Alright, I should be in bed by now so I can go work me arse
off tomorrow morning. But, as a public service to the SabMag
list, following is the secret to making that aluminum shine on
Bryan Ribakow has previously posted a wonderful article on
metal polishing, but it involved a lot of services from
professionals with the right equipment. This costs real money.
The method I'll describe, though probably not as good, is within
the financial reach of anyone able to pay the plates and
insurance on a SabMag.
Let me begin by saying that I wouldn't have to write this at
all if y'all subscribed to _Motorcycle Consumer News_. A lot of
this is taken from the March '97 issue. You don't subscribe? Do
it today. Have credit card ready and call 800-735-9335. If you
don't subscribe to magazines at all, then you're off the hook.
But if you subscribe to crap like _Cycle World_, etc., then you
have no excuse for not adding _MCN_ to the monthly collection. At
US$29/year, you can just occassionaly cut back on a six-pack and
you'll get more value for your money to boot. Me, I drink just as
much, subscribe, and work harder to make up the difference.
Okay, on with the show.
What this technique is not
This is not a method that entails dragging your parts off to a
pro. This is also not a variation on the hand polishing you may
be doing now, only with a new polishing cream. Nope, none of that
shite for me, thank you. I want it quick and convenient and I
don't want me fingers bleeding from rubbing for four hours
Assuming you already have a decent drill, a US$30 investment
at your local hardware super store will yield unbelievable
results with very little physical effort and not a whole lot of
time. If you've tried every metal polish on the planet, yet
you've applied it by hand, be prepared to be fookin' amazed as
you get results you've previously only dreamed of. You think I
exaggerate? I'll let SME attendees attest to the results of my
footpeg brackets and forks, as well as the little aluminum
sidecovers that fit near the top of the engine. When clean, you
could shave in the reflection.
The main expense will be in the drill. Most DIY'ers should
have one anyway. Don't bother with a cordless drill as it will
run out of juice way before you're done. Get a good, decent power
Black and Decker or summat. I don't recall hp ratings and the
like. I'd just suggest that you buy a drill in the middle price
range at Loew's or whatever your local hardware super-store
happens to be.
You'll also need an arbor to hold the wheels. Cost you about
US$3.50. Apparently, most polishing wheels are designed to fit a
bench grinder. The arbor simply turns your drill into a hand-held
I suppose you could make a substitute out of a properly sized
bolt, but for US$3.50, why bother?
Okay, a couple of wheels, some compound and head to the checkout lane. I purchased a #40 and a #36, brand name was Disco (gag). I don't know if these numbers are standard, I just flipped the package over and it told me what to buy for aluminum. If the numbers don't match what you have at the store near you, then flip the package over and it should have a chart.
Look up aluminum and buy the wheels needed for cutting and
polishing, or summat. Another way to look for wheels is to look
for a "spiral" and a "loose" wheel, one for
cutting and one for polishing. If this still does not match what
is in front of you at the store, then look for something that
will give a rough polish and something that will give a smooth
polish. If you're completely at a loss, just buy a couple of
wheels, one hard, one soft. Don't worry *too* much about buying
the wrong wheels because the metal will still look better than if
you did it by hand.
You've got your wheels, now you need compound. There's a bunch
of them, but just like the wheels, you need a rough
("cutting") compound and a polishing compound.
Suggestions are tripoli and white rouge. Now, those that known
anything about the French language are pondering this "white
rouge" shite, since "rouge" is the French word for
"red". So, is it white or is it red? Shut up, you
pedantic arse, and just buy the white stick labelled
The compounds come in sticks and are usually found amongst the
polishing wheels. Polishing wheels are usually found amongst the
drill accessories. Drill accessories are usually found amon . .
., you get the idea.
You've got wheels, you've got compound, you've got an arbor to
hook it all up. You've spent all of about US$20 at the store. You
shall spend no more, so let's get to work on making that SabMag
First, you have to have any clearcost removed from the piece.
I've no recommendations on how to do this. My method is to use
0000 grade steel wool, but this takes forever. Oven cleaner and
the like have been mentioned, but it's a bit risky. Follow all
label directions, see dealer for details, manufacturer is not
responsible for . . .
If you have deep scratches in your piece, best to sand or file
the scratch out before polishing. If you don't, you have a good
chance of putting waves in your piece. Not good, and it won't win
you any points at the bike show. A rule of thumb is if the
scratch is deep enough to catch your finger nail, best to sand it
Hook up that arbor and mount the #40 wheel (or the rough polishing wheel). Take out the tripoli compound and expose a bit from the tube. Spin up the drill. If you've got a drill with a "throttle lock" on it, be glad because you're going to get tired of holding down the button otherwise. Take the tripoli and hold it against the spinning wheel until you've got a fair amount of compound on the wheel. What's a "fair amount"? Well, that knowledge comes with experience.
Did I mention that it would be a good idea to experiment on a
piece of scrap aluminum? I didn't, I just started polishing away
on the irreplacable parts of my bike, but it seems it would be a
good idea to experiment on scrap first so as to obtain a bit of
knowledge about "fair amounts" of compound and the
Place the spinning, compound-filled wheel against your aluminum piece. Keep that baby moving across the piece. If you hold it in one place too long, you'll end up with a wavy piece. Not good; keep it moving. Depending on the amount of compound you applied to the wheel, you may have the familiar black finish of polished aluminum.
Take a break and clean the piece with a rag and see how you're
doing. Wow! Pretty nice, eh? Keep going until you're satisfied
that it looks good. After that, change wheels to the #36 and put
some white rouge on the wheel. Repeat the process to get a fine
Once done, you may want to get the Simichrome out to put on
that final shine. Not necessary, IMO, but the poseurs among us
may want that show-quality finish that only Simichrome can give.
Question? Comment? Ping me at the usual address.
Mike Stewart (firstname.lastname@example.org) COP#0008 DOD#1734
'84 VF700 Sabre '85 V65 Magna '83 Yamaha Seca (hers)
You're never lost as long as you have fuel.