crappy dirty job, but well worth the extra efforts.
                    Due to Jeff being a super overused awesome name, call me TJ. :-)

                    Official HERD Member #00211

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