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Per request of a few here I decided to do a small write up on polishing your metal surfaces incase some of you want that super shiny cool look. :)

Rather then taking a ton of pictures of me polishing something which would be quite boring I just decided to do a basic write up. Honestly a step by step pic guide of polishing won't show you much because you do a bunch of work and steps and you don't see much in the way of results until the last three steps. So without further a due here is how to do it.

What you need:
Sandpaper:
220 grit
320 grit
400 grit
600 grit
800 grit
1000 grit
1500 grit
2000 grit

Buffing wheels:
loose sewn
sprial sewn

buffing compounds:
tipoli
white rouge

Here is a pic of the tubes the compounds will come in and the buffing wheels. You can get the wheels in different sized to fit your application. Pic courtesy of Eastwood Company: Auto Tools, Body Repair, Classic Car Restoration, House of Kolor Paint, Powder Coating


misc:
drill and/or dremel and/or buffing motor/bench grinder
screw driver
sanding block (optional)
rubber gloves or equivalent hand protection
eye protection (seriously it's important)
mask or respirator to protect you from dust
clear coat of your choice

All of these tools can be found either at home depot, lowes, or similar store, or online at Eastwood Company: Auto Tools, Body Repair, Classic Car Restoration, House of Kolor Paint, Powder Coating


step one:
sanding:
This is going to take you the longest. Expect to spend hours here if you are doing this by hand. If you have a fancy smancy buffer or the appropriate dremel attachments you can speed this up some. Take your time here because what you do here will dictate the results you get at the end. This is by far the most important part.

First put your mask on, safety first! Next put your gloves on. Once you've been sanding and have exposed the bare metal you don't want to get finger prints on it. You are going to start with the 220 grit sandpaper and go over the entire surface. Once you think you've adequately leveled the surface move on to the 300 grit and do the same thing. Continue moving one step up until you get to 2000 grit. If you start on a step and are not getting the scratches out of the previous step go back and do some more sanding with the previous grit. If you are doing this by hand expect to spend a good 20 minutes to half hour or more on each step of sand paper on a typical valve cover. You 2.2 guys have a slightly more intricate cover with the ridges and all so it may take you longer. I've never done a 2.2 so I don't know personally.

Once you've gotten to 2000 grit your valve cover should be looking pretty nice and smooth. Check for any blemishes that might be appearing because this is a good time go back and touch up.

Step 2: Buffing
Ok, now that you've got all the sanding done it's time to start buffing. Put on your safety glasses. First you need to remove all the excess dust from sanding. You can use aluminum cleaner or a compressor to blow it off. Aluminum cleaner is better but not a must. Now you are going to take your spiral sewn buffing wheel and your buffing apparatus of choice (drill, dremel, etc) and apply some tipoli compound to it. You don't want a real heavy coat but you want enough so that it can do the work and start to bring the shine out. Use light pressure on the buffer, again letting the buffing wheel and compound do the work. Also move quickly across the surface so that you don't "burn" the metal so to speak. This can cause discoloration down the road. Once you've worked the tipoli into the whole surface it should start to look darker and have some shine.

Next you need to clean the excess tripoli off the surface. Do this with aluminum cleaner and a clean microfiber towel. Make sure it's all removed and it's time to move on to the next step.

Now it's time to get the loose sewn buffing wheel out and the white rouge compound. Do not use the same wheel for tripoli as you do white rouge. The process is the same as with the tripoli. As you do this you should really see the mirror finish start to come out in the metal. Purdy huh? :) Once you've worked the white rouge into the whole surface again clean it with the aluminum cleaner.

Now it's time to apply polish. There are several types you can get and it's all a personal preference. Zoop is great, but very pricey. Mothers also makes a great polish for less money. You are going to apply this polish to another buffing wheel (loose sewn preferably) and apply to the metal. Again work it in well allowing the buffer to do the work. Once this is done again clean the surface.

Final Step: clear coating


Your choice of clear coat is up to you. I personally use Diamond Clear which is an Eastwood product.

That's it. Once it's all done it should look like this. Maybe better!



I hope that helped, as always if you have any questions I'll do my best to help.
 

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Very nice write up. I have been wondering how to do this. About how long does it take to do something like this? Say for like the valve covers or something?
I think my valve cover took me like 12 hours. It was all done by hand except for the buffing.
 

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i started polishing stuff on the side too, i use a huge assortment of 3m radial discs (not many people use these cause they're roughly $30 per 6" disk and they wear out.. they're actually designed for jewelry)

here's my supra valve covers before grinding and polishing and after. they need about another 2 hours work to make them look like my turbo compressor housing

before:



after:



and yes those are really the same ones.

turbo compressor housing, i ground off all the castings including the big "TOYOTA CT-26" that went all the way around the front of it:





and here's the stock heatshield for the turbo, it's made from crappy potmetal so it would be impossible to polish out to a mirror.





next on the list is the blower and valve cover from the cobalt's engine. :D

my process doesn't involve so much sand paper lol... i go from a 50 grit disk 120 on power tools, to 220, smooth out with 180 grit scotch brite discs on rotary tool 400, 800, 1000, hard metal compound, soft metal compound then finish it off with a really nice super secret squirrel club rouge and coat it with another super secret quirrel club metal protectant ;)
 

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Nice write up..I wouldn't really recommended using a Dremel though, they typically don't have a variable speed so people could gouge them really easy.
dremels do have variable speed, a plug in one goes from 5000-35000rpm and i think the battery one goes from 7000-25000 iirc just make sure the dremel is only used for the tight areas though
 

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As soon as the weather warms up a little more I'm going to continue working on the wheels I just bought, and I'm using the buffing DIY for it.

Bought a set of BSA racing wheels(7 spoke, 4 lug) which the last guy had taken some of that charcoal, black Dupli-color wheel paint to... so I'm stripping the paint off them(all of it) and going to polish the aluminum alloy.

If anyone is interested in a DIY for the basic process of stripping the wheels then I might put something together. If you thought polishing was time consuming though then you don't want to even start this type of project. I'm doing everything by hand... and figuring around 4-9 hours per wheel.
 
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