1956 polishing the aluminum valve cover

knuckle47

Active Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2021
Thunderbird Year
1956
From my experiences with aluminum parts the ‘BEST’ way would be to take them off and use an aluminum buffing compounds and buffing wheels. On the other hand, “simichrome” and elbow grease will do a decent job if you want to leave them in place. Of course the grooves on top will be harder and the effects of the shine will re-oxidize slowly. Amazon has it in larger cans. The tube gets used up quickly
 

biddle

Forum Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Mar 9, 2003
When you post to the forums, please choose a subject that summarizes your post and has the four-digit model year. "'56 aluminum valve cover" could mean anything. Revising now.

model-year.jpg
 

knuckle47

Active Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2021
Thunderbird Year
1956
I have a pedestal buffer with a 12” pad on each side…one is for fine, the other side is for super fine compound. The drill can work but may stall with any pressure
 

knuckle47

Active Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2021
Thunderbird Year
1956
I made up my pedestal buffer with an extra electric motor and a pedestal frame. Mounted the whole thing on the top of a recycled kitchen cabinet. Supplies are stored on the shelves below. The 12” wheels are cotton and about 3” thick. As soft as they are, they spin fast enough to become fairly rigid and should you catch an edge, it can pull the item right out of your hands. But they are capable of producing a very professional polished surface.

Mine is about 20yrs old and as I see now, about 1/2 the cost. Still may be worth it if you’re a tinkerer

https://cdn0.grizzly.com/manuals/w1681_m.pdf The motor mount eliminates tension adjustments
 
Joined
Aug 14, 2019
Thunderbird Year
1957
That sounds pretty neat. Hmm.. would it be possible to put a rheostat on it to slow it down for delicate work? I think the last time cleaned mine it was all manual work ( I was too lazy to pull them and then have to replace all the gaskets that don't leak at all )and a wire brush for the detents. Then touched up the logo with the proper turquois and red inserts.
 
Joined
Apr 10, 2021
Thunderbird Year
1957
Polishing is a rather simple but time intensive process, refine the finish with progressively finer abrasives.

1. Remove them from the engine.
2. Degrease them with lacquer thinner.
3. I would try 320 first. If that isn’t working go up to 220. Then progress to 220, 400, 600, 800 wet sand papers, taking out all the coarser scratches from the previous paper. Once you have a clean 800 surface, you can go to the compound wheels. I have also used a chrome polishing compond like; Renegade, USA Rebel Pipe Dream Chrome Polish.

Produced a mirror finish.

And I agree with Ward 57, then repaint (available from CASCO).Valve Cover III.jpg
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Joined
Oct 9, 2021
Thunderbird Year
1957
Polishing is a rather simple but time intensive process, refine the finish with progressively finer abrasives.

1. Remove them from the engine.
2. Degrease them with lacquer thinner.
3. I would try 320 first. If that isn’t working go up to 220. Then progress to 220, 400, 600, 800 wet sand papers, taking out all the coarser scratches from the previous paper. Once you have a clean 800 surface, you can go to the compound wheels. I have also used a chrome polishing compond like; Renegade, USA Rebel Pipe Dream Chrome Polish.

Produced a mirror finish.

And I agree with Ward 57, then repaint (available from CASCO).
That repainting looks great! May I ask how you went about doing it? Seems like painting around/between the letters of the “thunderbird” script would be extremely challenging. Did you tape off the letters? You’d have to have the dexterity of a neurosurgeon to do it freehand! (Or at least a lot more dexterity than me).

Or was it just a couple of touch ups rather than a full repainting of the blue area?
 
Joined
Aug 14, 2019
Thunderbird Year
1957
That repainting looks great! May I ask how you went about doing it? Seems like painting around/between the letters of the “thunderbird” script would be extremely challenging. Did you tape off the letters? You’d have to have the dexterity of a neurosurgeon to do it freehand! (Or at least a lot more dexterity than me).

Or was it just a couple of touch ups rather than a full repainting of the blue area?
You can get detail small brushes at most art supply, paint department in hardware or hobby stores. You don't need to be perfect. Once the paint is dry you can take some very fine sandpaper and clean off anything that is not in the recess of the emblem. Same thing goes for the exterior badges that have recessed painted areas. Really makes them pop.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jan 1, 2021
Thunderbird Year
1955
Unless your valve covers are beat-up, there shouldn't be a need to sand them before polishing. I've polished cast-aluminum valve covers on a pedestal buffer w/o first sanding and was satisfied with the results. Nevertheless, it's a tedious, time-consuming process. If you are looking for absolute perfection, you might want to go the extra mile and sand first, making them better than new.
 

knuckle47

Active Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2021
Thunderbird Year
1956
That sounds pretty neat. Hmm.. would it be possible to put a rheostat on it to slow it down for delicate work? I think the last time cleaned mine it was all manual work ( I was too lazy to pull them and then have to replace all the gaskets that don't leak at all )and a wire brush for the detents. Then touched up the logo with the proper turquois and red inserts.
I believe the slower speeds on the pads will not produce the abrasion polishing that those ultra fine rouges can provide. Heat and pressure are part of the process to a degree and while it would work, you will sacrifice a great outcome for a very good one….dumb but it works that way
 
Joined
Apr 10, 2021
Thunderbird Year
1957
After polishing you need to clean the covers, I use lacquer thinner.
As far as the paint, paint needle syringe. Make sure they are level. Tape the ends of the wings and sqeeze the paint to the valleys. Should you get some paint on the high spots, you can just wipe the paint off.
 
Joined
Aug 14, 2019
Thunderbird Year
1957
After polishing you need to clean the covers, I use lacquer thinner.
As far as the paint, paint needle syringe. Make sure they are level. Tape the ends of the wings and sqeeze the paint to the valleys. Should you get some paint on the high spots, you can just wipe the paint off.
Are you talking about the emblem valleys or the vanes on the rest. Ther should be no paint other than on the embossed emblems only not in the long recesses on the rest of the cover. Custom builders do that for more expensive 'bling' but it was not done at the factory.
 

odannyboy

Barn find 1955 T-Bird
Joined
Nov 4, 2021
Thunderbird Year
1955
Well what I did was get a hand held sand blaster from Harbor Freight, on low-ish air pressure did the fin and logo. Found a wire brush for my drill, very soft touch type brush, don't know where to get a friend had some. Ran over the outside, making sure to clean not harsh scrub it. Used a brillo type pad next. After I redo the logo paint, I will use Eastwood clear, Dupli-Color Engine Paint with CERAMIC Clear Aerosol 12 OZ DE1636. They said it can stand the extra heat. SO far Eastwood has been great to use.
Yup takes time and gentle touch.
pics before trunk, after undercoating it, The Brush
 

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