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Discussion Starter #1
I figured I'd do a post on this since I've had several people ask me who to do it (and others imply I don't know how to polish since I paid to have all my panels cut the first go around =) )

Let me start off by saying that polishing is a big waste of time. A VERY big waste of time. Does shiny shiny look good? Absolutely. Does it require work to maintain? YES! Done in moderation ( a few panels) it is probably doable w/o much aggravation.

Whatever you do, do NOT do what I did - I initially had ALL (and I mean ALL) my panels polished to a mirror shine. Looked absolutely bad-ass, but turned to shit very quickly when I as working around them. I ended up having NCPainter most of my panels in carbon fiber, and then the rest (engine bay) I ended up powdercoating silver vein.

I figured a polished interior would kick ass - instead it kicked my ass. With my carbon fiber panels, if they get dirty/finger print/etc..., I just get a microfiber, squirt some Meguiar's quick detail on it, rub it, and bam, good as new. No such luck with polished aluminum - gotta bust out the cyclo and get to work. Not to mention that it will show every single smudge and finger print.

Okay, enough bitching about making the mistake of having all my aluminum polished. Let's assume you're relatively sane and will only be doing this for a few pieces.


Initial Surface

We've all seen the dull aluminum. Not much to look at really.



These Will serve as our reference


Initial Tools

Polishing from scratch is VERY dirty. You want to do it outside. I read a few websites that say you'll turn pitch black from it - nah, it's dirty but not that dirty.

What you'll need is the following for a basic setup


-Portable work bench to place panel on

-1 (or 2 depending on type of panel) clamp

- 1 (or 2 if using 2 clamps) microfiber cloths

- Roll of low-tack masking tape

Essentially the clamps will hold the panel down onto the work bench while you work on it. You bunch the microfiber up, place it down, then place the clamp on it (as seen below) - you use the microfiber so as not to scuff the surface of the panel.

The low-tack tape is used to cover the workbench. No sense getting it dirty =) Plus, since you'll be switching between aggressive and fine polishes, when you move up a grade you'll want to re-mask the work area so your buffer doesn't pick up any of the old aggressive compound



In the above picture I've already polished 1/3 of the panel (I was trying out some new techniques). You can essentially see the difference between fully polished and not at all.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Initial cut - tripoli & wetsand

The general purpose of the tripoli is to bring out the mirror shine in the panel. What we have is the following:



- Drill

- 6'' stitched cotton wheel

- bar of tripoli (brown stick)

Before beginning, examine the panel for any deep scratches into it. If there are, you can wetsand them out before beginning. I usually use 1000grit, as I fine that tripoli (as well as subsequent steps) are sufficient to remove them. Be careful about going too low, because I've found great difficulty removing all the marks when I start with 240 (going 240, 400, 600, 800, 1000). Usually, unless it is super super deep, 1000grit should be sufficient. Once you've taken care of any scratches, move onto the tripoli.

With the panel clamped down, start up your drill with the cotton wheel attached and 'burn' into the bar of tripoli for a few second. When you've gathered it onto the wheel, proceed to buff the panel. Essentially have the drill going up/down and left/right. I generally work in a 4x4sq. ft area. I do several iterations. You'll know you can move on to the next area when you can see a difference in the shine - essentially the dull surface turns into a mirror shine

I find I can get about 4x4 area before I burn the bar of tripoli to get more onto the cotton wheel.

Second step - Nuvite F7 + wool

From this point on, all termonolgy such as wool pads, fleecewraps, cyclo, etc... can be found here - http://www.perfectpolish.com/CycloPolisherforAluminum.htm

These guys supply Kirkham users with everything they need to polish their bodies; so if it's good enough for Kirkham, it's good enough for me =)

Essentially the cyclo is a dual-headed polisher. Works great on vehicles, and even better of aluminum!
(daily driven black paint, very shiny now!)


Here are the tools for the next step




- cyclo

- wool pads

-Nuvite F7


If you look at the panels int he picture, you may be thinking - but they look shiny shiny? Arn't we done? We could be, but under various sources of lighting (not pictured) you will see massive cut marks - the drill only works in one direction and leaves massive cut marks all over the places. Some people stop here because they think cut marks in metal is 'okay', but hey, we're here to do a good job!

Work in 2x2 area on the next steps.

Put a fingerprint of F7 every 1'' on the panel. Use your cyclo to smear it around your 2x2 work area, then start buffing. For this stage you really want to crank down on the cyclo, almost to the point of bogging it (it won't bog though). You want to apply a lot of pressure. The wool pads should do their job and cut the marks left by the drill and tripoli.

You'll know you can move onto the next area when the marks frm the drill are gone and the panel seems a bit shinier
 

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The above panels has been fully buffed with cyclo+wool+F7. It looks pretty shiny shiny, right? It may, but now instead of cut marks from the drill you have massive swirl marks from the wool and F7. Time to remove those.

Incase you havn't caught on yet, polishing metal is just like a car - you start with the most aggressive compound you feel you need to remove old 'damage', then use finer and finer compounds/pads until all marks from previous steps are gone.

Third step - cyclo + fleecewraps + Nuvite F7

After trying many products/devices, I have no found anything that is as good as a cyclo and Nuvite products. However, the real key to removing most marks fomr the metal is to use fleecewraps - they are soft and gentle and do not leave marring behind.

Here we are ready for our next step



You'll note that I've wrapped the cyclo in the fleecewrap. Generally, I've found that I can use 1 portion of the fleecewrap for a 4x4 area, then I re-wrap and use another portion. If you use the same portion of the fleecewrap for too long, it will take longer and looooonger and looooooooooooonger to remove the polish, and it won't do as good a job.

Using a 2x2 work area, place a fingerprint of F7 every 3''. Now, smear it in with the fleecewrap.

The trick when applying Nuvite with fleecewraps is after your first spread of the polish, you want it opaque - this means that it is NOT thick and dark. The best way I can describe it is that it has a rainbowish hue to it and is semi-transparent (it'll be dark, but not super thick black). if it's super thick/black, you've applied too much polish. However, if after you spread the polish and you turn on the buffer, if it disappears in 1 pass then you havn't applied enough. it's a really fine science that practice develops.

Here's what I mean by opaque:



Do north/south then east/west motions in your working area. Eventually (usually under a minute) the polish will start to break up and disappear. Keep buffing the area even after the polish is gone, to make certain you've got all the residual.



The above is after cyclo+fleecewrap+F7. Looks pretty good still, right? Again, under lighting you'll see swirl marks now - not cut marks, but swirl marks from the F7. However, this is necessary to remove the marks from previous steps. But don't worry, only 1 more step!
 

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cyclo+fleecewraps+Nuvite S

S grade is the final polish that gives it the 'pop' and removes all the marks from the F7.

Before beginning this step, remove the masking tape from your working table and replace it - we don't want to pick up any residual from the F7.



Cyclo wrapped up in a DIFFERENT fleecewrap, ready to go (remember, have 1 specific wrap for F7, and 1 wrap for S, don't use it for the same thing!)

The key here is to put a fingerprint of polish every 4-6'' or so. Again, smear it in with your cyclo, then proceed to buff your 2x2 work area. Once again, you don't want the polish to be thick/black; rather, you want it opaque.

After a minute or so it should all be broken down. Even once I see it's gone I still keep giving it a buff to pick up and black residue I may have missed.

 

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Discussion Starter #5
Here's what we began with:



here's what we have now:




Final thoughts

- Lots of places (e.g., metal polishing shops) tried to convince me that cut marks from a rotary and tripoli are normal and will never come out. It is true they are normal, but only because finishing steps were not taken to remove them. If you can shine a hallogen/fluroscent light on your polished aluminum and you can see cut marks, then it isn't finished properly. Some marks are unavoidable - unless you spend hours and hours obsessing over them (which I don't recommend, as you really have to look hard to find the flaws) and going over and over with further buffs with Nuvite S.

- I have not really found any great products that protect the shine permanently. Clear powdercoating is just a bad idea - I tried a piece and it came out absolutely horrible - all the original cut marks were drawn out of the metal, you could see buffer trails that were not there before, and unless the clear is put on and dries absolutely perfectly, it forms weird bubbles in the metal. (the guy who did it had never seen this happen before, so I don't know why it happened). Clearcoat really won't stick for a long time w/o acid etching the panel, and well there goes your shine. I've studied clearcoat'd aluminum and it is a lot duller. There's a product called Sharkhide that's a rub-on acryclic. Several forum members have used it with good success (e.g., Greg_M). Me, however, I can't get it to work. i've gone through 2 quarts of it, and it also pulls out cut marks in the worst possible way, and also dries funny. At this point I don't know if the Sharkhide is really really picky about the conditions it dries in, if I absolutely suck when applying it, or something else.

- It would seem that anything that forms a bond on the metal to protect it will draw out some buffing marks. Only way I've found to avoid this is just to leave it as raw polished and polish once a year. This is why I went from an all polished interior to carbon fiber interior (w/ custom Gordon Levy removeable carpet) - I did NOT want to spend a month polishing the interior of my car with a cyclo. Right now only 3 pieces are polished aluminum - trunk upper floor, trunk lower floor, and firewall. Everything else is now either powdercoated silver vein or carbon fiber.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Oh yea - don't forget to wash your wool pads regularily; if you don't they wont have enough cut overtime (due to polish buildup) to remove 1000grit scratches - I kept wondering why, on the piece I was finishing today, I couldn't remove them completely.
 

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Aluminum polishing

I will second the thanks. Very well written.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Here's 1 mroe thing to be aware of (that I just figured out) - if you move too slowly on the final polishing w/ S, although the surface will appear mirror-shiny when you back up and tilt your head you may be able to see some buffer haze. Typically the only way I've found to remove it is to either

- Re-polish the area w/ F7, then S again, or

- Put a few dabs of S in the area, then really really quickly run the buffer back and forth on the area until the polish is broken down, then double check to see if the haze was removed.
 

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Has anyone tried POR15 GlistenPC yet? It's suppose to work on highly polished surfaces...
 

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Has anyone tried POR15 GlistenPC yet? It's suppose to work on highly polished surfaces...
I remember reading that it was a real pain in the ass to apply and didn't meet expectations.

About the only 2 things I've read with decent reviews have been Sharkhide (although I can't get it to work properly for the life of me!) and Zoop Seal. I may try Zoop on a test piece to see.
 

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I've spent the last few days working on my final polishing technique - now that I'm no longer a polishing factory (hehe), I can focus on getting that last little bit of perfection.

Anyways, I'm going to call this step the maintenance step - either the once a year (or whateveR) step to clean up the panel and restore its shine, or alternatively, a step after the final polish w/ nuvite S just to give it an extra pop.

I'll use the firewall for reference.

- Split the firewall in half (so you'll polish 1/2 of it, then polish the other half)

- Place a dab of S every 4'' or so (both up/down and left/right)

- Smear it in with the cyclo

- Polish with a brisk pace. By brisk, I mean cover 2ft. (approximately) every second. I used to doddle, as if I were polishing a car, trying to give it mroe time to work in. I found doing this left behind a weeee bit of haze that could be seen from certain angles. Speed is the key - about 2ft every second or so.

- Continue working it until the polish is completely broken down, then make several more passes - I agree w/ Tom (see link to Perfect Polish above) that the real work is done in the last few passes, so don't skimp on them.

Doing this as a 'maintenance' step, you should be able to do the entire firewall in around 5minutes or so.

And then have pretty pretty shiney =)




 

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I was really wanted to do the polishing trick but knowing what aluminum looks like in time how to you keep it looking this way?

HB
 

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I'll use the firewall for reference.

- Split the firewall in half (so you'll polish 1/2 of it, then polish the other half)

- Place a dab of S every 4'' or so (both up/down and left/right)

- Smear it in with the cyclo

...
Kinda hard to get a cyclo polisher between the engine and firewall, isn't it? :devil2:
 
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