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Old Streetfighter Motorcycle Forum Post 08-31-2010, 08:49 PM   #1
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Default Frame Polishing w/basic tools and NO experience!

So I'm just about done with my frame and before I started, I had searched endlessly for one definitive answer on the best step-by-step method of polishing a frame and I found a million different articles, most just text (I like pics), and in many cases I found a lot of differing opinions on certain things. I've never polished a frame before and am thrilled with how it came out (much better than many I've seen) and I thought I'd write a Lil DIY for anyone here..
(On a side note, there a million ways to skin this cat, so don't be surprised if my method differs from some..)

Ok, things you'll need:

Dingy frame
Palm sander (used a cheapo black and decker)
A dremel (with sanding sponge wheels) is great to get in those tight areas (weld seams, gussets, etc.)
Easyoff oven cleaner (must be heavy duty version with yellow cap)
Lots of sandpaper! 1 package (4-5 sheets) of each of the following grits:
100, 150, 220, 320, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1500
1 Rouge Bar (Brown Tripoli) purchase at Sears for around $6
1 Sisal polishing wheel with drill bit chuck (purchase at Sears)
1 Loose sewn cotton polishing wheel (also at Sears)
1 bottle white liquid rouge (bought mine from caswellplating.com)
Container of Mothers aluminum polishing compound
Safety Gear!!
This is a nasty process from beginning to end, make sure to protect yourself. The aluminum powder is horrible for your lungs and eyes while sanding especially. As you begin polishing, the rouge can easily get into your eyes and literally polish your eyes!!
Yellow rubber kitchen gloves while using Easyoff
Lightweight nitrile gloves for everything else. (the aluminum powder dries your hands out real bad for a few days if not protected, more annoying than anything else)


Ok, so here we go:

The specimen, my 88' GSXR Frame prior to polishing:

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Old Streetfighter Motorcycle Forum Post 08-31-2010, 09:06 PM   #2
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Default Re: Frame Polishing w/basic tools and NO experience!

Since most people will not have a nice empty frame like me to work on, make sure you protect everything you don't want effected. Remove as much as you can to get the stuff out of your way, whatever you can't remove you'll need to tape off or cover until your done.
Now make sure your frame is clean and free of grease, etc. before you start.
Once you know everythings clean, the first things you need to do is strip the anodizing. (assuming your frame is not painted.) Some people will say just sand through the anodizing, and if you have a few months available you could consider that, for the rest of us the Easyoff oven cleaner will help speed the process..
Heavyduty Easyoff oven cleaner is so alkaline it literally breaks down the anodizing, so put your yellow kitchen gloves on, fill the yellow cap up with easyoff and just brush it on any areas you plan on polishing. Water dilutes the oven cleaner so keep a bucket of water handy in case you get any on an area/part you don't want effected. (wear some eye protection here as well in case you accidentally flick your brush.) Now, I read several times to brush it on and in 15 minutes it would be done and ready to be sanded.. Not even close!! When the anodizing has been completely broken down, your frame will have blackish grey everywhere, and for me this took 3 coats of oven cleaner and 2 hours. It's a little scary when you see what happens but don't worry, completely normal for it to look like it was just drudged off the ocean floor. Here's a couple pics of what it started to look like (notice the lower frame rail especially in the first pic:




Scared yet??
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Old Streetfighter Motorcycle Forum Post 08-31-2010, 09:20 PM   #3
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Default Re: Frame Polishing w/basic tools and NO experience!

Once you get to this point, wash the frame with warm water and dish detergent again, to ensure the oven cleaner is removed. If you got any on areas you didn't intend to polish, they will have a haze and can be easily wet sanded later..
Now, on to sanding!!! Now, I probably went a little oveboard with the sanding but I felt it was really something that couldn't be overdone and it actually made the polishing process much easier and faster..
Some areas of your frame will be cast and rougher than others and if you want to polish those areas it will take some extra sanding. Start in those areas with 100grit or 150grit on the palm sander.
Once the cast areas were ground down, I sanded everything with 150grit on the palm sander, then followed once by hand with 150 grit.. When using the palm sander you'll easily start to be able to see the anodizing/residue sanding off. Do not move up from 150 grit until there is no trace of it! (If you have a dremel, take it out now and hit all those hard to get areas with a sponge sanding wheel (I used 180 grit here, from home depot).
Now, when hand sanding, half the articles I read said to only go with the grain of the aluminum, half said to alternate on each coat.. I went with the grain.. (although ocassionally I found spots that were hard to sand down and changes directions just on this spot helped)
The palm sander will leave small swirls everywhere, so I then followed by hand until the swirls were gone, and the grain was revealed, this was how I knew when to move up in grit.. I repeated this process with 180 grit, (palm sander the by hand).
This is where that brought me: (dull finish but smooth to the touch and look)



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Old Streetfighter Motorcycle Forum Post 08-31-2010, 09:25 PM   #4
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Default Re: Frame Polishing w/basic tools and NO experience!

in to fuck up the flow of your thread!!!

can't wait to see the rest

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

#1 + #2
88 FZR400 ~ link
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Old Streetfighter Motorcycle Forum Post 08-31-2010, 09:28 PM   #5
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Default Re: Frame Polishing w/basic tools and NO experience!

Here some examples of where the dremel came in handy:





God these pics suck!! Sorry...
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Old Streetfighter Motorcycle Forum Post 08-31-2010, 09:34 PM   #6
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Default Re: Frame Polishing w/basic tools and NO experience!

Now, as I mentioned before from here on out, it was all hand sanding as the palm sander made more of a mess at this point. (Don't try an orbital unless you know what you're doing, they too will also make a mess that's hard to fix unless you're skilled)
I next hand sanded 220grit, 3x on each side of the frame, wiped down, then moved on 320, wiped down, then 400.. This is where that got me:





Starting to see a glared reflection!!
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Old Streetfighter Motorcycle Forum Post 08-31-2010, 09:41 PM   #7
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Default Re: Frame Polishing w/basic tools and NO experience!

Now, next I repeated the wipe-down and proceeded on with 600 grit by hand.. After 3 times per side, I switched to wet-sand with the 600 grit.. What you're trying to do throughout each step is pass over all areas to be polished and lightly sand down the scratch lines you're making as you go along. Every time I start a new grit, as I progress I lighten the pressure on the paper and you'll start to see then lines fade..
For wet-sanding, I took a garden hose and barely turned it on so it just trickled out and held it over the area I was sanding, it removes the grit you're sanding off and keep it clean and lubes the paper up as well. If you hit an area where the scratch marks are stubborn, less water for minute will help.. After 600 grit dry then wet, I ended up with this:


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Old Streetfighter Motorcycle Forum Post 08-31-2010, 09:45 PM   #8
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Default Re: Frame Polishing w/basic tools and NO experience!

(BTW, is the last pic you can see how I handled the welds, smoothed em out a bit and they polished up fine, don't grind em down as they're structural..)

Now, in between grits at this point it's very important that you wash down the frame after each grit removing any trace a grit/residue..

Everything from this point is wet-sanded only, I repeated the process moving on to 800 grit, then 1000, then 1500.. Here's what it started to look like: (more reflectivity)

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Old Streetfighter Motorcycle Forum Post 08-31-2010, 09:53 PM   #9
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Default Re: Frame Polishing w/basic tools and NO experience!

After 1500 grit it's time to polish!!!
So, I read many differing opinions on what polishing bars to get and what I chose to go with was Black emery which is for heavy cutting and intended to be step 1 for polishing. I tried it on a test area with a ridgid polishing wheel and realized it was taking a step backwards from where I was able to bring it with the 1500 grit so I stopped using it immediately, and moved on to the Brown Tripoli (if you're following tghe outlined steps here, don't waste your $$ on the black, I think it would've been more appropriate if I only sanded to maybe 600 grit or so.)
Now, what would be ideal (from what I've read anyways) is to have a high speed angle grinder for polising as drills don't offer the rpms needed. I tried it anyway with my drill as I don't have an angle grinder and it worked great! (Besides the grinder route takes some practice and burns the aluminim and rouge and if you're not careful which creates more work)
This was the almost immediate result:

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Old Streetfighter Motorcycle Forum Post 08-31-2010, 10:04 PM   #10
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Default Re: Frame Polishing w/basic tools and NO experience!

When applying the brown tripoli, it will be hard at first to tell how much is enough but you'll figure it out quickly. Too much will leave a black residue all over your frame, no worries, just don't re-up the wheel for awhile and move on to other areas to dissipate what's on your wheel, when it starts to shine again, you're making shit work!
Now, I've read that people literally spend days polishing to get the desired result but for me it only took a couple hours (and a few Jack n Cokes!). I applied 4 coats of brown tripoli to each side and at that piont realized that it was no longer doing anything.. I think the big difference was the amount of sanding I did prior to polishing.. I was very thorough about it and left very little imperfections so it went very quickly.

At this point, I moved on to the white liquid rouge, this really brightened up the sparkle.. I applied a few coats of this to each side by applying drops here and there then slowly turning the wheel onto them to spread it out evenly, then polished.. it will leave a residue no matter how much you polish that will have to be removed with a soft cloth after each coat.
This is what you'll see at this point: (my ugly ass with a dust mask on my head, lol..)
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