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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The workshop » » Polishing aluminum angle (3 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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BenSalinas
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I am building an illusion that has a lot of aluminum angle on it. How do you polish the angle to same shine we see on professionally built props?
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illusiontech
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You need a buffing wheel and polishing compound. You put the compound on the spinning wheel and buff out the aluminum.

Vinny
Bill Hegbli
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There is 2 types of aluminum, one is able to be shined and the other is not. The best way to test is to see if the dull goes all the way through the aluminum. Scratch or take some steel wool and rub a spot, if it changes and gets shiny, then this can be shined.

I found the the hard way, I spent hours with buffing wheel and white rouge shining up the angle aluminum. Then I had a piece that got some dirt on it. So I took an S.O.S. pad and washed it with the pad. It shined like new and there was no need to buff it to a shine.

Currently, most aluminum you find at the building stores like Lowe's is dull all the way through the metal. Try a hardware store for the type that can be shined.

Reynolds Aluminum use to make the type that shines for DIY projects, but they stopped making it year ago.
BenSalinas
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I have been getting my aluminum from Home Depot and some of it is shiny, some of it is dull. We managed to clean it with Brasso and then polish it a bit. We didn't try the rouge though. Thanks for the info!
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mechanic
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I recently completed a project which had a lot of aluminium angle which required a high level of shine. I used progressively finer grades of "wet and dry" abrasive paper lubricated wirh WD40.For the final finish I used Mcguires aluminium polish.

Regards

Dsavid
David Charvet
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Also, be forewarned - polishing any aluminum is a MESSY job. Your hands will be black with aluminum oxide by the time you're done. I once owned a vintage Airstream (polished aluminum) travel trailer and had a friend polish it. When he finished, he said, "Never again!"

There are polishes available at auto supply stores for aluminum mag wheels that do a good job, without a lot of effort. But still, messy.

Have fun!
Bill Hegbli
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Quote:
On 2012-02-01 16:23, BenSalinas wrote:
I have been getting my aluminum from Home Depot and some of it is shiny, some of it is dull. We managed to clean it with Brasso and then polish it a bit. We didn't try the rouge though. Thanks for the info!


Actually, my point was to just use the S.O.S. pads to clean pots and Pans. It does the same exact shining as the hours of hand polishing. It would work better then any liquid polish.

Just wet the pad wit warm water, then wrap the S.O.S. pad around the aluminum and start stroking, within minutes it will be bright, just rinse and away you go. Try it you might find it much easier.
Craig Dickens
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Most builders I know farm the job out to a metal polishing company. Look in the yellow pages under metal polishing. The aluminum sold at Lowes and the like is anodized and will not polish.
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Magic1man
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I have never seen any pre-anodized aluminum for sale at Lowes or Home Depot? Only mill finish
Chance
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Would a "Tarn-ex" type product work here? Dunno myself, just tossing it out there. A lot less hand work if it can.
magicelam
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Mike
EsnRedshirt
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I've polished aluminum from one of the box stores, using a buffing wheel on a bench grinder, three grades of "stick" polish, and a dremel for the tiny parts. After that I washed it with soap and water, and rubbed it clean with an old towel. It worked very well- very shiny finish. And didn't take too long, either. Wear a shop apron and a mask, though, because gunk will fly everywhere, and you probably don't want it going under your safety glasses and into your eyes.
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thegreatnippulini
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Anodizing is a very expensive and time consuming process. No harware store would ever supply pre-anodized stock metals. The dull surface comes from the mill this way. WmHegbli is kind of right, but also way wrong. There are hundreds of grades of Al not 2, the way they polish has nothing to do with the base metal, the "dull" does NOT "go through all the way the metal". Now that I think of it, NO metal in the world is "dull all the way through", the appearance of metals relies on what what use to process it. Use a sharp shiny knife to cut into dull Al and the base metal cut will be just as shiny as the knifes edge.

The reason certain Al won't polish with rogue is the OXIDES on the surface based on the ALLOY. That's why when applied with plain abrasive, you noticed the shine. That's because you are removing the oxide layer (which is very dull and WILL come back in time). Most metals shine by polishing because you are (microscopically) smooshing down the high points of the surface. This can be done chemically (electropolish) or physically. A buffing wheel and rogue cannot break the oxide film of Al, most other metals will shine amazing though. For the dull oxide type surface, the BEST way to polish (pay attention kids) is progressively finer grits of DRY abrasives. Start with a hand held angle grinder mounted with a sand pad at about 80 grit. Sand the metal, then change to 120. Continue doing this to about 600 grit. By the end you will have a grade 8 shine. Apply any rogue with a buff after the process is done and it will shine up to 9 grade. (10 grade is your bathroom mirror). Apply rogue DURING the dry polish process and you screwed the pooch by gunking up the abrasive which will cause glazing. It's called a dry polish process for a reason. This set up works really well on stainless too (similar oxide problem).

Hope this helps!
TGN

Posted: Feb 4, 2012 8:23am
Forgot to add: SAFETY NOTE: Please wear proper PPE including a dust mask. Small particles of Al and Al oxide are detrimental to your health.
The Great Nippulini: body piercer, Guinness World Record holder, blacksmith and man with The World's Strongest Nipples! Does the WORLD care? We shall see...
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Craig Dickens
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To be honest, I haven't looked at the aluminum being sold in the box stores for a long time since I get mine from an industrial supplier. However back in the early nineties when I was still purchasing from them, it was sold as mill finish and also a matte finish that my polisher wouldn't touch because it was anodized. This was commonly available at Ace Hardware and the then exisiting stores like Courtesy ( not sure if Lowes or Home Depot were around then!). Also aluminum counter edging was available with a highly polished as well as matte and brass anodized finish.
Jeez guys, just offering advice here-LOL.

Posted: Feb 4, 2012 3:47pm
Okay... I was curious and stopped into OSH while running some errands. Sure enough there is a small selection of mill finish there. But the vast majority is anodized. It actually says anodized on the label. Manufacturer is MD ( Macklenberg / Duncan?). Nothing polished anymore. Only door treads in anodized brass finish. Not sure what the stock is by all of you.
My advice still stands-- farm it out to a polishing company and get a pro looking finish. Sure you could do it yourself but why deal with the obvious hassle?
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Magic1man
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If starting out with a mill finish aluminum that does not have deep surface scratches I would advise starting out with a cut down grade of polishing compound (Black) and a felt wheel. This can and will “Break the oxide film”. If there are surface scratches too deep for the cutdown compound I would recommend a DA sander stating out no greater then 120 grit. An angle grinder with a 60 grit sanding pad ( especially in the hands of an inexperienced operator) would just greater gouges and a surface not as flat as the mill finish! The DA sander will help keep the surface as flat possible for the upcoming polishing steps with the compounds.
thegreatnippulini
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Hey, if the label says anodized then who am I to argue? I occasionally get requests for material certification from my customers, so when necessary I supply them with mill certs. I never buy material from a store, hardware or otherwise, main reason is price. You can end up paying 250% markup buying at Home Depot compared to going to the mill and buying direct. Besides, store bought metals aren't usually available in lengths over 4 feet. I buy 20 or 16 foot lengths at a time. Same goes for drops of sheet and plate. Yes, black rogue and flet wheel CAN break the oxide film and/or anodized surface, I just find it labor intensive. There are secrets to proper angle grinding, yes an inexperienced worker (shop gorilla) can ruin a project.
The Great Nippulini: body piercer, Guinness World Record holder, blacksmith and man with The World's Strongest Nipples! Does the WORLD care? We shall see...
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Magic1man
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Only use polishing compound on MILL Finish aluminum, you would be polishing from now to the end of time trying to remove an anodized finish.
Donal Chayce
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FWIW, I once polished 5 aluminum "swords" (made out of flat aluminum bar) by hand using ever-finer grades of steel wool, and I was able to get them to a mirror finish. That said, it took me nearly a full day for each sword and, as David said, my hands got incredibly filthy.
Viano2
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When you finally get the shine that you want, how long does it last? Is protection required? It seems to me that to newly exposed Aluminium will oxidize again.
blackstone99
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Perhaps spray coating with a clear lacquer or wax will prevent further oxidation.

Posted: Feb 14, 2012 1:05pm
There is also spray chrome and spray aluminum paint which create a shiny surface.
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