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Old 10-12-2008, 11:44 PM
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Restoring old cast aluminum

I just purchased a pair of older cast valve covers. Haven't received them yet, but I'm hoping to polish them up. Maybe even restore the faded sticker if I could figure it out. Currently they are pretty oxidized. Would it be best to start with say a 220 sandpaper - 400 then polishing compound? I've certainly polished aluminum before but they old valve covers appear to need a lot of work. Thanks
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Old 10-13-2008, 12:33 AM
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Hope you've got strong fingers!!!! looks like lots of sanding. If the castings are pitted then you may have to start with 220 then 320 then 400 etc. etc. If they are pitted too deep then there's not much you can do.

Some guys will tell you to take them to a polishing shop and let them do it and thats probably good advice. You could also do a lot of the clean up and initial sanding then have them professionally polished....or get a buffing wheel, (if you have a bench grinder) compound/jewelers rouge and have at it.
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Old 10-13-2008, 12:37 AM
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I'd start on them with a scotchbrite pad first, and see how much oxidation you remove.. The surface conditioning discs make jobs like that go pretty fast.
Sanding out the scratches from 220 with 400 takes forever. With all those fins it could turn into a career. And you still see the scratches from 400 after you polish. I will say that I've had good luck sanding aluminum with 400 on a patternless orbital sander,(D.A.), then polishing.


I see you are in Hayward..I grew up in Fremont.

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Old 10-13-2008, 08:57 AM
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I'd say it may be easier on your arms and hands to just have them chromed or resurfaced with aluminum. I've seen a firm and their work that apply an aluminum surface that looks like the original finish, don't know what the price would be though .

Vince
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Old 11-03-2010, 01:31 AM
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I thought I'd restore this old post because I finally got around to restoring the valve covers.
-It took a lot of sanding first. 600, 800, 1000, 1200 grit papers. Then I moved on to the polishes. The drill attachment helped some, but mostly it was elbow grease. My arms ached but eventually I matched the level of polish as the air cleaner.
Now for the ribs- I liked the as-cast look inside the moon air-cleaner ribs, but the interior of the valve covers ribs had a completely different texture (did I mention I can be obsessive?). Texture paint wasn't going to do it, so i went to the hobby shop and bought a medium fine sand - the kind they use for R.R. dioramas. I painted the interior of the ribs with a silver/grey then while second coat was still wet, I covered it with the sand. After nearly drying I brushed out the sand and had a very close match to the air cleaner.

I treated the other valve cover and the air cleaner to the same.
Final step was the decal. I liked what was left of the original decals and thought it'd be fun to update 454 to an accurate 489, as if it was stock Chevy size. I used Testors decal paper (No.9203), as I could run it through my inkjet printer. I created these labels in Photoshop - a much larger scale then what you see here of course.

I applied several thin coats of artists "Fixatif" from Krylon to keep the ink from dissolving.
The decals went on without a hitch.

The biggest difference from original is some details should be white, not clear-over the metal, but I'm happy with the look.
Here you can see how well the valve covers match the air cleaner.

-A lot of effort for a pair of valve covers- but still progress.
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Old 11-03-2010, 04:26 AM
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They look excellent!

Jon
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Old 11-03-2010, 08:01 AM
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Thats the way good work, gives you a satisfaction money can not buy.
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Old 11-03-2010, 08:41 AM
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Excellent work, looks fantastic.

Vince
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Old 11-03-2010, 11:20 AM
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Absolutely great looking.

I went through the agony of cleaning up an old set of finned Cal Custom covers a few years ago so know some of the finger tip and forearm pain . Mine were not only scuzzy, but painted as well to cover up that poor surface but for $10.........

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Old 11-03-2010, 09:28 PM
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Wow, these look really great!

I had an old pair of valve covers similar to this and I had to have them professionally done so my hat is off to you. After I got them done I had trouble keeping them looking good. It seemed like the heat from the car running accelerated the oxidation. I am not one to like to wear my arm out but after I tried a ton of polishes, I ran across a post of a guy that tried this truckers polish. I took a $20 chance on a bottle and I am here to tell you, I have never used anything like it. It goes on really easy and wipes off really easy and it seems to make these things shine better than anything. I also can run my car for a lot longer without them dulling. This was last year and I just talked to the guy that makes this stuff. He said you can buy it online now.
This is really awesome metal polish if you do not like to work hard and get awesome results.

www.rebelspolish.com

I am a hard guy to impress but I am telling you, this stuff really works.
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Old 11-04-2010, 12:07 AM
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Thanks all. Now if only the rest of this car was looking this nice.
Thanks for the tip four106. I have a tub of Mothers polish to use up- afterward I'll look into the truckers polish.
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Old 11-04-2010, 08:57 AM
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HOLY CRAP those look beautiful! I want to tell you something, when I see something like that done by a guy I have no doubt in my mind the EVERY part of the car can look the same, he has "it". "It" is the patience and passion to do things right, you have IT that is for sure.

Brian
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Old 11-04-2010, 12:02 PM
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Glad you came back to post the results.

BEAUTIFUL!!!!!
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Old 11-05-2010, 08:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratpackin
I thought I'd restore this old post because I finally got around to restoring the valve covers.
-It took a lot of sanding first. 600, 800, 1000, 1200 grit papers. Then I moved on to the polishes. The drill attachment helped some, but mostly it was elbow grease. My arms ached but eventually I matched the level of polish as the air cleaner.
Now for the ribs- I liked the as-cast look inside the moon air-cleaner ribs, but the interior of the valve covers ribs had a completely different texture (did I mention I can be obsessive?). Texture paint wasn't going to do it, so i went to the hobby shop and bought a medium fine sand - the kind they use for R.R. dioramas. I painted the interior of the ribs with a silver/grey then while second coat was still wet, I covered it with the sand. After nearly drying I brushed out the sand and had a very close match to the air cleaner.

I treated the other valve cover and the air cleaner to the same.
Final step was the decal. I liked what was left of the original decals and thought it'd be fun to update 454 to an accurate 489, as if it was stock Chevy size. I used Testors decal paper (No.9203), as I could run it through my inkjet printer. I created these labels in Photoshop - a much larger scale then what you see here of course.

I applied several thin coats of artists "Fixatif" from Krylon to keep the ink from dissolving.
The decals went on without a hitch.

The biggest difference from original is some details should be white, not clear-over the metal, but I'm happy with the look.
Here you can see how well the valve covers match the air cleaner.

-A lot of effort for a pair of valve covers- but still progress.
I've add similar luck doing aluminum wheels. I start with 800, 1000, 1500, 2000 then red compound and finish with white. With each grit change I change the direction of the sanding stroke at right angles. Plan the work so that you end using the 2000 grit on the easiest longset strokes possible. I always sand wet and add a drop or two of dish detergent in the water. This will produce a near chrome like finish. I prefer Semi Chrome polish over Wenol products. It took me 5 hours to do two 15x14 Prostars but it was worth it.
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Old 11-06-2010, 07:38 PM
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i knocked these out last week.
those could have been done with a DA sander,starting with 220 working your way up to 600.
no hand sanding needed,hand sanding leaves sanding marks

you7r covers look great!!

Last edited by agtw31; 11-06-2010 at 07:53 PM.
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