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Old 11-16-2005, 12:29 PM   #1
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Polishing

Okay, I admit, I don't even have an AS yet. But I do have a question.

Back when I had a fiberglass sailboat, I spent 4 hours a week waxing and polishing everything so it was the slickest looking boat in the harbor. And then went home because I was too exhausted to enjoy sailing. Others spent those 4 hours (and the time I was recouperating) sailing in their chalky-looking boats. I often wonder who had the best time?

I realize the highly polished Airstreams are a wonder to look at, and I'm certain they must really bring praise wherever they travel. But at what cost? Is it just the initial gazillion manhours or is it an ongoing process? Do you clear-coat after the initial polishing process or does one have to polish every 6 months, or year, etc., etc., etc.

And, lastly, if polishing is not chosen, is there a process to re-produce the original soft glow and re-clearcoat the trailer?
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Old 11-16-2005, 12:57 PM   #2
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I think it's somewhere in between

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Originally Posted by Chris C
I realize the highly polished Airstreams are a wonder to look at, and I'm certain they must really bring praise wherever they travel. But at what cost? Is it just the initial gazillion manhours or is it an ongoing process? Do you clear-coat after the initial polishing process or does one have to polish every 6 months, or year, etc., etc., etc.

And, lastly, if polishing is not chosen, is there a process to re-produce the original soft glow and re-clearcoat the trailer?
Well, from one polished trailer owner...it's primarily "the gazillion manhours" that it takes to get the 40+ years of oxidation off to begin with. The maintainence time will vary due to different climates & techniques. We have chosen to NOT re-clearcoat the trailer and to re-polish 1 or 2 times a season. This of course only takes 1/80th the time because only 6 months or so of oxidation that is accumulated between re-doing it, not 40 years. Generally it can be accomplished in a weekend and finished off with a coat of NuFinish car wax. Even at the very end of the season, it still looks shiny to all but the most discerning "Airstream Polishing Experts".

BTW, we achieved a Gold Level Merit Award at International this last summer for our trailer...so it must be okay!

This is just my 2-cents...polishing is one of those things that you will get many, many different opinions about. You have to decide which approach is going to work out best for you & your lifestyle.

Shari
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Old 11-16-2005, 01:10 PM   #3
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Congratulations on the award, Shari. Your trailer is more georgeous than words can describe. No wonder you received the award.

I'm beginning to think it would be nice to not always feel as if I had to head the trailer for cover if a flock of birds flew over. Has anyone had any experience trying to recreate the original AS finish? I'm wondering if one would strip the clear-coat and then use a chemical etching such as they use for aluminum wheels and then re-coat with clear-coat. Anyone with that experience?
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Old 11-16-2005, 01:16 PM   #4
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At the 2004 RM VAC Rally, I saw a trailer that was stripped and lightly sandblasted with walnut shells. It looked very nice! A more even, satin type of finsh...than the mirrored shine of polishing. With chemical etching, I would be concerned with the chemicals deteriorating the sealed seams.

The problem is, with any bare aluminum it WILL start to oxidize again (even before you are finished) getting 'darker' with each passing year. It's kinda like painting the Golden Gate Bridge, never ending.

The only way to prevent that is to clearcoat it with 'something'. then you have the issue of that clearcoat failing from either exposure, imperfections or rock dings, scrathes, etc. It WILL fail to some level sometime...you will then be faced with removing it and starting all over again.

As far as 'bird residue' and road debris, yes $#!+ happens, but if you maintain it a couple times a year with water baths in between, it's not too bad.

Shari
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Old 11-16-2005, 01:20 PM   #5
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even small areas take time to maintain if you want a high level of polish. On my AS the bumpers and lower trim are the only stripped of clear coat spots that I keep polished to a reasonable level of shine. there take some work to keep up, but its worth it to have the look you enjoy. I am at nowhere near the level of shine that some (including Shari) have.
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Old 11-16-2005, 01:22 PM   #6
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Shari, you should be a salesperson. You are beginning to sound convincing. So even clearcoating a polished finish isn't the end of it, huh?
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Old 11-16-2005, 01:26 PM   #7
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Like I said...it's just my two cents!

Shari
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Old 11-16-2005, 01:41 PM   #8
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I'd like to find out more about that walnut stuff. The mirror polish just isn't what I have in mind for the Bambi, but found with my first polishing job that the softer, partial polish just expose the imperfections.
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Old 11-16-2005, 01:58 PM   #9
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The couple that had the walnut-shell sandblasting were from Ohio. Their trailer was a 70's Tradewind or maybe a bit longer. They had the finish done by P&S Trailer in Ohio. I believe it cost about $200 a foot including a clearcoat afterwards. I could be 'off' a little on the cost, I don't have all the details as if I did it myself, I just recall it looked nice.

Shari
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Old 11-16-2005, 02:05 PM   #10
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Summerkid, Shari's right. It's pretty expensive. And you'll still have to clear coat it or keep blasting with shells periodically. (am I learning, Shari? ) Seems to me owning an aluminum trailer is a responsibility or hobby. I'm presently building a teardrop trailer and I'm covering it with aluminum, but it'll have a baked white finish. So the only real upkeep will be washing and ocassional rock chip touch up...........I hope.
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Old 11-16-2005, 02:17 PM   #11
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Thumbs up Yur doin' good Chris!

I actually remembered I have a picture of the walnut-shell blasted trailer...I was wrong, it's a Safari.

It's owned by Jerry & Barb Burgy, be sure to click on the small image to see more of the trailer.

Shari
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Old 11-16-2005, 02:23 PM   #12
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Shari,

That's a little shinier than I thought it would be. I figured it would be more of a satin finish. Oh well, the more "mirrored" Airstreams I see, the more I like the idea.
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Old 11-16-2005, 02:25 PM   #13
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Well, if you compare it to the Bernander/Thomas trailer in the photo next to it, you can see it's not a mirrored finish. You see reflections but not definition of the things reflected.

It is shiny though...

Shari
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Old 11-16-2005, 02:57 PM   #14
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You're right on both counts. I just didn't think it would be that shiney! My Dad is a jeweler and when he blasts with walnut or pecan shells it ends up a more satin-like finish. I was just assuming based on experience.

Okay then, how does one get a renewed satin finish?
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