Alu Frame Stripping and Polishing Resources

I thought it would be handy to have a thread containing the different processes people have used to strip and polish their Alu frames, along with pics of how it turned out.


From my blog
http://unplannedismounts.com/2009/06/13/alu-frame-stripping-and-polishing/

A few guys have asked how the bling finish on my pimped out KH36 was achieved.

The bad news is that it wasn’t a DIY process as it required commercial grade stripping chemicals and polishing equipment. The good news is because a unicycle frame is a simple and small object the stripping and polishing didn’t cost much.

I didn’t set out with the intention of getting a unicycle frame stripped and polished. It just so happened that the guy welding my XC GUni Bars also offered an after hours Alu polishing service and a commercial paint stripping service was situated directly across the road from the Alu fabrication place, which fitted in with the mismatched paint job on my KH36.

Stripping the Frame

After some research by the paint stripper guy regarding the most suitable chemical to use without adverse side effects the blue KH Alu frame was placed in an industrial strength Methylene Chloride (Dichloromethane) bath for 15-20 minutes after which the paint had broken down completely and could be brushed/washed off. The frame was then washed down with a surfactant e.g. detergent.

Concentrated Methylene Chloride is serious goo, especially when inhaled. It is also thought to be carcinogenic and its use is banned in some countries. Ironically elsewhere it is still used to decaffeinate coffee and tea, in pharmaceuticals, plastic welding etc. It’s a common active ingredient found in retail paint strippers though in a very diluted form.

Provided all the paint is removed (and the frame isn’t damaged in the process) the method used for stripping isn’t as critical as the cutting and polishing process in determining the final bling.

Polishing the Frame

Cutting and polishing the frame was done using a pedestal buffing machine. A pedestal mounted buffer is preferable to a hand held unit due to the physical effort required to cut and polish whilst being able to access all areas of the unicycle frame, whilst also being able to grip the frame firmly without damaging and/or marking it. A cutting compound was used first - a dark gray fine grit wax based compound, followed by polish. Sorry, don’t know the product names.

Maintenance

The bling finish doesn’t take much to maintain. An occasional rub with Autosol Metal Polish and a soft cloth does the trick.

I’m usually not interested in trick custom finishes on uni’s or bicycles, however the mismatched paint job on the KH36 was an opportunity to try something new. I’m really happy with how the frame turned out.

Bling bling! :slight_smile:

OK here’s mine: I didn’t want to make it like chrome, but just between a raw and chrome look.

Method:

  1. Nitromors paint remover- Brush on thickly. The paint then blisters so you can remove it but rubbing it off with a towel under (running) fresh water.

  2. Use medium wire wool, followed by fine wire wool.

  3. Use Turtle Wax automotive polish (I used the blue one (colour doesn’t matter)). Rub in small amounts, then buff with a clean cloth immediately after.

I used this because I don’t have a buffer machine or access to those chemicals. Also I have to buff mine with a cloth quite a lot to maintain the shine- Is there product to keep the shine?

IIRC, Aluminum becomes dull when it oxidizes. If you want it to remain shiny it’ll need to be sealed somehow. Most simply, you can wax it after polishing (as you would a car), but such a coating might not last very long. You could also use a clear-coat of some sort, but again, it won’t be very durable, although it’ll be much better than wax. For a lasting, durable finish, you’ll need to anodize and seal the frame.

I reckon it looks cooler dull, like if it’s sandblasted. Shiny looks too much liek chrome.