Aluminum Polishing New vs. Old
Thus post is predicated on years of fighting micro-scratches via polishing military aviation birds and equal number of years polishing boats and cars.
1. If newer clear coat: a vast arsenal of polishes, compounds, elixirs. All of which (and any of which) you can and should use to preserve the “clear coat”. You don’t use ANYTHING that will abrade or destroy, or in any way reduce that coating. You DO NOT HAVE aluminum. You DO HAVE a clear almost bullet proof clear coating. If in good shape, wax it, ceramic coat it, whatever. Oh yeah, ignore the “go with the grain” talk. You don’t have “grain” you have clear plastic OVER the grain.
If restoring scratched weathered coatings that have never been treated: best solution in my opinion are the 3M “Perfect-It” products used by nearly every “professional” auto body shop also used by the US Military as the “compound and wax dujour”. Definitely not a karate kid wax on wax off product. Three step system designed for random orbit machines (Kudos to Dewalt and Milwaukee for their new 20v cordless RO machines). Goal: preserve and protect your clear coat. Dull clear coat is a result of micro-scratches, chemical reactions, washing w/ hard brushes etc. Hello: You are not getting to the rivets as they are under the clear coating. Lesson: you do not have direct access to the aluminum. You have the equivalent of a new car with clear paint. Treat it the same.
2. If no clear coat or vintage or anything in between: Chemically remove the residual destroyed clear coating. Use no product that will soften or effect the thin sealant between aluminum panels. There are plenty of products and strippers out there to then use on the aluminum. If thrashed use the multi-stage abrasives, again from 3M. You can get abrasive disks from 800 to 8000 grit. Heres where you get “grain” and “swirl”. If you’ve studied YouTube and the like here’s where you get rid of them. Then put a coating back on using the same 3M line mentioned above. If you use some sort of “paint it on” product you aren’t addressing enemy number one: micro scratches in the duraaluminum. Get rid of all the scratches, bring it to a mirror shine and pat yourself on the back.
In the military you hopefully now get promoted and never have to do that nastiest of jobs in the hot sun again because some other poor slob got recruited behind you to take your place. The polishing the bird job is the closest thing we have to authorized torture.
That being said, nothing is more beautiful than mirror hand-finished duraluminum. Its the modern day equivalent to 20 coats of varnish on a wooden boat, breathtaking when new..but, you went on to higher education right? You get to now pay to have that same result.
End of soliloquy....