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topic 12581

Polishing 6061 T6 aluminum sheet metal


Q. How do I polish 6061-T6 aluminum sheet metal to a mirror finish? I have tried NUVITE compound on an orbital buffer with marginal results. I would like to buff the aluminum and eliminate the grain and scratches, the NUVITE doesn't seem to cut deep enough. Any suggestions on compound, applicators, equipment and technique?

P.S. The aluminum sheets are bare 6061 T6, no Alclad coating.

Dana Thurston
- Portsmouth, New Hampshire


A. Have you tried Mother's Mag & Aluminum Polish [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] ? I've had fairly good results with this.. of course, you must start off with a relatively scratch free surface to begin with. Another option you may want to consider is electropolishing, or a bright dip, both of which should probably be followed up with a very thin anodized coating.

Marc Green
Marc Green
anodizer - Boise, Idaho


A. We have had the same issue regarding 6061 aluminum and scratches. We also found that orbital buffing equipment was the only way to produce a finish that allowed us to buff the part to a mirror finish. Is the final result you are looking for is a buff (mirror polish) finish?

If so, we have found that red sisal wheels roughing the part before buffing on standard cotton wheels is a better and more cost effective solution. That is with our equipment (an in-line buffing "shack"). Not knowing your equipment capability I cannot offer a further solution.

Let me know.

James P. Elwell
polishing engineer - Story City, Iowa

November 7, 2016

Q. I have used airway wheels and polishing buffers of 100% cotton and even if I remove all the milling I have small areas of can this be removed? I'm doing a full polish on my new kit airplane and I can't afford a mistake. This burnishing resembles cloudy areas.

Jim in Texas

James Madison
- Wichita Falls,Texas

November 2016

"You'll do just fine on your very first try."^"Practice makes perfect."

Although I'm no polishing expert, I know that book knowledge isn't likely to get you all the way. You should get some scrap material and practice rather than starting on an item where a mistake can't be afforded. Letter 800 is about polishing aluminum, and discusses in good length the things that can go wrong including what causes such haze. Good luck.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

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