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Old 06-27-2022, 02:17 PM
CJ in EP CJ in EP is offline
Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: Eden Prairie, MN
Posts: 86
Default Polishing Tips

I've gotten a few inquiries on the methods / materials that I used to polish my RV-9A that's currently posted for sale here.

First off, I didn't start out as an expert, nor do I think of myself as one now that I've polished one aircraft. However, I did contact the experts at NuVite, and following their advice and a fair amount of practice I think I've mostly figured it out, and I'm seeing good results. Your milage may vary.

Meguiar's Professional DA Polisher 110-127V - ACS P/N 09-04525 - $309.00
Meguiar's DA Backing Plate, 6" - ACS P/N 09-04533 - $21.55
Cyclo Orbital Polisher Model #5 - ACS P/N 09-35715 - $365

NuVite NuShine IIF9 Heavy Corrosion & Surface Repair - ACS P/N 09-02086 - $47.00
NuVite NuShine IIC Oxidation Removal & Repolish - ACS P/N 09-00587 - $47.00
NuVite NuShine IIA Repolish & Light Touch-Up - ACS P/N 09-02088 - $47.00
NuVite Nushine IIS Final Mirror-Finish & Protectant - ACS P/N 09-00578 - $47.00

NuShine Flannel Polishing Cloths, 10-Pak - ACS P/N 09-05346 - $76.75
Meguiar's Rotary Foam Finishing Pad, 7" - ACS P/N 09-04524 - $16.95
Meguiar's Rotary Foam Cutting Pad, 7" - ACS P/N 09-04523 - $17.50
Microfiber Towels - the least expensive source for these is Costco, Sam's, Amazon, etc.

1.) Figure out where you want to begin. I found it easiest to work with one "grit" of polish at a time, working through all areas of the aircraft before moving on to the next stage.

2.) Match the polish and pads as follows:
IIF9 polish and red cutting pad - DA polisher
IIC polish and red cutting pad - DA polisher
IIA polish and black finishing pad - DA polisher
IIS polish and flannel cloth - Cyclo polisher

3.) I found I had best results when I used pads that were dedicated to each of the different polish grits.

4.) Very careful masking is a big part of the job.

5.) Use polish sparingly. Carefully touch the pad of your finger onto the top of the polish (in the can). If the "circle" of polish transferred onto your finger is larger than a 1/4" in diameter you probably have too much. DO NOT wipe or smear the polish onto the aluminum as the grit will leave scratches. Instead, gently dab the polish onto the aluminum with small dots (about 10-12) evenly spaced onto the material.

6.) I always had best luck when bringing the "in-motion" polishing head to the material. To start I somewhat quickly move the polisher pad quickly over the whole section to evenly distribute the polish. Next slowly move the polisher back & forth, or up & down, or both to polish the surface. If you didn't apply too much polish, you'll notice it appears to disperse to the point that you can't really see it any longer after a couple passes. If you have to work the area repeatedly and the polish doesn't disperse quickly you likely used too much polish. When this happens wipe the area down with a microfiber towel soaked with acetone, don't add more polish, and continue to polish using the same pad. Another down side to using too much polish is that the pads get loaded up too quickly and need to be replaced.

7.) Polish in sections of about 2' x 3' (uses rivet lines as boundaries), and when moving to the next section overlap your boundaries by 6" x 12".

8.) Before moving to the next grit thoroughly clean the aluminum with a microfiber cloth soaked with acetone. Pay careful attention to seams, rivet lines, screw heads, etc. You're going to go through a lot of acetone and microfiber towels, don't skimp, you'll notice that dirty towels will leave scratches from the grit embedded in the towel, especially during the final two stages.

9.) I find polishing in general to be a very slippery slope, and a hazardous environment to anyone possessing OCD tendencies. I remember someone on VAF once describing it as more of a way-of-life than simply a method of treating/finishing aluminum, and there's definitely a lot of truth to that!

Chris Hrabe
Eden Prairie, MN
Phase II

Last edited by CJ in EP : 06-29-2022 at 09:12 AM.
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Old 06-28-2022, 06:20 AM
jcarne's Avatar
jcarne jcarne is offline
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: Worland, Wyoming
Posts: 2,298

Originally Posted by CJ in EP View Post
I find polishing in general to be a very slippery slope, and a hazardous environment to anyone possessing OCD tendencies.
I can assure anyone that Chris is in fact correct on that one! haha Perfection is not possible. The thing that I have already noticed though is that when a polished plane is on the ramp two tings will happen:

1. everyone will love your plane more than any other
2. no one will notice the super fine details like a few micro scratches

Thanks for posting your tips Chris, I may incorporate a few even though our process is very similar.

P.S. wings are not polished in my pic
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Jereme Carne
RV-7A Flying as of 03/2021
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Old 06-28-2022, 07:45 AM
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Snowflake Snowflake is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Sidney, BC, Canada
Posts: 4,307

I'll add one tip that came to me a few years back and has proven useful. For day-to-day touchups (I do this after every flight to remove bugs from the leading edges), mix about 1 tsp of IIS polish into a bottle of Windex, the blue original stuff. Shake it for a while and it will disperse into the Windex. Spray on and buff with a microfibre cloth. I find the Windex removes the bugs, and the small amount of S polish maintains the shine to a level I am happy with.
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Rob Prior
1996 RV-6 "Tweety" C-FRBP (formerly N196RV)
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Old 06-28-2022, 07:59 AM
BruceW BruceW is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Elk Grove, CA
Posts: 264

Good overall description.

One comment on using acetone for cleaning off the residue. I think a liquid wash like that puts more black residue into the tight nooks and crannies. Acetone also leaves a 'sheen' that dulls the shine a bit.

I use corn starch on a micro pad and a hand job. Then blow out around seams and rivets. Probably more work. but seems to clean out the black well and leaves it all shiny!
Bruce W
RV-7 QB (500+ hours)
RV-14 working the tail
Elk Grove, CA
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Old 06-28-2022, 08:33 AM
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Crash Crash is offline
Join Date: Apr 2021
Location: Decatur, TX
Posts: 77

Just curious how long it takes to do the full process that you use?
Mike & Becky
RV-10 - N260MG
Decatur, TX (KLUD)
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Old 06-28-2022, 01:47 PM
laserman laserman is offline
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Auburn, NY
Posts: 75
Default It takes about 8 hours, once a year to keep my 8 happy

After the original polishing steps.. Say 30-40 hours total.. When in final stages of assembly.

It takes about 8 hours, once a year to keep my 8 happy..

I do it as part of the Condition Inspection..

And YES... it helps a lot, if you have a BAD Case of "OCD". :>


Al Karpinski
2020 - RV8 N498RV ..( aka “LipStick”) - Phase 1 Completed 3-21-21..
Now at 80+ hours of RV8 Fun
2016 182T N522CS
Home Airport B16.
EAA 486 @ KFZY...
2022 Dues Paid.

Build Log Link:

Last edited by laserman : 06-28-2022 at 04:42 PM. Reason: Resize photo..
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Old 06-28-2022, 01:52 PM
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jcarne jcarne is offline
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: Worland, Wyoming
Posts: 2,298

Also, use a tarp like AJ did above, I couldn't believe what a mess it made. Pretty much all on the floor though so that was good. I found compounding made virtually all of the mess. Initially compounding took quite a long time but hopefully you only have to do that once.
Jereme Carne
RV-7A Flying as of 03/2021
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Old 06-28-2022, 01:56 PM
rvsxer rvsxer is offline
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Inver Grove Hgts, MN
Posts: 369

If your polishing work is as good as the rest of your project it will impress all who gaze upon it. It was truly a pleasure to help as a Tech Counselor.
Mike Hilger
RV-6 N207AM w/G3X, 1,800 hours +
South St. Paul, MN (KSGS)
A&P, EAA Tech Counselor

We're all here because we're not all there...
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Old 06-28-2022, 04:57 PM
LR60 LR60 is offline
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Trinity,NC
Posts: 61
Default Couple questions about polishing.

I have found different sections of the plane shine up better than others, for example the wings shine up well and I get a nice sharpe mirror finish, but my rudder has a very shiny but blurry look to it. Is this do to different thickness of the metals?

Do the flannel sheets from Walmart work as well as the fleece sheets?

Thanks for the tips I’ve read several here that I’m gonna try on my next go at it.

I love sheet metal aircraft and nothing shows that better than a polished look!
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