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topic 0800p2

Aluminum polishing -- motorcycle frame and swing arm, page 2

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A discussion started in 1998 and continuing through 2020
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A. Since my first posting I have polished my frame and swing arm. It looks as if Craig Johnson has figured it out too. Craig is right about the Mothers. I only use it to get a base shine then I use polishing rouges. If you can't find any, use a polishing creme called Wenol [affil. link to product info on Amazon]. There are two kinds, one for copper and brass and one for aluminum. The kind for aluminum comes in a blue tube. It is much finer than Mothers and gives a cleaner brighter shine. Wenol also has a wax base in it that repels water. Keep in mind that if you use cleaners that have solvents in them they will etch your shine right off. KEEP THESE CLEANERS AWAY FROM POLISHED SURFACES! You will find yourself repolishing your aluminum. These cleaners include such things as Castrol Super Clean and K&L Cycle wash .. if it gets on the polish rinse quickly and dry.

Preston Van Name
- Olympia,Washington


A. I am also starting a task of polishing out my '97 CBR900RR. I have had experience in polishing out aluminum. For years my friends and myself have done this procedure on our paintball guns. From step one...removing anodization to mirror finish. We found that using oven cleaner with lye works the best. Then grab some buffing rouge from the store and a drill. We used a bench grinder for the guns but for the bike I am using a drill. I hit one section of it and in about 5 minutes I had a mirror finish. This has been over a week without and color change or haze.

Good luck to everyone and their projects.

Jerry Lattermann
- Oxnard, California


A. Thanks to all for the great info on polishing, I have a 97 TL1000S,Getting ready to polish frame and swing arm. Just one tip I've learned from polishing gas tankers is that after you apply the polish and rub till it turns black sprinkle cornstarch on the area and then wipe it off and it will remove all the residue instantly

Good Luck!

Douglas Slayton
- Penngrove, California


A. I am a jeweler by trade and a bike enthusiast who can't manage to leave a bike alone once I get my hands on it. Of course, no piece of jewelry is complete without being polished and, I believe no bike is complete without that same final step. There are definitely some good tricks in this site but I noticed one thing when I read them all. Nobody ever mentioned safety. Forget wheels flying and machines getting torqued out of your hand, you'll learn to control that. I'm talking about the hazards with working with abrasives in carriers which are now propelling one of the world's nastiest metals around the place in fine particulate. Most of us have to polish in a garage or at least outdoors. If you do, wear an inexpensive simple white mouth respirator and safety goggles [affil. link to product info on Amazon]. As much as you can get a shop vac behind your wheel, do it and leave the vac outside a window or somewhere else. As much as you can work outdoors, do it. This stuff stays suspended in the air and you're breathing it in larger quantities than you realize. You're not only breathing these metal particles in, but they're also attacking your eyes and will in time, ruin your lens simply by you constantly blinking which more or less, is the same thing as sanding your eyes down. It is a drag to have to wear protection but believe me, when you start losing your eyesight, polishing metals in an unsafe environment will be one of the root causes.

Anyhow, here's my one cent of advice for polishing aluminum. jeweler's rouge [affil. link to product info on Amazon] is just a fancy name for rust. Literally. If you ever noticed the color is red, that is because it is made from ferric oxide which of course is, rust. it is definitely very fine rust but, rust just the same. It is great for getting that final mirror shine but, there is an even better and finer polishing compound out there if you want to go one step further. When you finally have a "mirror surface", you don't. If you're a sucker for punishment, go that one last step which is, a nightmare, requires hand rubbing or you'll have a serious mess and, requires rubber gloves. India Ink [affil. link to product info on Amazon] has carbon in it and it is extremely fine. Use Chamois [affil. link to product info on Amazon] and India ink and keep rubbing it. When you can't get any further, dilute the ink in half and continue the same process until you can't go any further. Dilute in again one half and repeat the same process. You'll get a mirror unmatched. I suppose you could continue to dilute it and refine the mirror but you'll end up with no time to show off your work. If you pretty much keep your bike clean, then using the diluted ink every now and then will maintain that mirror for you. I got this from an old timer as a platinum polishing trick and it worked on bikes.

John Gavin
- Keene, New Hampshire


A. John Gavin is right about the India ink it sure works great and I have also added the site where is goes into a little bit more detail....thanks John for the 411. Good luck everyone.

Steve Webber
- San Diego, California

affil. link
Speedy All Metal Polish


Q. I was just checking to see if anyone has tried Speedy Metal Polish? We use it all the time on detailing 18 wheelers. =>


Marvin Leibman
- Fleetwood, Pennsylvania


Q. Hello all,

Great info so far! I am planning on polishing my rims, they are made of magnesium. I have read that after polishing no extra steps need to be taken, i.e. Clear Coat. Is this true? Has anyone here polished Mag before?

Thanks for all.

Marc Labrosse
- Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


A. Yes, clearcoat (or lacquer) is required. See Letter 03 for further info on magnesium polishing.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha


I was looking at this "India Ink [affil. link to product info on Amazon]". Where does a guy get this stuff? Can you get it in bulk? I would like to try this out on my drag bike, and if I like it use it in the polishing business I'm starting up. Please help.


Tom Neal
- Shelton, Washington

Ed. note: We've now hotlinked the mention of it to a source, Tom.


Eye protection [ goggles [affil. link to product info on Amazon]] is needed when sanding or polishing. It is a very labor intense job if you don't have the proper equipment. I have polished the frame of the YZF 750R with a 4" angle grinder with variable speed, around 7000 rpm was fine. First you must strip off the anodized finish with either "Oven Cleaner" not the fumeless kind or strong aerosol stripper. If you use the "Oven Cleaner" heat the frame careful not to burn any hoses, and then apply the cleaner. Then sand it with either a D/A orbital or the craftsman palm sander 80 grit was good and follow up to your satisfaction with finer grains. Then you can use the jewelers rouge to start polishing. The results will be seen in minutes with lots of work. The frame was easy, MAN the rims however were a pain in the A#@. Sears Hardware has an I.D grinder that hits 26,000 rpm it is not variable and a flap wheel sander 80 grit was pretty good. I burned the motors on those Dremels after long hours of use. After all the work it looks good and it's a lot of time involved. The swingarm if you have the patience take it off the bike, it's a lot easier or if you don't want to invest the time go to the auto parts store and get the CHROME tape, it's peel and stick, goes on like window tint. It may be brighter than the polishing though it's not as time consuming.

Esteban Bail
- Detroit, Michigan


Okay, there was a lot of good information posted but I just want to help all of you out. The tips given above are mainly maintenance procedures rather than professional. I would like to give you some insight of professional aluminum polishing. Firstly, get the compounds and use them. Use tripoli [affil. link to product info on Amazon] first with a spiral weave buffing wheel and then go to the white rouge [affil. link to product info on Amazon] compound using a loose section buffing wheel. Use a Dremel [affil. link to product info on Amazon] and do not push, let compound work it self. All that it needs is buffing, not grinding. Before using the dremel and compounds you must sand. Use 120 grit for any blemishes in the aluminum you are polishing. If there are none, then skip right ahead to 320 grit wet sand and then 400.

A lot of people have said to go as high as 2000 grit. That is ridiculous and I will tell you why. First, you need to understand that in order to get a glass like surface shine, you need to make the surface smooth as glass. I hear a lot of people complain about clouding. . . this generally occurs for one of two reasons. First, they didn't stop at 400 grit paper. At the most you want to go up to 600 grit but only briefly. The high grit sandpaper creates too many tiny pores making your "mirror surface" an invisibly porous one which means that you can polish until your dremel burns up, you are not going to have a cloudless shine. Reason being. . . the pores are too small to get all of the crap, that you spent hours getting off, out of the pores. ahhh, the clouds are rolling in. Solution. . . stop at 400 grit. Let the polishing compounds do the rest. If you still want to go higher then a 40 after hearing that, then at most use a super fine #0000 0000 steel wool [affil. link to Rockler] but briefly. The scratches left behind from the 400 grit will be SMOOTHED out by the compounds instead of Scratched out with the Sandpaper [affil. link to product info at Rockler]. Does that make sense? Okay, second form of clouding occurs from the all so wonderful "Mothers Mag and aluminum polish" I will not disagree with those of you saying that it is great stuff and that it improves the look at least 50%. In fact I could not agree with you more. It is great for maintenance of foot pegs, cans, etc. Not for truly polished pieces though. reason being coincidentally enough. . . black and white. Polish is white put it on and it turns what? Black. Yes, exactly what I want, black dirty greasy black polish on my more shiny than chrome rims. I will pass. Once that black stuff is all spread around on the surface you then take a clean rag and wipe it off. But are you wiping it off or wiping it in. Well, you are doing both but even if you are rubbing in just a little of the black, it is going to get stuck in the pores. Looks great at first. You are all ready to ride. check out those rims in a couple of weeks. You did polish them right because now it looks like you just stripped the paint. Enjoy polishing with mothers before riding as long as you enjoy re-professional polishing in the winter.

Bottom line, use compound not polish and stop at 400. Sure it is tedious but oh how rewarding. One last tip. Please please do not use clear over your polish job. You reduce the luster and then guess what. You just put the crap back on that you spent twenty hours taking off. I hope that my advice will save you all some time and aspirin. Let me know how things work out for you polishers.

Enjoy the ride!

Scott Vazinski
- Sagamore Hills, Ohio


I want to polish the swingarm and possibly rims on my 98 Honda CBR 600. Are they made of aluminum, not steel? Should I use a stripper to get the paint off first or just start from scratch with sanding? Preston Van Name states above to use a stripper but nobody else here seemed to mention it again. I just want to make sure I don't wreck anything because this is my first attempt at polishing bike parts. Thanks for any help you can offer.

Ryan Sparreboom
- Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA


Could this be also applied to polishing the tappet cover and plenum chamber on my car? great info thank's 2 all.

Steven Walters
- Wollongong, Australia


Hey all, I have seen some great tips, on stripping and polishing , however I have another one. I used to drive a Big Truck, cross country, and when I got laid over I would polish the chrome, and aluminum wheels, and aluminum fuel tanks, at the truck stop I was in to pass the time. Not only that but a 150,000 dollar truck don't look good unpolished..and let me tell you there's a lot to polish...

Anyway, after rubbing in the polish, until you get a black mess, what an old trucker taught me was to drop my rag into a bowl of flour, yes baking flour, and be generous with it and rub it on all areas that you polished...what that will do is take off all the black that my be left on the part, down to the finest trace of polish, and leave you a bright mirror me it works...I currently use this same process on my most precious HARLEY...

Instead of plating my triple trees, and lower forks, I decided I wanted to keep them aluminum, just cause the shine is so much more real than chrome...(besides everything else is chrome already). Anyway I use in the proper order, black, and green rouge, in brick form with a little blue magic polish mixed in for ease of application. once you have a good finish you don't need to use black anymore as its for cutting...any how if its good for a HARLEY...its good for a Honda....hehe...good luck, and thanx for the good tips...

Joe Catalini
- Layton, Utah


Wow! I just stumbled onto this article once again after having posted the first reply to the question almost 5 years ago. Lots of great advice on polishing from the pro's. I now polish using spiral sewn buffs and a variable speed grinder/sander. I have bricks of buffing compound also. Tripoli ( brown ) for the initial buffing to smooth the aluminum after sanding, and the White compound for final buffing to a high gloss.

It seems on my Gsxr1000 frame though, that the Stainless Steel compound ( Green ) seems to work better for providing a high shine. I don't even have to use the Tripoli, I just use the Stainless rouge and it does the whole job just fine.

I just use the Mothers now to clean after washing and such. Or Wenol ( comes in a blue tube, there's 2 different kinds ).

My frame on my 1000 is much brighter than that of my 750 I had. Planning on doing the wheels next.

And for anyone asking what I use for stripping the paint from wheels. I use a product called Tal-Strip in a spray can. Excellent paint remover. DO NOT GET IT ON ANYTHING BUT WHAT YOU WANT STRIPPED!

And for the frame, the only thing that seems to take off that fake aluminum finish that's on the aluminum, is Heavy Duty Easy Off oven cleaner. It works great! Spray it on and let it sit for about 20 mins, it will turn to a white powder and just use steel wool to scrub it off. Real simple. It may take a few appz to get it all off. If the motor is in the frame, make sure to cover it with a large garbage bag and mask off the rest of the bike. I just split a Hefty bag and slipped it right over the airbox/motor just under the frame. Then I used large strips of clear plastic wrap to isolate the rest of the bike.

The polishing bit with the grinder/sander is a bit tricky to explain, but there a many books out there that explain in detail how to do it and what to look for when polishing.

Good Luck Once Again,

Preston Van Name
- Olympia, Washington

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