View Full Version : Using steel wool to polish aluminum

07-31-2004, 12:48 PM
Does anyone else use fine (000, or better) steel wool to polish aluminum? Not to get a mirror finish, but to remove tool marks and smooth out the surface as would be done with emery for polishing steel.

07-31-2004, 02:23 PM
From someone else's advice, steel wool fragments left behind tend to leave rust marks once humidity has had it's way. Aluminum tends to gall when scrubbed with steel wool, and this could easily result in fibres of wool being embedded. I've had reasonable luck using a metal polishing compound with steel wool, instead of just dry. Just use something wet with it, WD even. One thing I've been impressed with is Nevr-dul, it's a wadding that's impregnated with what smells like diesel. You can get a mirror finish with it, if you've removed all but the finest of scratches beforehand.

07-31-2004, 03:21 PM
No, I use a variety of Scotchbrite pads. I pretty much only use steel wool (0000) for polishing chrome.

07-31-2004, 03:57 PM
I got a harley here that is really oxidized. I started by using the velcro mounted buffing pads on my side grinder.

Then just about any polishing compound will work.

My favorite for motorcycles? Semichrome, using a brown paper bag rubbing briskly. It has I think ammonia in it, It makes the aluminum so bright it looks like chrome.


Doc Nickel
07-31-2004, 06:22 PM
I use automotive wet-n-dry sandpaper and a bucket of water (or trickling hose if it's bigger than the bucket.)

I blast down all the tool marks with 320 or 360, using a hard rubber sanding pad on flat surfaces. Keep both the part and the paper soaked and dripping- this floats away particles and helps keep the paper from loading up. Also cuts down on the dust, so you don't have to worry about a mask.

After the 320, go back over it with 600, still keeping it wet, then, depending on the finish you need, bump that up to 1,000 and 1,200 or 1,500. I've found, though, that 600 is a good compromise- the buffer takes care of most of the rest.

After sanding, dry it thoroughly and take it to the buffer. A spiral wound wheel and the brown rouge will give you a nicely lustrous finish. If you want bloody perfect, swap in a new wheel after the rouge (never mix grits on a buffing wheel) and go with the fine white compound.

Be careful near edges, the part tends to look better, more professional, if the corners remain crisp and sharp, not "melted" and rounded over.


07-31-2004, 06:56 PM
Yes I have used steel wool to polish and prep aluminum berofe sending it out for anodising,never had any problems with rust since the acid bath took care of anything that was left which could not have been much.

With that said thou,I have gone to scotchbrite pads instead,they last longer and don't leave little fibers sticking in my hands.

07-31-2004, 07:01 PM
If you try to bring steel wool on my property you will meet Mr. shotgun. I hate the stuff. It's right up there with fiberglass sanding. I use various aluminum oxide papers, never had a problem. Scotchbrite pads also work well. I do a lot of aluminum.