A professional shop that handles a great number of wheels usually has a giant
machine in a room thick with a mix of aluminum dust and buffing compound the
color of pencil lead. Those with well-equipped garages may already have a
smaller, dedicated buffer. For the do-it-yourselfer there are a few options.
Before you get started remember to take safety precautions. High-rev,
high-torque power tools can be dangerous! Wear a mask, gloves, and safety
goggles at all times while buffing aluminum.
The first do-it-yourself option is to secure the buffing wheel and move the
object around it. A standard bench grinder can be converted to a buffing setup
with some ingenuity and a few arbors. Be absolutely certain the grinder is
securely bolted down if this route is taken. The buffing wheel can easily grab
the item being worked on. At this point, one of two things will give. Either
the object will fly out of your hands, or the grinder will liberate itself
from its mount. Either scenario is bad news.
Another option is to make the object stationary and move the buffing wheel
around it. A variety of power tools are suited for this task. In this case, we
used a variable speed buffer and a few 6-inch buffing wheels. Be cautious and
take your time. And remember that only bare aluminum wheels can be buffed out.
The buffing process will quickly destroy any paint or clearcoat on the wheels.
Be certain bare aluminum wheels are what you have before you get started.
|Step 1 - Here is the junkyard-fresh set of wheels. We're not out for a
Barrett-Jackson job, just a shiny set of daily drivers.
|Step 2 - Cut away and remove anything that will get in the way of the
process. Valve stems. Wheel weights. Stickers. Everything.
|Step 3 - Next, get things clean. Use a powerful degreaser, heavy duty
scouring pads, and some elbow grease.
|Step 4 - Thoroughly rinse the wheels. You don't want to buff any grime
into the aluminum.
|Step 5 - Use a flat file to smooth any nasty curb rash. Do not remove
too much material or wheel balance could be affected.
|Step 6 - Apply a bit of the coarsest or most abrasive compound to the
stiffest buffing wheel.
|Step 7 - Use the right combination of rpm and pressure to get the
compound working. Buff the entire wheel one section at a time.
|Step 8 - Clean the entire wheel surface in between each step.
|Step 9 - Use a separate wheel for each compound to prevent
contamination between steps. Here a less abrasive compound is used with a
"loose sewn" wheel for a finish buff.
|Step 10 - A hand-applied liquid hand polish and subsequent hand buff is
the final step. Now, buff out the other three wheels.