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Tips and Tricks for Polishing Old Paint, Chrome, and other metals.
   (August 2011)

Before and After collage of Cazenave wheel.
Before and After Chrome Technique.

Chrome Techniques:

Materials:

Bronze Wool - Fine
Blue Magic Metal Polish
Carnuba Wax
Various shaped wood handles
Cotton T-shirt rags

Technique:

1). Take pictures!

2). Remove Rust. Rub all metal with bronze wool to remove the rust. Be careful not to rub nearby paintwork and scratch the clearcoat.

Note: Bronze is a soft metal so it won't scratch the chrome. Bronze also doesn't rust like steel wool so any residue that gets stuck in the cracks and crevices won't rust.

Tip: Wrap the various shaped wood handles with bronze wool to get into the hard to reach places. It takes some strength and lots of repetition.

3). Wipe the metal's surface or blow with compressed air to get rid of all the residue.

4). Polish. Use the Blue Magic polish and a clean cotton t-shirt. Apply a generous amount of polish to the metal. Don't go nuts but you want to get it on all the chrome surfaces. The polish may turn black depending on how much grime/corrosion/whatnot is still on the metal.

Note: The polish leaves a coat of silicone to protect the exposed areas (pits and peels) and slow the rust from coming back. Try to get good coverage of the metal.

5). Clean off polish. Don't kill yourself getting the gleam just yet. There will be little streaks. Just wipe it clean. Keep turning the rag to use clean parts so you don't drag polish onto your wiped surfaces.

6). Examine. Are you happy? Think another round will get it a little bit better? Hit it again. If the metal was really cruddy it'll be worth it.

7). Hard polish. Get another clean rag. Rub the living bejeezus out of the metal until it gleams like a Mr. Clean ad.

8). Carnuba Wax. Optional. Some people don't like this because it dulls the shine ever so slightly. I do it because it adds one more layer of protection. A lot of the things I do this to are for display and need to be wiped for dust often.

9). Do a final polish with microfiber.

10). Enjoy, take pictures, and reward yourself.

Other metals:

Other metals will polish with various degrees of success and difficulty. Cast aluminum is used a lot on vintage bikes/mopeds. It actually shines up really nicely. However, expect to do many, many repetitions. The center of the wheel above is cast aluminum.

Rough cast aluminum can be brought to a smooth-ish shine with tons of work. Read about it on the internet before taking it on.

Nuts and Bolts:

Rusty nuts and bolts are tough. If you don't mind putting fine scratches on them, you can use a steel brush like the one to the left of the TR3 in the picture. That's from an AutoZone detail kit.

DO NOT DO THIS with a large bolt that shows. With a large bolt head use bronze wool, tons of elbow grease and blue magic.

Use various types of pliers to grip the nut/bolt. Be careful not to crush threads. Using many hard strokes rub the rust off the nut/bolt with the steel brush. Turn bolts sideways and brush them to clean the threads.

Use Blue Magic to finish.

Picture of various polish tools.

Tools of the Trade.

Paint Techniques:

Materials:

Mequiar's Ultimate Finishing Compound
TR3 Resin Glaze
Carnuba Wax
Cotton T-shirt rags

Technique:

1). Take pictures!

2). Clean surface. Use a mild soap and water solution to get rid of the dirt and grease.

3). Finishing Compound and Cotton T-shirt. Put a little compound on the rag and rub on the paint.

The "grit" is in the polish. Too much polish and your not getting your work's worth. Too little and your wasting your time.

Do a small section (3"x3" or less) then wipe it off. (Section A) Then do the next section (Section B) and go back over the section you just wiped off (Section A).

Wipe them both off.

Do the next section (Section C) and go over the section just before it (Section B).

Keep going like that until your are finished.

That's one. Now do it all again. Yes, you really have to. I usually let it sit for a couple hours to overnight and work on something else. The compound doesn't set so much as it gives me fresh eyes when I come back. Not necessary but with this much work why rush any part.

That's two. If you have really thin paint, lots of rust or a particularly bad section you might try going over it again. At some point the improvement is too small to merit the work.

4). TR3 Resin Glaze and a cotton rag. Wipe all the painted surface. Don't miss a bit. You want a thin coat. You should see streaks. Be careful not to get water near it for two hours.

Let it set four hours to over night.

Wipe off the glaze. There will be a light smearing and it will actually look less shiny than after the finishing compound. Don't worry.

Resin glaze again. Yes really.

5). Wipe off.

6). Hard polish. Really rub the crap out of it until it shines and there is no more smear.

7). Carnuba Wax it with a cotton rag. Now the paint will really pop.

8). Do a final polish with microfiber.

9). Enjoy, take pictures, and reward yourself.

Vietnamese Stainless Steel:

Materials:

Nuvite Aluminum Polish Grade C
Blue Magic Metal Polish
Carnuba Wax
Cotton T-shirt rags

If you are into vintage Lambrettas or Vespas you will likely run into some Vietnamese Stainless Steel. It makes for nice non-rusting accesories but the polish job is lacking. They use big belt polishers and hit where it reaches leaving scratches and missed areas.

1). Rub the Nuvite into the metal with your finger.

2). Wipe off.

3). Apply Blue Magic with a rag.

4). Wax. Optional.