Polishing Aluminium – A How to Guide

how to polish aluminiumIf you have been looking at our Ashby Aero range then it’s a safe bet that you are attracted by a polished aluminium finish.  It really gives a luxurious look to any aerospace item.

So, how do we achieve this?  I often get asked by people who have no idea what’s involved. This isn’t a ‘how to’ guide, it’s just an insight on a process.

Firstly, it’s a very dirty job (so it’s essential to wear overalls, goggles and breathing mask because you don’t want to be breathing in the aluminium dust).  Here I am working on a propeller.

Secondly, it’s quite a noisy job so you will need to do this somewhere you won’t be annoying your neighbours or partner!  You may also want ear plugs.

Without a doubt, you will need plenty of time.  This isn’t a job for anyone lacking patience and determination!  Our double propeller and nose cone commanded around 25 hours of polishing which is a modest amount when compared to the polishing hours devoted to our 8ft propeller.  On that occasion, we had to call for back up in the shape of Alan who is a professional polisher.large polished aluminium propeller blade sculpture

Tools of the trade.  Well there is quite a long list but you will need an electric hand held polisher/buffer with a variety of grades of polishing wheels, different grades of polishing soap to apply directly to the wheel and a sander to prepare the surface.

As with all practical jobs, preparation is the key…

If the item has a painted surface you will need to either use a paint stripper or remove it with a sander or sometimes both…

Secure your item with ratchet straps to a work bench set at a comfortable height.  This is back-breaking work!

Then, sanding the surface, work your way up through the sand paper grades from coarse to very fine to remove any superficial marks and to give a uniform and smooth surface.  It’s tempting to dive in with the polisher but resist the urge to rush this stage!

Begin polishing with the coarser polishing wheel and coarse soap.  Take your time and use consistent pressure moving gradually over the surface.  Progress onto the finer wheel and finer soap.

Use a smaller electric drill with small polishing heads for hard to reach areas.

Buff the surface with a rotary buffer mop and lambs wool mop adding small amounts of a polishing cream such as Autosol

Clean away black residue with white spirit.  This can also be removed with chalk powder.

When you have finished, stand back to admire your work before deciding to do just a bit more…warning, polishers can become perfectionists. Hours pass by in a blur, night falls…you get the picture!

Anyone can shake and point a can of silver spray paint.  Unfortunately, in this life, the easy option often gives a poor quality finish.  To polish aluminium to a professional finish is undoubtedly back-breaking, dirty work which requires dedication but the results are stunning don’t you think? RB199 Mirror

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