The new year brings a new resolve to get more done on the boat. Spring will be here SOON! One problem I encountered is my obsession for polishing all of Soñadora's metalwork.
At first, back in the spring I was simply going to clean up the brass, bronze, and stainless hardware. However, by 'accident', I managed to clean up a piece of bronze too well and I noticed how shiny it became. At the time, I was using a wire brush and a small cloth polishing wheel in a drill. The polishing wheel came with 3 sticks of some kind of compound. Wasn't sure what that was for, so I didn't use it. Even with less than adequate tools and little knowledge of what I was doing, I still managed to polish things up a bit.
My first attempts were on the oval trim for the opening ports. I wasn't sure how to even go about it. I tried using some chemicals including acetone, brass cleaner, and rubbing compounds. Nothing like that worked so I took a mechanical approach. I grabbed the angle grinder and a sanding disk. Well, that was way too aggressive! Sure, it immediately removed the patina, but it also left deep scratch marks.
Next, I tried a coarse wire wheel on a drill. That worked too, but again, too many scratches. Next, I tried a fine wire wheel as well as a wire cup. Much better. It still left marks, but they weren't as bad. I then took my Fein with a 240 grit sandpaper and that took out all the scratches. But now, even with the fine sandpaper there were swirl marks. Using the drill and the polishing wheel, I tried to remove the swirls. I wasn't sure how to use the polishing wheel. At first I put some rubbing compound on the part and hit it with the wheel. That sort of worked. I wondered what those sticks of compound were for. At first I tried applying it to the surface of the part (I laugh at that now!) That sorta worked too, but not great. Maybe on the wheel? Fired the drill up and put some on the spinning wheel. No major improvement. Then, I clamped the drill in a vise rather than attack it directly with the drill.
Then I finally decided to use my awesome internet sk33lz and hit teh google for help. That's when I came across the guys at Caswell Plating. Oh MAN what a goldmine of information for the polishing obsessed! I ordered up some polishing wheels including a sisal wheel and two sewn fabric wheels. I also ordered more rubbing compound sticks. After reading the Caswell site I finally understood what the compound was for and how to use it. I found a number of videos on YouTube that show how to polish and buff. The most striking to me are those showing how guitars are polished. Check out this guy finishing a Larrivee Bakersfield Part 1 and Part 2. No way I'm going to get to that level, but I did at least see how the compound is used. Of course, I don't need anything as heavy duty as that equipment.
With videos like that, combined with guidance from Caswell, I was able to really get this stuff to shine! My process now is to sand using a flip-flap wheel attached to the drill. The drill goes into a vise. That gives me a lot of control over how the piece is sanded. Then I use the Fein to do a finish sanding on the part. From there, I start using the polishing wheels. I converted my bench grinder to work as a polishing machine. On one end, I have a sisal wheel for doing the 'cutting'. This along with some black compound takes out the swirls left from the Fein. The finish is pretty shiny at this point, but it's still a little dull. On the other spindle I have a cloth wheel. I polish the part on that wheel using white compound which does a light cutting. The finish at that point really gives it a 'wow' factor. I would like to get a second unit and have additional wheels there. I could then go one step further with the polishing by using a polish only compound that does no cutting.