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Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:41 am
by SWijland
I always had a soft spot for polished bicycle parts, but up until recently I had never been able to achieve the high polish look I was looking for.

The change has been brought about by the purchase of a polishing machine, two different polishing wheels and two different polishing compounds. That is pretty much all it takes to get a nice finish on aluminium bike parts. Before I used hand polishing compounds and a rag and a polishing wheel you can insert into a drill, but neither gave the results I wanted.

Attached are a couple of pictures of a pair of C-Record hubs I polished yesterday. Unlike most bicycle parts, early Campagnolo hubs are not anodized, making them a great starting point for learning how to polish stuff. First you need to clean the outside of the hub thoroughly (I used Finish Line speed degreaser). Then you start to polish the hub using the cotton disc and the matching compound for this disc. You will need to apply some pressure to get the disc to do its trick. Use gloves while doing this because the part you are polishing will get hot (that is if you are doing it right). You can see the results of your labour within seconds, which is pretty cool. After you finish polishing the hub with the cotton disc, clean it again to remove any polishing compound. Now you repeat the process with a flannel disc and the matching compound. Again you will see major improvement almost instantly. The final step is to clean the hub again and give it a coat of (liquid) wax for the ultimate shine. All this took me under an hour.

If you want to polish an anodized part, you will have to remove the anodizing first. Doing this is pretty tricky and requires using lye. I have yet to do this successfully, but apparently in the US they sell Easy-Off oven cleaner which is great for this.

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:47 am
by SWijland
This is an example of a set I polished a while back. They started out looking pretty much the same as the C-Record hubs. By the way, the polishing wheel is also great for polishing damaged hub cones

Image

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:55 am
by KB
Nice work. I've just had a bunch of stuff polished myself. Extralite stem, headset, cranks; Van Nicholas TI seatpost. Maybe also think about doing it to some rims.

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:23 am
by SWijland
Any tips on how to remove the anodizing?

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:37 am
by stevec1975
Remove Anodising = Use Oven Cleaner

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:55 am
by SWijland
Unfortunately not every oven cleaner uses the same ingredients. The ones sold in The Netherlands for example don't work for removing anodizing.

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:12 pm
by KB
I also use oven cleaner. I'm not in the UK at present so don't know which brand, but it defintely worked for me. It was a spray can that 'foams' up.

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:50 pm
by SWijland
@KB: I would love to hear what you are using!

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 6:45 pm
by StradaJon
That might be Mr Muscle Oven cleaner then!

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 8:00 pm
by bura
SW, such a machine is the best tool to polish parts. :thumbup:
I know someone who hand made some walnut wooden parts for cars and used the same machine to polish the top varnish layer on the top of the walnut veneer.This is a real dusty job and it is good to wear some mask.
He used cotton discs and some light blue hard compound which he put on the cotton discs before polishing clear varnish.
Which paste or compound are you using when polishing metal parts and do you apply it also onto the cotton disc?
Thanks.

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 8:06 am
by KB
StradaJon wrote:That might be Mr Muscle Oven cleaner then!

Yes, the very one. Works well.

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 9:02 am
by SWijland
Great! Will give that a try then. How long does it take for the oven cleaner to work its magic?

I used drain opener in the past on a pair of DA 7700 cranks, but that pretty much destroyed them, instead of leaving a nice even dull finish :|

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 10:22 am
by peruffo
The bike shop where I work sends all the aluminum polishing to a specialist, who uses (if I remember correcty) an acid mixture to remove anodization. He once told me, that he needs to alter the mixture for different alloys: the DA 7700/XTR 9XX crank is made of duraluminum alloy, which is very sensitive to such a chemical process. He uses a machine similar to yours for polishing, with mask and elbow-lenght gloves. He also has a few special polishing compounds for different alloys. Next time I have to visit him, I can get more info...

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 10:44 am
by SWijland
WOW :shock: ! That was what I was hoping my DA cranks would like look.

Re: Polishing bicycle parts

Posted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 12:11 pm
by SWijland
bura wrote: Which paste or compound are you using when polishing metal parts and do you apply it also onto the cotton disc?
Thanks.


I use blue compound with a cotton disc and white compound with a flannel disc. If a part shows deeper scratches then I go for brown compound with a cottom disc first or I use fine grit sanding paper (800+). The color of the compound is not the same for every manufacturer though.