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I have a little experience polishing aluminum but not on a bike and such large parts. Anyone who has done polishing on thier bike please give me opinions on the best way to do it, I know there is more than one way to skin a cat;). I wanna polish the rims frame and swing arm on my new black zx6r, I think it will be tight with the black paint. Anyways any advice is welcome.......Peace
 

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cdnninja, how hard was it to get the stock can polished? i went at it for 8 fucking hours today. i havent taken the buffer to it yet, but even with an hour of buffing by hand it still isnt "mirror"like. the closest i could get was the 00 type wool. would it make a difference if i tried the 0000 type? one more thing, then ill shut up. is this harder to do than the frame, rims, etc. i sure hope it is. i can barely move my arms[xx(]
 

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First, let me say that there is no such thing as the 'best' way. There are many ways to go about it. Like so many things, it comes down to the cost of equipment and hard won experience. I have polished dozens of bikes, as this is part of my shop. I use very little sandpaper and have never even picked up a piece of steel wool. The following is an outline I posted on another website.Polishing Aluminum

Introduction

One of the things that make polishing aluminum so difficult is that there are so many ways to go about it. You will probably change your methods and personal stratages many times before you find a workable technique. The outline will be dealing with two separate aspects of the art:

1 Tools of the trade - We’ll be approaching this task with only the polishing of motorcycles in mind. Many of the specialized equipment are very expensive so you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on apiece of equipment that just doesn’t work especially well on motorcycle frames, wheels, or the myriad of brackets and goodies.

2. Skills - Here too, the skills needed to satisfactorily polish motorcycle wheels and accessories may be very different from anything you have experienced before.

Difference Between Buffing and Polishing

You will read both buffing and polishing terms throughout this guide. The represent entirely different compounds and methods.
1. Buffing - This refers to the final 'bringing to a shine'
2. Polishing - This refers to the removal of material, such as on the rough castings. This generally involves greaseless compounds or sanding.



Main Tools

You can easily spend hundreds of dollars on polishing equipment and still be woefully ill equipped to do the job. I’ll begin by listing the basic tolls of the trade, followed by some of the pros and cons of each. The trick is to purchase only the tools that will best serve your needs.

1. Pedistal Buffer - Baldor is the ‘big’ name on the block. They cost more and are available in a wide variety of sizes and HP levels. You can’t buy one too big. An undersized buffer won’t have sufficient power. It will run hotter, stall too easily, and be more dangerous to use as well.
a. 10 inch diameter is the ideal size. Don’t go smaller.
b. ¾ horsepower minimum.
c. Devise some sort of dust shield around the back side of the buffing wheels. Connect a shop vacuum to these shields to control the dust. Without some sort of collection, you’ll destroy your entire house with the dirt, and you’ll look like a coal miner after only 30 minutes work.

2. Polishing Arbor and Motor - Much less expensive than the Pedistal Buffer but still a very effective method for polishing all those hand held parts. It also has the advantage of driving with any HP motor you want and provides some adjustability of RPM as well. This will require a little engineering to mount the motor behind or below the arbor and set up a belt drive system.

3. Motor Arbors - These little adapters fit directly on a motor’s output shaft. This is an extremely inexpensive way to get going, and if and when you move up to something more effective you won’t be out more than a few dollars. The greatest limitation here is the limited working space on the motor side. If you already have a motor available you’ll be all set for just a few bucks. Typically available for ½ or 5/8 shaft diameters.

4. Hand Drill - To work the irregular surfaces of the frame or wheels you’ll need some kind of portable power. The hand drill affords great manuoverability. The drill can become a little heavy and cumbersome, but it’s convenience is unmatched. There are a few considerations.
a. Get the highest rpm drill you can find. I use a 3600 rpm Grisley drill. Most drill are way too slow. A typical 1800 rpm model won’t work at all.
b. Avoid a really inexpensive drill. This kind of work is really hard on a drill. A cheap one won’t last very long.

5. Air Tools - One of the most effective tools for smoothing down the rough casting areas is the air belt sander. These are small units that look somewhat like your fist with your index finger extended. The sanding belt runs around the extension (finger) and is excellent for reaching into those difficult to reach places. Most of the other conventional air tools should probably be avoided, however. The RPMs are typically way too high, in the 20,000 range. If you dial down the air volume, you wind up with no power.

6. Die Grinder - Great for those little sanding rolls and tiny cutting tools. I’ve tried several of these and some are really not intended for extended use. Some are downright difficult to hold. These are all very high RPM also, way to high for your purposes. So you’ll need a separate speed control unit. With this you can regulate the speed to whatever works best. I have a little Dremmell control but there are also foot control systems available from Fordom.

7. Dremmell Tools - While very popular and available everwhere, these nor up to the task. There just too small and light duty for serious work. If you already have you may find some limited success with it. Use it for those small little areas where nothing else seems to work.

8. Fordem - This is basically a larger and heavier duty flexible shaft system similar to the Dremmell. While I don’t recommend the Dremmel, the Fordom is large and powerful enough to find some favor getting at those little difficult to reach areas.

9. Flexible Shafts - Several of these are available to attach to full size motors in the ¼ HP range. This set-up will provide all the power you’ll need. You can do some serious work with a proper arrangement. The big problem here is the shear size and weight and resulting awkwardness. I used one for over a year and came up with overhead cable supports to help hold up the heavy shaft apparatus.


Buffing Pads and Adapters

There is a dizzing array of goodies in this category. Every time I investigate this subject I find even more little devices and gizmos in the magazines and hardware stores. Most of this stuff doesn’t work well if at all on aluminum, but feel free to try some of these for speciality purposes. As you develop your skills you can better judge this stuff without having to purchase them. I will outline only the suitable buffing wheels for use with aluminum.
1. Spirial Buffs - These are used with all the polishing and greasless compounds.
2. Loose Buffs - These are used exclusively for the final ‘color’ or final finishing.
3. Air-Flex Buffs - These special buffing wheels are more aggressive for polishing and far mor effective in dealing with those hard to reach areas. They cannot be used with greasless, however.
4. Tappered and Cylinder Buffs - These assorted devices can be useful in the difficult to reach areas.
5. Felt Bobs - These have a rather delicate finish and are therefore limited in their capabilities. They come in ¼ and 1/8 shaft sizes.
6. Quick Buffs - These are ¼” shank and much more aggressive than felt bobs. They are for use with buffing compounds only. They work with the drill or dir grinder at near perpendicular angles to the work surface.

There are several types of buffing wheel adapters and bushings that you will need.
1. Drill Adapter - A special ½ inch adapter with ¼ inch shank will be needed to use your hand drill or die grinder. You’ll be needing the type that has the nut between the buffing wheel and the hand drill. The type that has the nut on the outside of the buffing wheel will, all too often, damage the surface you’re polishing. It’s amazing how much damage that big hex nut can do.
2. Concentric Sleaves or Bushings - You always want to try to buy buffing wheels with the correct size bore for your tools, but despite tour efforts you’ll wind up with a few that have the wrong bores diameters. These bushings are used to bush down to the proper size. Very handy and very inexpensive.


Greaseless Abrasives

There are three (3) grades of greaseless polishing compounds. These are used to smooth out the rough casting texture and to remove the more severe scratches and surfaces blemishes. This is a very aggressive process and can be used to quickly get the part to the buffing stage. Considerable care must be taken to avoid creating undulations or wave marks on the surface of the aluminum, especially when attempting to remove undesirable scratches or dings.
This is the real workhorse of the polishing process. It is many times faster than any kind of buffing or hand sanding. This is primarily used with the spiral buffing wheels. Unlike buffing compounds, greaseless compound must be applied to the buffing wheel an allowed to dry before use. You can use a hair drier to speed up the curing process, however it’s far more convenient to apply the compound and let it dry over night or indefinitely. Considering the number of buffing wheels needed and the problems in mixing different compounds on the same buffing wheel, I recommend limiting yourself to only the 180 grit (red). I’ve found the 240 not to be fast or aggressive enough, and the 80 grit can be too aggressive and can even do more harm than good.
1. 80 grit - about equal to 120 grit sandpaper
2. 180 grit - about equal to 220 grit sandpaper
3. 240 grit - about equal to 320 grit sandpaper
 

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the frame is pretty easy other then the rough cast area.

The wheels can depend on the paint oddly enough, Boy racer has the yellow 02 with black wheels, and his were as easy as putting the paint stripper on for 2 minutes, and wiping off..
My green wheels were much harder, I believe this was because the green ones have a primer coat under the paint.

If you only want to do the lips of the wheels, like I did, its not too bad, 1 nights work.
If you want to do the whole wheel, cancel your plans for a couple weeks :)

As for the can, we used an electric sander for most of it, the 1500 and 2000 grit paper finished it off nicely. The can won't get quite mirror like, or as good as the frame, because it's not the same quality aluminum, more pores and the like in it.

-=Welcome To Canada=-

2002 Green 6R
1986 Gixxer 7/11
 

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thanks cdn. i took some more time on it, and it now looks as good as yours does. next comes the wheels. just the lips part though. maybe the swing arm too.

dave, i read your post and this is a real science, isnt it. im not doing this for a living and dont have a shop to work with so i think ill take cdnnija's advice and atleast try to keep this as simple as possible. and it really sounds to me like i could spend some major bucks on getting all that equipment. the "greaseless compound" sounds great but i havent heard a name brand or cost or anything else. i guess ill be one of those poor bastards doing it with wool. i had to use a random orbital with a buffing pad, it turned out great.
 

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one more thing, ive heard dave mention REPEATEDLY how "aggressive" this greaseless compound is. is it gonna like try and jump out of the can and kick my ass? is it that "aggressive" LOL[:eek:)]
 

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Josh1095_1

Aggressive, not bad tempered. Greaseless is downright dangerous. It is every bit as aggressive (dangerous) as a grinding wheel. It's a quick way to get the roughcast surfaces down to the buffing stage. As you probably know, any sort of grinding wheel will immediately clog with aluminum and be rendered useless. If you use sandpaper or steel wool, you'll wonder if you're gong to live long enough to finish the job.
 
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