Archive for the 'Aluminum polishing' Category

01
Sep
10

The “New Deal”: An Alumacraft “FDR” restoration part four: Just in time…

Work stalled on the Aluma Craft “FDR” for a good part of the summer months.  She was used as a test bed for motors that were repaired or restored.  But a vision came by looking through the windshield I acquired at an AMOC Swap Meet in Constantine, Michigan.

I was wandering around the swap meet, hoping to find a windshield, but with little hope of finding one the correct with.  This Aluma Craft was to have a typical late 1950’s Taylor-Made plexiglas windshield.  Taylor-Made has stopped production on these vintage windshields…and they were expensive anyway.

After walking around the for a bit, I saw a windshield in good shape sitting next to a trailer.  It was too wide, but generally could be bent slightly to reduce the width and should fit the boat.  I asked the price and was shocked the vendor only wanted 20 bucks for it.  Whata deal!

With the Taylor-Made windshield, the boat no longer looked like a fishing boat.

 Other hardware came by way of a derelict old Shell Lake fiberglass boat that I scrapped out due to the hull being cracked. 

Now with a new view through the windshield, I had a vision for finishing the boat before the Toledo Antique Boat Show on August 27th, 2010.  So the work commenced in earnest.

My neighbor contributed a bundle of teak strips from her father who had passed away.  Upon getting this little gift, I decided wood slat floors would look nice, and it would be easier to walk on.

After cutting to length, the teak floors were screwed and epoxied together, then routed with a round-over bit on all edges. Sanding and varnishing followed.

Seats were next!  My local fine wood dealer was kind enough to glue up some choice mahogany planks for me.  I then used a wood strip to create and trace an arc on the wood that would compliment the lines of the boat.  Then cut out the middle of the front seat to replicate the original design of the seats.  Then as always…more sanding and eight coats of varnish.

The depth of the mahogany is really brought out by the varnish.

While each coat of varnish was drying, I had time to sand, buff, and polish the hull.  YES…SAND!  Starting with 220 grit and working my way down to 1500 grit, the sides of the hull were sanded to get rid of the “dock rash” from years of use.  Also those pesky little aluminum warts at the end of scratches were sanded away.

The tools for the job are a variable speed angle grinder/buffer, 3M heavy-duty buffing compound, 3M polishing compound, and coarse and fine wool bonnets, foam bonnets, and microfiber cloths.

The power plants for this vessel will be twin 1954 Johnson QD-14 10hp outboard.

These two outboards will provide the power to drive the "FDR".

The seats were installed following varnishing and wiring the boat.

A view from the rear.

The teak floors were installed in the cockpit. Also note at the bottom of the photo the dual Johnson Shipmaster Throttle to control the twin outboards.

In honor of my lover of jazz, and my working on the railroad as a bridge tender, a name came to me while working on buffing her out.  I wanted a musical name, but then the idea of reflecting my job just seemed natural.

The Aluma Craft "FDR was christened "Swing Bridge"...combining two musical terms, and the type of railroad bridge I work on was a natural.

At 4pm on Friday August 27th, 2010 the “Swing Bridge was finished just in time for the Toledo Antique Boat Show.  I pressed my 1957 Johnson Javelin into service due to not having time to test the 10hp Johnson’s beforehand.

She was unveiled for public view on Saturday August 28th, 2010 at the Toledo Municipal Marina.

Basking in the sun, the "Swing Bridge" sits at the Toledo Antique Boat Show.

Aside from having some chrome hardware refinished on the 1957 Johnson Javelin and the deck hardware, the “Swing Bridge” is a fast and fun running boat.  She rides well and doesn’t leak…and attracts looks as she travels up and down the river.

14
Nov
09

The “New Deal”: An Alumacraft “FDR” restoration part three: Polishing aluminum…

When we parted company last we were working to prepare our little vessel for a good buffing.  To make a nice finish, some small items must be dealt with.  Aluminum “warts”.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-003

This is a "wart". See the little aluminum nodule at the end of the scrape? This needs to be removed.

A “wart” is formed by scraping the aluminum hull hard enough that the soft metal is dragged and reformed into a lump at the end of a scrape.  The problem is they are very unsightly, they tend to collect polishing compound and snag your wool polishing bonnets.  To get rid of these you can wet sand the area with 600 grit wet/dry sand paper.  I wanted this boat to look nice so I actually sanded the entire bottom of the hull.

Okay, some might think this is extreme…as do I.  However, this will make the hull very smooth (albeit not perfect) and allow us to actually save some time when buffing since all the little bumps or “warts” will be done away with on the front side of the buffing work.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-001

The tools for prepping the hull. An orbital sander, a pad sander, a 7" angle grinder, fine and coarse wool bonnets, and a Cyclo orbital buffer.

To begin with the hull will be sanded with 240 grit sanding discs on the orbital sander.  Don’t obsess about the rivet heads too much as they will buff out.  However…don’t linger on the rivets too long either.  Sand the hull working in manageable areas.  For instance I work from one vertical rivet line to the next, finish sanding and buffing, then move on.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-005

After sanding with the orbital sander and 240 grit sanding disc, the aluminum should be fairly dull and you should be able to get rid of the "warts" and other imperfections. Some folks will feather and buff out every scratch. I'm too lazy for that!

Next, using the pad sander loaded with 600 grit wet dry sand paper, sand the same area again to finish getting rid of scratches and “warts”, as well as softening the effects of the previous sanding work.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-007

After re-sanding using 600 grit wet/dry sand paper and the pad sander, the aluminum is already showing a shine.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-008

Here is a comparison of the cleaned aluminum (right) and the sanded aluminum (left).

After all this sanding, you may want to move to 1000 grit or even work your way toward 1500 or 2000 grit paper.  I am not going to obsess about the bottom of the hull too much.  The sides are where the money is for me.

Now lets move on to the buffing.  To begin you’ll need an angle grinder/buffer of some type.  The one I used is a relatively cheap 7 inch size.  It is a variable speed so that as we work with different compounds we can adjust the speed as needed.  We also need a coarse wool bonnet.  In fact several are a good idea since they can get loaded up with compound.  The good news is you can wash them out and reuse them.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-002

For both the Feather Craft and the Alumacraft, 3M Heavy Duty Buffing Compound was used. It is fairly abrasive, but gets out a lot of little nicks and scrapes. It also prepares the aluminum for finer polishing compounds for the mirror finish.

A little dab will do you!  Keep this old axiom in mind.  DO NOT use too much compound as it will load up in the wool bonnet and eventually the wool will become ineffective at buffing….PERIOD.  Use a little bit at a time.  Spread it out with the pad, then turn on the buffer at the lowest possible RPM’s and work in a small area of about 12 to 16 inches by 6 inches high.

The work is slow, but good results will follow!

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-009

Now we're gettin' somewhere! The old shine is coming through. On the left is the area we just buffed as described, and the right is what we sanded earlier.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-010

After buffing about half the length of the port side, I still found areas of scratches that were objectionable. No problem. Just sand them again, and buff as we have been. You can see in the middle and right part of the photo the area that was re-sanded.

Alumacraft FDR 11-14-09-003

After more buffing, we are left with a nice shiny, smooth surface.

Alumacraft FDR 11-14-09-001

A shot of the bow.

Alumacraft FDR 11-14-09-004

The side shot above shows the progress from the aluminum brightener (bottom of hull in the photo) to the buffed area. (Top of hull in the photo)

Alumacraft FDR 11-14-09-002

And finally a stern shot. Yes we have swirls from the coarse wool bonnet, but those can be buffed with a fine bonnet or the Cyclo orbital buffer and micro-fiber cloth. You can also get rid of a lot of those swirls by hand buffing.

Hopefully before winter gets a real hold on NW Ohio, I will be able to finish the other half of the hull.  Then in the spring time, we’ll revisit the project and work on the topsides and deck.  Then we can begin to work on adding hardware, seat, repairing the old cracked steering wheel, and getting this boat ready for boating season.

10
Nov
09

The “New Deal”: An Alumacraft “FDR” restoration part two: Polishing aluminum…

For whatever reason I have gotten many…many calls about my Feather Craft Vagabond that we sold last month.  Every single call was somehow related to how to polish the aluminum for a mirror finish.  While not any kind of expert, the work is time-consuming and slow-moving.  The work on the Vagabond was good, but had its issues owing to the vessels rough life.

All that being said, I will attempt to help others by showing in a step-by-step fashion how to polish an aluminum boat, or whatever.

Choice one would obviously be to have someone else do it.  However, being a cheapskate…this work will again be done by yours truly on this 1959 Alumacraft FDR.  I acknowledge that neither the Feather Craft or Alumacraft boats came polished, but rather in natural aluminum.  If upon completion you desire the original look of natural “satin” aluminum, you can always acid wash the boat to give it the original luster.

Let’s get started with this edition being a comparison of before and after photos with explanation.

 
Alumacraft FDR 10-18-09-001

The vessel as it was when it arrived in its new home port. 50 years of dirt has accumulated on its hull. But the worst was yet to come when it was rolled over.

Alumacraft FDR 11-09-09-003

Using a one gallon garden sprayer full of aluminum brightener, the hull was sprayed and brushed gently, then thoroughly washed with water from a garden hose.

Let’s talk about the topic of aluminum brighteners.  I buy mine in a one gallon jug from a local vendor who sells products to car washes.  The same type of product is made under trade names such as Toon Bright, available at local marine stores.  There are others that are available from auto parts outlets.

Aluminum brightners contain phosphoric acid and other goodies…so a respirator is a must!  These brighteners should be “cut” as they are a concentrate.  The instruction on the bottle should be adheared to as well.  I “cut” my formula 3 parts water to 1 part brightener.  It can be mixed stronger as needed.

The process starts at the BOTTOM of the vessel and works its way UP to the top of the vessel.  So if your ship is upside-down on saw horses, as mine was, you will need to start at the gunwales and work your way up the hull to the keel.  Why is this? 

You must first remove all the dirt at the bottom to prevent streaking.  In other words, if you start at the keel, the aluminum brightener will run down the sides of the hull while still actively cleaning and leave streaks that can be very difficult to remove after the fact.

Starting at the gunwales spray with the garden sprayer along the length of the vessel working in two foot lengths, then using a medium or soft bristle scrub brush, gently work  along the section “massaging” the aluminum brightner.  Don’t scrub!  Let the aluminum brightner do the work.   You may need to make several passes at the area or the entire hull to make sure it is good and clean before moving on.

After you have cleaned the area with aluminum brightner, be sure to rinse thoroughly with water to stop the acidic action.  This is a must.  Then move on to the next section and repeat the process along the gunwales.  After the entire length of the hull has been cleaned, move up to the area above and repeat the process until the whole hull has been done.

Alumacraft FDR 11-09-09-004

The Alumacraft FDR has been completely cleaned with aluminum brightner on the sides. The worst is yet to come!

The aluminum will initially turn a light shade of white or grey following application of the aluminum brightener, but upon washing with water should return to aluminum.  Of course it will be dull or satin at this point.

Now we’ll move onto the bottom…which was a shocker!

When the boat was rolled over onto the saw horses, I was horrified to find the bottom coated in dirt and filth.  The boat must have been left in the water over the years, as it was covered with very thick growth.

Alumacraft FDR 11-09-09-001

A half-n-half view of the bottom of the hull. The left side shows the dirt that existed over the entire bottom of the hull. Also if you look at the far left, you can see the streaking caused by the aluminum brightener that was washed over the keel when rinsing the right half. Those same streaks are the reason we began cleaning at the gunwales, or the bottom of the hull. This eliminates the streaks running down the entire side of the hull.

Alumacraft FDR 11-09-09-002

After applying the aluminum brightener over the entire hull, the boat looks like new.

The inside was washed before the outside.  The reason is simply that there is aluminum brightner overspray that could louse up the work on the outside leaving white spots everywhere.  The inside also cleaned up very nicely.

You may need to repeat the steps above multiple times to be sure the hull is devoid of all dirt and grime.

At this point you will want to inspect your hull very closely.  You’ll be surprised at the number of dents and dings that you’ll find now that she is clean.  Things you never noticed will now stand out.  We’ll correct these issues in the next step as we prepare to use compounding polish to begin the buffing process.