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A guide to polishing aluminium

Aluminium is a common construction material for a variety of automotive, engineering, industrial and even home improvement projects. It has many benefits, including being very lightweight and corrosion- resistant. If not properly finished, aluminium can look dull. So, this guide will show you how to polish aluminum to a near mirror finish, using a few easily obtainable materials and household tools.

Setting up a buffing system

As most households in the UK do not have access to a workshop with specialist buffing wheels and alloy polishing equipment, you will need to improvise by using some aluminium polishing attachments for your electric hand drill. It is best to use a mains-powered drill rather than a battery powered drill for polishing aluminium as this allows you to rotate the polishing tools at higher revolutions per minute for longer periods of time. From hardware shops such as Screwfix Direct, you can buy buffing kits consisting of cutting and polishing compounds and range of mops. Check if the mops are compatible with your drill system.

Buffing the material

Start with a relatively rough sisal polishing mop and some brown cutting compound. Spin the drill up to maximum speed and touch the mop onto the brown compound. Apply this to the aluminium at the highest speed. This creates heat and abrasion, which will cut out the largest scratches. Next, you need to use Vienna lime and polish by hand with a cloth to remove any grease and build-up of cutting compound from the initial application. Remember to use eye protection and hold the aluminium workpiece securely in a vice or clamp. Next, use a felt mop with blue polishing compound and apply to the aluminium in the same way as the cutting compound. This gradual reduction is that abrasive compounds incrementally remove the scratches from deepest to lightest. The final machine stage is to use a loose fold mop with the blue compound to create a near mirror finish. You may need to apply the loose mop for 15 minutes or more to create the best finish. The final stage is to dust the surface again with Vienna lime, polish by hand with a lint-free cloth and finally, apply polish. Any motorcycle chrome polish or household polish such as Brasso is perfect for applying the mirror finish. Remember, the more time and more incremental steps you perform at each stage of the polishing, the better is the final outcome. If you are planning to finish large areas of aluminium, it may be worth seeking workshop help for ball burnishing and anodising. These processes will not only improve the finish, but also allow you to dye the colour of the metal.

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