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Keeping it Shiny, or other interesting but durable finishes.

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  • Keeping it Shiny, or other interesting but durable finishes.

    Any suggestions from you smart folks about how to keep metals as shiny as the day they were first polished? Current project is making mirror finishes on brass and aluminum for some eye candy gyroscopes. It would be ideal if they could retain the shiny surface yet still be durable enough for children and adults to play with. I have considered dipping the Brass in a dilute urethane, the Stainless Steel ought to be adequate by itself, and if necessary the Aluminum can be color anodized for a colorful contrast, but would like to hear other suggestions that I may have overlooked.

    P.S. Does anyone have experience with threaded Ruby "V" Bearing assemblies?
    I hear and I forget.
    I see and I remember.
    I do and I understand.
    Confucius (孔夫子)

  • #2
    I always waxed my 'MAG" wheels on my car to keep them looking shiny. A good wax will stop the oxidation that dulls the finish. You may have to reapply 1-2 times a year, but it is easy, quick and fairly cheap.



    • #3
      I'm not one of the smart folk, but I have polished lots of materials.
      Brass/copper, lacquer is traditional, pretty easy to apply, lasts fairly well (think trumpet player in a jazz club, sweatin' and spittin') and easy to strip/replace.
      Aluminum on m/c engines gets a bit dull but if well prepped, stays shiny. Even on Triumphs.
      Stainless is immutable.
      Try some German silver. Nice to work, keeps a shine.

      Never tried wax. Urethane IME is a sob to strip.
      Mmm, in hindsight, yes I've done spit polish wax on leather. You can see your eye color in it.


      • #4
        Chris from the "Clickspring" videos on You Tube has been dipping or otherwise painting his polished brass pieces with a lacquer. Maybe check in with those videos and send him a message asking which product he's using if it's not apparent. The lacquer seems to protect the shine well without causing it to go dull.

        For steel parts on showpieces of that sort I like the idea of flame bluing for the smaller parts which he also covers along with a bluing tray for ensuring even coloring.

        For aluminium you'd need to try some various coatings. I've found that some clear coatings turn the most mirrored aluminium alloys a sort of dull grey. Something about the wrong refractive index in the clear coat not working well with the metal surface I suspect.

        For some bicycle parts I found that a good car wax or mag wheel wax worked out surprisingly well at keeping polished bicycle parts looking good. And this was even on parts used on my winter commuting bike that saw LOTS of rain and even some slushy snow on occasion. And I think I only refreshed it perhaps once a year. OK, maybe twice at most.
        Chilliwack BC, Canada


        • #5
          I have found that warming my polished metals before applying any clear finish will assure that the metals are dry and that moisture is not trapped under the finish. Trapped moisture promotes oxidation. The things that I have done in this manner seem to retain the bright finish longer. The parts need to cool to nearly ambient temperature before you apply the finish.



          • #6
            For the aluminum, just clear anodize it; you don't have to add color.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Yondering View Post
              For the aluminum, just clear anodize it; you don't have to add color.
              That's a nice idea. It costs a little more but if the surface is nicely polished first the anodizing only dulls it a trifle. It actually looks DARN NICE in fact.

              I'd still want to wax it or use a dry film corrosion resistant product or light machine oil of some sort on the anodizing. But with the slight porosity of the anodized surface it would really hold those products well. Even a thin wipe and buff with a light oil would protect the surface from skin oil acids and such. The anodizing is far more resistant to being marked by skin acids or other wise corroding than natural finish but it's still going to dull and corrode without some protection.

              Another option for aluminium materials is to dip them in lye to clean and etch the surface then dip them into an alodine solution to aid in neutralizing and preping the surface for actually painting these parts. Done in a nice contrasting color to the clear metals it can really make a project jump.

              Engine enamels once baked at around 150F for a couple of hours are surprisingly durable. A buddy treated his motorcycle engine cases this way and the results have help up nicely against boot scuffs and gravel and road debris kicked up by the front tire for some years and many miles now.
              Last edited by BCRider; 07-12-2016, 07:29 PM.
              Chilliwack BC, Canada


              • #8
                I use this stuff, spray laquer:
                Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
                ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~