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3 easy steps to bling bling: How to polish aluminum

3 easy steps to bling bling: How to polish aluminum

Hetmanski, Kevin

It seems as though every h(.,p-up part for trucks these days is made of aluminum and anodized in blue, purple, gold, or occasionally red or green. They’re all attractive, but my favorite finish is the “natural look.” Whether buffed to a satin shine or polished to a chrome-like glow, aluminum brightwork is a perfect match for any colored part and a great accent for any truck. In this edition of “4×4,” I’ll explain the techniques I use to strip and polish aluminum parts. All it really takes is a little time and the right products; you’ll see.

You’ll need:

* All-purpose metal polish

* 600- and 900-grit wet/dry sand:

* Oven cleaner

* Rubber gloves and eye protection

* A clean, soft rag

* Rotary tool with buffing bits (optional)

* Hand drill (optional)

(1) STRIP THE ANODIZING

To remove anodizing, I use spray-on oven cleaner, straight from the grocery store (I like no-fume Easy-Off the best). Follow the warnings on the can, work in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves and eye protection when you use oven cleaner; it’s nasty stuff. Place the parts on newspaper or on a piece of cardboard to protect your shop’s work area from overspray. Spray the oven cleaner onto the parts, covering them completely. Let them sit for a few minutes to allow the cleaner to do its job, then scrub them with soap and water to remove the oven cleaner. Repeat this process until all the anodizing is gone.

(2) SANDING Your parts won’t took so good at this point, but don’t worry; we’re about to fix that. Head to the automotive paint-supply store and grab some fine, 600- and 900-grit wet/dry sandpaper and use it to clean up the aluminum’s surface before you add polishing compound. Parts such as bulkheads and suspension arms are a little more timeconsuming than round parts because they have lots of surfaces that need to be sanded, and everything must be sanded by hand. Round parts are a lot easier; place them in a drill, and sand the part while it’s spinning (use a low-speed setting, and coat the sandpaper with oil to prevent it from becoming clogged) Completely sand the parts with 600-grit sandpaper until all the foreign matter has been removed from the surface, then switch ti 900-grit and repeat the process. You may have to wrap the sandpaper around a small stick or a wooden dowel to get into tight spaces. Finish by rubbing the part all over with fine steel wool.

(3)

POLISHING You might be happy with the way your parts look at this point, but don’t get too excited yet; they’re going to look even better. Now is

the time to do the final polishing with aluminum polish. I like Blue Magic metal polish creme, but any all-purpose metal polish will work well. For complex parts, use a rotary tool with buffing wheels of various sizes to polish the surfaces of the aluminum. I like to hand-apply the polish to the part with a damp rag before I use the buffing wheel so that I can apply the polish evenly. To prevent the polish from being dried by the heat generated by the friction between the buffing wheel and the aluminum, run the rotary tool at low speed. For the round parts, just leave the part In the drill chuck and apply the polish with a damp rag while It’s turning. Be careful when you come close to the drill chuck; you don’t want to get your fingers or the rag caught in the drill. When you’ve fin[shed the polishing, wash the part with soap and water to remove any

polishing-compound residue.

Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? A brightly polished finish does take a little time, but it’s time well spent. To preserve the bright took, you can maintain the finish with touch-ups of metal polish or seal the parts with spray-on clearcoat (check the spray-paint section at the hardware store). If you don’t seal or maintain the polished finish, the bare aluminum will oxidize and become dull, but you can always buff it back to a shine again.

Copyright Air Age Publishing Sep 2002

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