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Polishing Tips

Like many others V-Max owners, I have chosen to brighten up a few brush finished aluminum items by polishing them. The first time I did it, it turned into a lot of work. I found the side covers (where the V-Max emblem is located) are made of a metal that can not be buffed out to a mirror finish. So just leave it on the bike. 

To start, you have to choose what you want to polish and strip all of the attachments off.  The scoops will have a front insert, rubber do-hickeys next to the carbs, and some rubber clipped on to the inside. After you remove all of the attachments, remove the clear coat and black paint with a chemical paint remover. Then wash it with soap and water. When it dries, rub it down with mineral spirits. Everything then is sanded with 150 grit sand paper to remove or smooth nicks and dings. Also sand down some of the brush marks that exist from the factory "Brushed Look". You may want to hit it with 240 grit and then use 300 grit to smooth out the sanding marks. 

I purchased the buffing supplies from English Custom Polish. They have allot of tips on the web site I suggest you read. If you phone them direct, the guy will put together a nice package for you depending on your needs. He will also take the time to discuss any of his products and how to use them.  Everything I ordered from them showed up on time and was of very good quality and quantity. The compound bars he sold me are huge. The ones in the picture below are over a year old. If you do call, ask him about the Harley dyno event. Its a good laugh.

Link to English Custom Polishing's Web Site

Update: English Custom Polishing is now offering discounts to the VMOA members. When placing your order, please give him your VMOA number and you will receive a 10% discount on buffing wheels and compounds, and 20% off of polishes.

Warning! Always work the stock in a fashion that if the wheel catches it, it will be pulled down and away from you. When you are working the edges, work at the very bottom of the wheel. The buffing wheel is turning very fast and has a lot of stored energy just waiting to throw a  piece of your bike at you. Also, never use the same buffing wheel for different compounds. 

The power buffing has to be performed in three steps and with three compounds:

First is the course cut with the gray bar of course stainless compound. Use this to cut all of the sanding scratches and imperfections. If this is the first time the metal article is being buffed, you will work all of the imperfections out at this stage. The next steps build a shine from the base you will work out with the course compound. Once you start buffing the scoops out, you will notice some dark smudges in the finish. These are impurities that get trapped in the aluminum when the scoop is stamped out. I have tried to sand all of them out and re-buff the scoops but these things seem to want to stay no matter what I do. Take a small Dremel tool and buff all of the intricate parts that can not be buffed with a wheel.  Clean the compound off the item you are buffing and get ready for the next step. By the way, the camera ran out of memory right about here. I will take some more pictures later of the completed product.

Next is the fine buff with the yellow bar of fine stainless compound. You will need another buffing wheel to be used with this compound. Use this compound to buff the course compound scratches out. It is best to try to buff the item turned 90 degrees from the course cut. This will help remove and smooth the course cut scratches. Take a small Dremel tool and buff all of the intricate parts that can not be buffed with a wheel. Clean the compound off the item you are buffing and get ready for the next step.

The final buff is with the white bar of Calcined Aluminum Oxide instead of jewelers rough which has ferric oxide. Jewelers rough is more for brass and gold, not aluminum. Make sure you change the buffing wheel again for the new compound. Use this compound to buff out all of the swirls and produce a mirror finish. Take a small Dremel tool and buff all of the intricate parts that can not be buffed with a wheel. 

Another note to mention: When hand buffing an aluminum item, as you rub polish into the item, you will start to turn the rag black at the point of contact. This is some of the aluminum from previous buffing being lifted or new particles being being rubbed off and getting trapped in the cloth. Do not turn the cloth to a new section because it has turned black. The fine trappings of aluminum in the cloth helps you build a mirror shine. It not only works as a very fine abrasive, but it also helps fill in microscopic pores. 

In the past, I used several coats of carnauba wax to seal the buffing job. I never liked the durability. I should have tried the polish the English Polish Shop sells.  I tried to preserve the finish with Zoop Sealer. I followed the instruction to the tee. I even when to the store and purchased the distilled water they recommended. Not only did it dull the mirror finish that I had buffed out but it also only lasted about 6 months before water spots started appearing and could not be rubbed out by hand. My bike is garage kept and only gets wet when I wash it. I was not happy with the results of the Zoop sealer. 

If you are going to clear coat the item when you are buffing, you may want to take it to a body shop and have them spray a good coat of clear acrylic enamel on it. I have never seen a clear coat last or not trun the shine a little opaque. The store bought variety clear coat does not have near the quality and durability you will want. Don't clear coat anything in the exhaust system, it will turn yellow and possible peel off in a short period of time from heat exposure. 

I checked into having everything chromed. The wheels alone would be around $850.00 and it would take about 4 to 5 weeks. I don't want to spend that kind of money nor do I want the bike down for that long. So, every once in a while everything has to come back off and be re-buffed.


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