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Old 08-25-2007, 06:17 AM   #1
Restorations done right
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to polish or not to polish that is the question

One of the things that I love most about my 1962 Overlander is the patina. I know some of you out there are cringging... some of you are probablly going to try and have me banned from ever participating ever again in this forum.... there might even be tar heating up after what I am about to ask... but ... what is the big deal with polishing. I have read wanderlust from cover to cover twice... the there are not many polished trailers in there. The trailers coming out of the factory were not polished. They were shinny, but not polished. Wally's trailer was anodized! Anodized! One anodizes something to create a maintinance free surface. Not only was it anodized but it was gold to boot.
So this all brings me back to my old girl and her beautiful patina. The previous owner(s) made modification that I feel obligated to correct. Skin has been altered for water heaters, steel parts and bits have been added, lame atempts at polishing were done in certian areas to improve the photos for Ebay... the typical stuff. When I correct all that, the skin will look diffferent here and there and I need to make it all the same. So here comes the blasphamy... how can I make the new aluminium look like the old? A sculptor friend of mine suggested polishing the whole thing to a uniform sheen... is the tar hot yet?... and then mixing muriatic acid with a lot of water.. got the feathers ready?... and spraying the whole thing with a light mist of acid/water solution. Presto 44 years put back on her skin.
I really do want to know what folks think about this idea. Maybe someone will even convince me that I should polish it to a mirror surface. I am a furniture maker and when I put finish on my work, I make sure it is not too glossy. The less sheen, the less imperfections one can see. I would think the same would apply to the surface of an Airstream. Please let me know what you think about this... my intention to to start a dialoge not a battle.
P.S. If you want to curse at me, use a PM to do it.
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Old 08-25-2007, 07:07 AM   #2
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Hi 62overlander -- We have many hard and fast rules here:
  • Type posts only in Verdana size 2 font
  • You've got to tow with a diesel or you will die
  • Balance your running gear so SOB campers will think you're a millionaire
  • A blue tote must actually be blue
  • Countless others too ridiculous to believe
I don't see "you've got to polish" on that list. I hear ya on the variable patina passed on to you by the PO. Others have asked a similar question in the past and I don't recall if a satisfactory solution was offered. I do know that doing any acid treatment is said to work into the seams and make your inevitable leak issues much worse.

See what responses you get here. I would also recommend calling your question into The Vintage Airstream Podcast - Home and asking them what they would do. They're 3 downhome guys & members here too. They routinely ask for questions from listeners and will respond 'on the air' by the next episode.

BTW - Your link seems to work only if somebody signs on to Snapfish. Could you add a few example photos to this thread? Thank you!
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Old 08-25-2007, 07:22 AM   #3
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Try the real agressive wheel cleaners...they etch into aluminum.
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Old 08-25-2007, 07:34 AM   #4
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klattu, I googled on 'wheel cleaners msds' and they're mostly acid products FWIW.
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Old 08-25-2007, 07:34 AM   #5
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IMO you should polish any vintage unit.

Also you said "The less sheen, the less imperfections one can see."

It's the other way around, a shine will hide 98% of them.
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Old 08-25-2007, 08:21 AM   #6
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You are not alone in appreciating the patina....We'll never polish ours. We like the look, and would rather spend the time it would take to continually polish 31 feet of aluminum, actually using the Airstream.
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Old 08-25-2007, 10:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 62overlander
One of the things that I love most about my 1962 Overlander is the patina. I know some of you out there are cringging... some of you are probablly going to try and have me banned from ever participating ever again in this forum.... there might even be tar heating up after what I am about to ask... but ... what is the big deal with polishing. I have read wanderlust from cover to cover twice... the there are not many polished trailers in there. The trailers coming out of the factory were not polished. They were shinny, but not polished. Wally's trailer was anodized! Anodized! One anodizes something to create a maintinance free surface. Not only was it anodized but it was gold to boot.
So this all brings me back to my old girl and her beautiful patina. The previous owner(s) made modification that I feel obligated to correct. Skin has been altered for water heaters, steel parts and bits have been added, lame atempts at polishing were done in certian areas to improve the photos for Ebay... the typical stuff. When I correct all that, the skin will look diffferent here and there and I need to make it all the same. So here comes the blasphamy... how can I make the new aluminium look like the old? A sculptor friend of mine suggested polishing the whole thing to a uniform sheen... is the tar hot yet?... and then mixing muriatic acid with a lot of water.. got the feathers ready?... and spraying the whole thing with a light mist of acid/water solution. Presto 44 years put back on her skin.
I really do want to know what folks think about this idea. Maybe someone will even convince me that I should polish it to a mirror surface. I am a furniture maker and when I put finish on my work, I make sure it is not too glossy. The less sheen, the less imperfections one can see. I would think the same would apply to the surface of an Airstream. Please let me know what you think about this... my intention to to start a dialoge not a battle.
P.S. If you want to curse at me, use a PM to do it.
Using acid on the exterior metal offers a huge risk of many water leaks in time.

The acid will get under the heads of the rivets, and becomes difficult to rinse away.

In time, that acid underneath the rivet heads, will eat away at the aluminum.

When that starts to happen, you will have many water leaks under those rivet heads.

Which one's then are leaking?

Makes for a frustrating guessing game and an ugly exterior when sealer that can be seen is applied to many rivet heads.

Or, you can replace all the rivets.

Bottom line? Acid of any kind on the exterior, is a no no.

Andy
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Old 08-25-2007, 10:26 AM   #8
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Polishing: If you don't like the look don't do it, by all means- it is labor intensive. My trailer looked terrible with the faded clear coat and it's blotchy signature. I polished mine to even it all out and found the same thing LI pets says, it hides a lot of imperfections. Unlike glossy paint... etc. it reflects everything around it so it's less obvious where all the dents and scratches are.

Anyway I say do what you want, but I'd stay away from the acid deal, I don't think I've heard good things about that option.
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Old 08-25-2007, 11:12 AM   #9
Restorations done right
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Okay where to begin... First the rain contains quite a bit of acid from all the coal and oil we burn. That is the reason you have to keep polishing. The rain is why everyone has to wax their trailers to get the rain off, to stop those spots. Those spots of oxidation. The amount of dilution of the solution is the key. I am not talking about a 1:1 ratio, more like 1:500... very mild. Just enough to speed mother nature up. The bottom line is if... if... it were done I would still have to polish it. The old aluminum is just very sexy to me. I did not realize that polishing hides the imperfections... I'm still a newbie, haven"t even been to my first rally yet. I still have a lot to learn. That is why I am asking these questions to learn whats, what. Bet this subject has got some folks thinking today....

I cannot get photos to upload on this forum. I re shot 50 frames this morning in the lowest resolution possible... too much info for the site to take any of them. Tried shrinking them down... I have tried, any advice on this would be great.

Andy, is there a way we can talk via phone about some parts I am looking for. I looked through your listings but did not see them. Is there a search button on your site? Is there a good time to call?

I cannot bother the VAP again... my email was in episode 50 and a voice mail was in episode 51... I had my 15 seconds of fame twice now... csn't be greedy. The VAP is the greatest!!! I listen to the old episodes all the time... so much good advice all the time
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Old 08-25-2007, 11:29 AM   #10
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If you leave the aluminum to patinate naturally, I doubt it would take very long for the newer pieces to catch up to the older. Also keep in mind that there is a good chance that no matter what you do, the newer aluminum may never have the same appearance of the older whether patinated or polished.
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Old 08-25-2007, 11:30 AM   #11
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Pictures need to be smaller then 1MB and less then 1600X1600 pixels in order to post.

I use Picture Manager (Microsoft Office 2003) to do this.
I use .jpg format and compress them to web size.
I then resize them to a viewable size.
Most of my images are around 60KB
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Old 08-25-2007, 11:31 AM   #12
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The most practical and possibly the easiest way of making your trailer all one "color" may be to wet sand it with 1500 grit sandpaper and then let nature take it's course. No acid.
I would be cautious about being too agressive in sanding. I've read that the older trailers have an outer layer of Alclad which if you sand through would give a slightly different look in that area.
Someone with real world experience jump in here.
It's your trailer, do what you want and what works for you.
Dave
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Old 08-25-2007, 12:01 PM   #13
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I don't think it's fair for you not to polish yours while all those of us who do want shiny are spending countless hours and dollars to do so.

I think we should have a rule that says you have to polish your Airstream or you have to call it something else. Or at the very least you have to polish someone else's Airstream just so you have the same pain as the rest of us.

After all, would you rather be out camping or polishing? And once you have figured out all the ins and outs of what works best not only for polishing but also keeping it looking freshly polished please let us know and we'll drop by on the few weekends when we aren't out camping and you can help us out polishing ours.

Or NOT.

Leave it the way you like it. It's your trailer, it's your time and dollar investment, and any time spent polishing is time you might have been out camping and relaxing. If the next owner wants to polish it all the power to them.

Barry
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Old 08-25-2007, 03:41 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 62overlander
Okay where to begin... First the rain contains quite a bit of acid from all the coal and oil we burn. That is the reason you have to keep polishing. The rain is why everyone has to wax their trailers to get the rain off, to stop those spots. Those spots of oxidation. The amount of dilution of the solution is the key. I am not talking about a 1:1 ratio, more like 1:500... very mild. Just enough to speed mother nature up. The bottom line is if... if... it were done I would still have to polish it. The old aluminum is just very sexy to me. I did not realize that polishing hides the imperfections... I'm still a newbie, haven"t even been to my first rally yet. I still have a lot to learn. That is why I am asking these questions to learn whats, what. Bet this subject has got some folks thinking today....

I cannot get photos to upload on this forum. I re shot 50 frames this morning in the lowest resolution possible... too much info for the site to take any of them. Tried shrinking them down... I have tried, any advice on this would be great.

Andy, is there a way we can talk via phone about some parts I am looking for. I looked through your listings but did not see them. Is there a search button on your site? Is there a good time to call?

I cannot bother the VAP again... my email was in episode 50 and a voice mail was in episode 51... I had my 15 seconds of fame twice now... csn't be greedy. The VAP is the greatest!!! I listen to the old episodes all the time... so much good advice all the time
You can call us at 800-8777311 Monday thru Friday from 7am to 4pm west coast time.

I am not in the office until 8am, since I usually stay until 5 to 8pm or longer.

You can also visit our web site Airstream Innovations at Inland RV Center, Inc.

You will find some articles, photo's and a "parts sale" list, and some other things as well. The parts you want may or may not be in that sale list.

A recent addition to our web site was the GKN Service and Maintenance Maunual for torsion axles, electric and hydraulic brakes, Wheels and Tires and Bearings. We feel that manual is very informative to all travel trailer owners.

We carry over 3300 different Airstream parts in stock.

Andy
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