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Old 09-25-2015, 10:08 PM   #1
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A Contrary-'Un view of polishing

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I guess I am probably the only person on this Forum who thinks that the polished look on a Classic looks ...... bad. Really bad. I apologize to anyone who does not like that statement, but it is my genuine opinion, and I think it is a great pity that this seems to be a developing trend.

Why don't I like it? For a number of reasons:
Firstly, mirror polishing shows up every blemish, whereas the original factory finish divides the bodywork up into several areas, and so seems able to hide blemishes, or at least make them less obnoxious than the purely reflective surface of the polished Classic.
Secondly, the covers on water heater and furnace(s),on roof-mounted covers and accessories, and over the spare tire suddenly stand out like sore thumbs: I guess a guy could have them all chromed to look good too.........
Thirdly, the basement area, that is the external drawer compartments and bumpers, always look bad and out of place. Mud and rocks will spatter the area and it will deteriorate quickly in appearance, even if you can actually get it looking good in the first place, which I have never seen done.
Finally and overwhelmingly, polishing your Classic seems to me to be like pushing a six foot diameter bowling ball up a steep smooth hill. You roll and roll it up either with great personal effort or by paying beaucoup bucks to someone else, and finally get to the small pointy hilltop of mirror polish, and then ........ the only way from there is downhill, and that downhill will happen so-o-o much more quickly than the uphill slog of polishing. And even if you can manage to keep it shiny in your ownership, is the next owner going to be as fastidious? Do you help preserve the finish with wax or clearcoat? Then what will happen to the wax or clearcoat after a few years?
If you look at a factory-finish Classic that has been neglected, it still looks impressive, but I have now seen a number of polished Classics that have either been abandoned part way or finished and then neglected, and believe me they look like ...... well, not very good.
I realise this will not be a popular view, but I really think that polishing your Classic is actually a first step towards dramatically reduced value and the wrecking yard.
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Old 09-25-2015, 10:30 PM   #2
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Now you are doomed into eternity, Bob.
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Old 09-25-2015, 10:33 PM   #3
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I think I'm a "variety IS the spice of life" type of woman. Decades ago when the first iteration of the VW Beetle was just becoming "alternate cool" (1966-1969) some people started to make something called a "dune buggy" modification to them.

Purists were apalled. VW came out with a simple commercial that had a great tag line.
Some love them for what they are, some... for what they can be.
I think that is the story with vintage Airstreams. Even the new ones CAN be polished, and they look pretty cool until one is parked next to a vintage polished one. Then the difference in the aluminum becomes glaringly obvious. A few places still do the "satin finish" with clearcoat - P & S Trailer I think - is one. And I too think it might be more durable and a lot lower maintenance, but hey if someone loves to polish, let's admire it AND their great big "Popeye" forearm muscles too.

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Old 09-25-2015, 10:39 PM   #4
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I love the look of a freshly polished unit. Would I want one? Not unless it came with a building to keep it in and a butler to regularly polish it.

I have a 1977 Harley that I have polished all of the aluminum on. It shines like new money for a while and then needs some buffing later. 20 years of that and the luster of owning polished aluminum anything has worn off for me.

I appreciate the look of a weather worn, well used, but not abused trailer.
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Old 09-26-2015, 07:15 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterH-Airstreamer View Post
Now you are doomed into eternity, Bob.
Peter.... I am glad you picked up on the Sisyphus metaphor ......... my point being that I ain't never going to push no polished rock up no hill, I am already pushing up enough rocks to keep me going until I start to push up daisies.

CRH.... trailers are a different kettle of fish. Even though I personally prefer the brushed aluminum OEM look over the brightly polished look, and I also wouldn't want the work of maintaining a polished trailer, at least the trailers were designed to have the all-aluminum look. The motor homes were not.
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Old 09-26-2015, 07:41 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Punch View Post
Peter.... I am glad you picked up on the Sisyphus metaphor ......... my point being that I ain't never going to push no polished rock up no hill, I am already pushing up enough rocks to keep me going until I start to push up daisies.
I say to each his own, whatever rocks your boat...
I happen to be in your camp for many reasons, some you already mentioned.
But, it does bring up the issue of protecting tender aluminum. I strip most of my Airstreams with citristrip because i can't stand looking at the peeling clear coat. After you do that you really see the amount of oxidation especially on the roof and creeping down the sides. Now you get all freaked out and start polishing just to see if the oxidation will come out. BAM, there you are stuck for eternity.
So what to do with the bare aluminum?
Risking to tarnish my already shaky standing with some forum members, I will report that I used the "snake oil" sharkhide on the entire upper panels of my 93 34' trailer. Its very hard to apply and appears a bit streaky, but it does stop the oxidation..
Sharkhide
A more moderate, gently and easy to apply product is called Nu Finish, an automotive once a year polish. I found it to work ok and it will keep the aluminum from oxidizing if applied at least twice a year under moderate conditions.
Reclearcoating an entire Airstream is about equally out of question for me as it is polishing.
Any other proven suggestion to keep the oxidation under control would be very welcomed and appreciated.
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Old 09-26-2015, 07:55 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Punch View Post
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I guess I am probably the only person on this Forum who thinks that the polished look on a Classic looks ...... bad. Really bad. I apologize to anyone who does not like that statement, but it is my genuine opinion, and I think it is a great pity that this seems to be a developing trend.
It's a Zen thing. Wax on wax off!
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Old 09-26-2015, 08:03 AM   #8
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I am probably the least motivated, lazy person on the forums. If polishing pleases you, go for it, my time is better spent being a slob and making my trailer look the same.
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Old 09-26-2015, 08:13 AM   #9
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I have to join you in failing to appreciate the "mirror finish" polish jobs.

4 years ago, I polished ours back to "original finish" like new aluminum, using just a Cyclo with their yellow wool pads. Leaves no swirl marks to polish out later. No wax, no new clear coat, just time and a wash or two. It still looks good to me, so I leave the polisher in the box. In a year or so, I'll touch it up again.

Neat thing about aluminum--the oxide that forms on the surface actually protects the metal. I'm not talking about serious corrosion that forms pits and eats metal, but the gradual, even oxidation that turns the shiny to an even gray. Doesn't hurt to leave that there forever, if you're OK with that appearance.
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Old 09-26-2015, 08:29 AM   #10
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Another consideration:

I am not a metallurgist, but having worked with classic cars for years I have often encountered the consequences of misguided polishing. This comes as an unanticipated "side effect" leading to the common metallurgical procedure of work hardening.

The basic principle of work hardening is that by stressing metal alloy its strength can be increased. The alloy undergoes plastic deformation and the metallic grains are broken and become smaller. The tighter grain structure prevents inter-granular slippage thereby increasing the strength of the alloy. This work hardening can be performed by stretching or bending the metal, or by vigorous polishing.

Increasing strength sounds excellent, maybe another reason to polish your AS....... but unfortunately this is not necessarily so. The downside of work hardening is that for large areas of metal sheeting that are subject to vibration or torsional stresses (like frinstance an Airstream barreling down the highway at 70 mph or bumping over a track down to a good campsite) work hardening induces a brittleness in the sheeting, leading to stress cracks and even complete failure.

Much of the structural integrity of an aluminum Airstream is dependent upon the ability of the metal to elastically resist and recover from the kind of stresses that the taut cylinder forming the aluminum body encounters when moving at speed or over less than smooth terrain. This taut aluminum cylinder is why Airstreams were always lighter than other designs.

Over the years working with classic cars I have often seen over-zealous polishing of brass and aluminum tubing lead to fracture. I wonder if anyone who has polished their tubular aluminum Airstream to a beautiful mirror finish has ever found tiny fractures or stress lines after putting a few thousand miles on it?
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Old 09-26-2015, 09:25 AM   #11
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I'm going to be replacing all the flat sheet panel on my Sovereign. As soon as I get the whole thing back to excellent it'll be allowed to go to an oxidized patina; my favourite.
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Old 09-26-2015, 09:51 AM   #12
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Smile polishing

Quote:
Originally Posted by avionstream View Post
I am probably the least motivated, lazy person on the forums. If polishing pleases you, go for it, my time is better spent being a slob and making my trailer look the same.
My theory also.
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Old 09-26-2015, 10:46 AM   #13
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When restoring a vintage trailer quite often you have to replace panels and if you want all the skin to have the same patina then at some point you will have to polish the whole trailer to the same shine. While brand new aluminum is not super bright, putting any polish to it brings it to a fairly polished look. Now you have to polish the old skin to match the new. At this point you can let it oxidize once again but since all your skins are not the same they will oxidize differently.




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Old 09-26-2015, 11:39 AM   #14
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Or one could take the long-term, more European viewpoint.

In Lucerne, Switzerland there is a famous wooden covered bridge. There are lovely hand painted scene under the trusses to make it all the more appealing.

The bridge is a few centuries old.

About 20 years ago, a portion of the bridge caught on fire. Once extinguished, the bridge needed repair.

When doing the repairs, the new areas were intentionally not distressed or antiqued to "match" the old. The viewpoint was to embrace the essence of the actual materials as found, and that in time, they would be less obvious as a repair, but always not original. That the whole is the complete history of all its parts. And that on the whole that was more authentic.
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