How to clean & polish.

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Aug 26, 2005
Question - What are the recomended steps & equipment/supplies needed to restore to a high shine the Al parts of my norton?

I am doing a rebuild (a 70), have purchased several used parts in good condition BUT they are very dirty, etc.

From another board but works well. Zackybilly1

Sr BritBiker
Member # 2350

posted November 29, 2005 09:49
Once you get over the initial shock of putting sandpaper to your valued aluminum covers, you'll be glad you did. I have literally pulled covers out of other peoples scrap boxes and returned them to what appears to be flawless condition (to where the donator wanted it back).

Buffing is an art but requires much less time, experience and effort if you sand it slick first. I use as rough as 100 grit on "rash" areas and continue wet-sanding working my way up to 1200 grit. Don't bare down on a ding or imperfection but sand the whole area in general. The 1000 and 1200 grit doesn't feel like its cutting much but this is what will give you the best finish.

From this point, its just a matter of minutes of buffing until your holding what appears to be a new cover. Vintage brit aluminum polishes easier/better than vintage metric, therefore, if you want to practice on an old cover, use brit, if you can. Eastwood has a great selection of top-of-the-line buffing supplies but if are going to do a limited amount of polishing and you wet-sand it first, you can get good results with sewn-wheels and polishing compound (white) from the Home Depot tool department. If your new to the buffing wheel, just keep in mind that the wheel will take a part from your hand and send it across the shop at amazing speeds which can ruin your finish, if not, your entire part. Easy, Tiger.

Typically, I hit the polished parts with simichrome afterwards more as an oxygen barrier than a polishing compound.

Be careful, polishing is addictive and you may end up with covers (also, tail-light housings, inspection caps, carbs, etc.) that look better than the rest of the bike.

I added this sometime later: Big mistake I see people new to alum. is pressing to hard on the sand paper. Let each grit do it's job and clean well between grits. This also applys to buffing never use the same wheels with different grits. Alum cut with a grit will pile and roll leaving marks behind no matter the elbow grease. Don't polish alum. with alum. grit, sand wet and light and never let your buffing wheels get shinny with alum. norbsa
Many Tks for the tips/procedure!!!! I'am off to get the supplies, & will start this weekend.

How do you clean items like the outside of the carbs with all the hard to reach area's?

Cycle Care's formula 22 also called Spray Rince and Ride is the best I have found for maintaining the bikes once they are clean to begin with. To start on a really filthy old beast brake clean ( carbon tettra cloride ) and some old tooth brushes. Gas also works both make thier own mess. Simple Green is also good for roughing out but does leave streaks that need more cleaning. Take it a part at a time knowing that you will mess up clean areas as you proceed. It is much easyer to keep a clean bike maintained after the deep cleaning is done. I get caught in the rain alot. Hot bike cold rain = 3hrs work. norbsa
I have a few pieces that even after polishing show a lot of tiny black pits which even further polishing won't remove. I've come to the conclusion that these are a result of the casting being either filled with tiny bubbles or impurities. Any way to deal with this other than chrome plating or powder coating or just live with them? :cry:

filling the pits

Hi Scooter,
There is a posting on the NOC site (I think) in which someone says that you can spray the aluminum part with silver spray paint then wipe off the excess. Supposedly this will fill in the pits and/or leave an alternative finish. I have not tried it, but, depending on the condition of the part I can see where it may be useful.
justa thought,
Just a comment on Simple Green. A friend mentioned this stuff to me a few years ago. I bought the Simple Green in a spray bottle from the local automotive store. After spraying down the motor and giving it a few minutes to work i rinsed it off with the hose. Not only did it remove the oil but also the yellow chromate plating from the spark plugs . A few weeks later i gave it another go . Same results .
Thanks, that sounds like an easy thing to try since it will at least make the pits less noticable. I had a similar idea to flash plate the part with nickle and then buff the part again, your suggestion sounds alot easier. I'll give it a try and report back.

i am polishing the forks on my 72 commando and have gone throught the sanding stage using a 600 grit then finishing with a 1500 grit and now it has come to polishing i have been doing it by hand using autosol but was wondering wat tools and polish will i need to do it while the part is still on the bike i was thinking i die grinder with a buffing wheel or a rotary tool of somesort please help as i would like to get the mirror finish i expected.
Nothing on the bike will be able to be polished up to a "mirror" finish when it is still on the bike, too many places you just can't reach and get at.....and electric tools won't always perform miracles, either. Elbow grease works best. Either remove and go at the pieces with buffers and such, or leave in place and do the best you can with your hands...and accept that it will not come out perfect. Only way to make the machine perfect, is to totally pull it ALL apart, do without riding it for at least a season, and really redo everything. Only then, can the bike look sort of like those nice ones that belong to some of the forum members. Just remember that , one good rainstorm and all those places behind, under and between, that you had so nice and polished, will once again be's a never ending battle. :wink:
thanks for the reply and i will do my best with the stuuf on the bike as i only want to get it to look good as i have just got the motor rebuilt and are going for a roadworthy when the tank and sidecovers are finished being painted black with a gold pearl hence the user black/gold750comando i will post some pics when the bike is finished.
I haven't had the patience to pull mine all apart and do all those nice little details either.....not in 30 years. in the winter, it is too cold in the workshop and who wants to do all that stuff when it's riding season......but there is a lot you can do to make the bike look nice, without pulling it all apart. Just takes a lot of time. But that doesn't mean I don't drool over the way some of those members' bikes look. Some are pretty darned nice.
Hope you enjoy yours, and like will find time soon, and eventually get it the way you want......a bit at a time :wink:

I tried the silver spray paint as suggested but it wasn't too successfull. May take a better technigue than I used or a different paint. Anyway I guess I'll live with the pitting which isn't noticable once your 10 foot away, until something better comes along. I know chrome plating will work but I just don't like the look that's why I was considering nickle plating.

I'm with Hewho... , theres nothing wrong with a good 10ft polish. After 21 years i still think maybe next year i will pull mine down and do the repaint and polish thing - but as we don't have a non riding season down under there never seems to be a good time.

from a rider not a polisher
Where to buy

Today i went into everystore in my town and had no luck at finding cotton buffing and polishing wheels for a small air die grinder, i was wondering if anyone knows where i would be able to get one, im in australia but if anyone knows a website or a stockist i would be greatfull.
Polishing by hand works fine but I generally find it oxidises much quicker than done with a buffing wheel.

My son is into computers in a big way - he does all sorts of modifications to them including water cooling. He's recently been sanding and polishing some anodised aluminium bits for his new project and was intrigued to know if the results would work for several parts of the Commando.

As I was starting a re-build I picked my first victim - The primary chaincase had some nasty deep scratches from the previous owner, you can see below how bad.

How to clean & polish.

I started by wet sanding with 240 grit. A bucket of warm soapy water helps as it lubricates and keeps any stray bits of grit from marking the surface. I then progressed through 400, 800 and finished with 1200.

As for polishing, I used Autosol (formerly known as Solvol) and did a small section by hand with a cotton cloth to see how it was going to buff up like. I didn't bother doing it all by hand as I knew it would oxidise over eventually and would wait until I was building the bike back up.

How to clean & polish.

Not bad 8)

I have recently purchased a buffing wheel to be fitted to a 6" bench grinder but due to a few unforseen problems we couldn't get it fitted. Instead I used an old bolt and some locking nuts to fit it into the chuck of the drill.

It works really well - lets you get to the hard to reach areas and will allow me to re-buff some parts while they're attached to the bike.

As norbsa has mentioned, polishing is very addictive, the time and effort is definately worth it!
Happy New Year to you all:
Regarding Polishing Aluminium; I like to use a product called Sandflex. Basically it looks like an oversized eraser approximately 3”X 2”X1” in size and it is a flexible pad, which is impregnated with an abrasive compound. Made in Germany by Klingspor and it comes in 3 different abrasive grits. Coarse, Medium, Fine… used wet or dry. I picked it up at a Mail order Company call Lee Valley Tools. ... 2194,40727 Its got 101 uses including the kitchen sink.
I have the disease!!!

In deference to those who may be dealing with actual addictions I won't use that term BUT...........the 71 basketcase is a whole lot shinier now, thanks to borrowing a friend's Baldor buffing wheel and a large portion of elbow grease.

you may recall that my bike spent the last 20 years leaning against a barn in Va. consequently, every surface wasn't just oxidised, it had a layer of red mud AND oxidation on it. I used wet/dry paper from 320-1000 lubricated with mineral spirits to get the cases etc to a uniform state of patina. then the baldor wheel . Not quite mirror like, but pretty darned good! I would go into the shop and tell myself "I'll just do this little tappet cover' and 3 hours later, I'm still down there at it.

I used a cup style wire brush on my grinder to do the face of the Z plates and engine cases so they all have that brushed look rather than try and polish the case as well as the cover, I'm not THAT nuts! but the edges of the z plates which were, at one time finished nicely are shiny enough to shave with!

so: the 71 basketcase now has the indigo blue painted/clearcoated frame all back together and the tranny is installed. I'm waiting on a couple of studs/nuts for the cylinder head, then it will be installed.

the 71 basketcase will ride this summer!!!!!
Karl Hoyt
Buffing Motor suggestion and....

If you go out to buy a buffing (grinder) motor, suggest you go as big a motor and wheels as you can afford. I made the mistake of going cheap w/ a six inch machine.. ALMOST a toy :eek:( ... small surface area on wheels and NOT enough torque in the motor..
next project will see the six incher become a dedicated grinder/wire wheel spinner..

But if you enjoyed buffering up all that al-U-mini-um just wait till you pull off some of those faded, spotty, dull chome pieces and put them to the wheel!! They will look like they just came back from the chrome man.. WELL worth the cost!
you will be VERY pleased!
I recommend two products made by California Customs Products, Inc. The first is an aluminum deoxidizer to be followed by the purple metal polish. Not cheap (~$12.00 each) but good stuff. These, a bag of terry towels from Sam's Club and LOTS of elbow grease can really do wonders. Way better than any other stuff I've tried. ... efault.htm

I've tried clear anodizing of some parts and wouldn't recommend it. It tends to leave a 'haze' on the parts which I don't like. The rear hub really did poorly due to the particular alloy-turning it almost grey. Its sucks to remove anodizing.

Be careful buffing chrome-Tripoli and Jacksons green both seem to leave slightly visible marks on a nice chrome surface (w/a stitched wheel). Maybe I'm not doing it right. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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