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How to get Near-Chrome Finish on 303 Stainless?

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I just finished 4 stand-offs for a vintage auto luggage rack. I sanded them to 500 grit, then polished with Flitz on the lathe, but they don't have the mirror sheen I'm looking for. I'm wondering if getting a Harbor Freight tumbler would be a way to get the desired finish? If so, what series of media should I use?

This is what I have:
IMG_1733[1].JPG

This what I want them to look like:
Luggage Rack Hardware.JPG IMG_0480.JPG

Thanks in advance!

Evan
 
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Comments

#2
Google, "Unitised Polishing Wheel" or ''Buffing Wheel and Compound". Shopping and youtube. I get mine from Aliexpress, Paladin.
Emery down to 1000, 2000 will make an improvement also. But the buffing will do the job, from where you are at, but with a bit more work...?
 
#3
Mark,
Thanks. A buffing wheel and rouge was my initial thought, but then I was thinking the parts lend themselves to tumbling. I will need to figure out an arbor to hold the standoffs if I use a buffing wheel--not a huge deal.

I've seen very shiny rocks out of a rotary tumbler, but I have no experience on a vibratory tumbler, so didn't know if it could do wonders on stainless as well?
Evan
 
#4
+1 on the buffing wheel and compound. Also look at Mass polish if you want to do it manually.
 
#5
Simichrome is a nice polish for final hand finishing of fine work. Protects, too.
 
#6
I agree with Mark & Mikey. Polishing to 500 grit then 555 , then flitz or semi-chrome.
BTW I have never seen stainless shine like chrome, (if that's what you are expecting), close but not quite the same. May be due the hardness of the chrome.
Chuck
 
#7
I know the color of stainless isn’t chrome, but a mirror finish gets close. A buffing wheel and polish it is!
 
#8
The way i got a chrome like mirror finish from SS on a workpiece that I would put on a project like you are working on was a process of wet sanding progressivly down to 2500 grit before going through multiple polishing compounds/ Rouge with different types of cloth buffing wheel (Tight sewn- to Loose Buff) until i got the finish i was after which was a Mirror like surface.....Basically you sand and sand and sand then polish then polish some more and when you think you are done polish it again type thing!

Now if you are planning on doing more then the current polish project that consists of small parts then investing into a tumbler type polishing system could be worth the money because you do not need to be present as the tumbler does its thing but I Do Not Believe that it will produce the finish you are after without the Buffing process using polishing compounds. As for the type of media to use i would think Aluminum Oxide of silicon carbide i. Different grits would do a good job prepping the part for final polishing but ive never personally tried this method.
 
#9
The way i got a chrome like mirror finish from SS on a workpiece that I would put on a project like you are working on was a process of wet sanding progressivly down to 2500 grit before going through multiple polishing compounds/ Rouge with different types of cloth buffing wheel (Tight sewn- to Loose Buff) until i got the finish i was after which was a Mirror like surface.....Basically you sand and sand and sand then polish then polish some more and when you think you are done polish it again type thing!

Now if you are planning on doing more then the current polish project that consists of small parts then investing into a tumbler type polishing system could be worth the money because you do not need to be present as the tumbler does its thing but I Do Not Believe that it will produce the finish you are after without the Buffing process using polishing compounds. As for the type of media to use i would think Aluminum Oxide of silicon carbide i. Different grits would do a good job prepping the part for final polishing but ive never personally tried this method.
Great info. Thanks!
 
#10
I do this all the time with stainless and aluminum pieces. Your gonna want to refine your scratches down to at least 800 to 1000. Then using a buffing wheel and I believe the white compound will give you a mirror finish. You need to remember your scratches should get finer with the different grits. If you see deeper scratches you have to get them out before going to the next grit. Beauty of stainless is once polished it’s done. No need for a clear like aluminum that tarnishes. Nice car by the way. Got a 428cj?
 
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#11
A 426 Hemi would be a sight to see in 1 of these LOL. The true knockoff wheels lead me to believe it's a 66 Cobra (rumored to have been built with 428s). I've never known a non functional hood scoop on the real deal though - not that I have much more than books to go by. Hope the OP will school us on what he has there.
 
#12
I do this all the time with stainless and aluminum pieces. Your gonna want to refine your scratches down to at least 800 to 1000. Then using a buffing wheel and I believe the white compound will give you a mirror finish. You need to remember your scratches should get finer with the different grits. If you see deeper scratches you have to get them out before going to the next grit. Beauty of stainless is once polished it’s done. No need for a clear like aluminum that tarnishes. Nice car by the way. Got a 428cj?
The car pictured is not mine, but a buddy's. He built a stunning car--an ERA 427 Shelby Cobra that he narrowed the hips on (the narrow hipped 427 street cars are the rarest of the rare--they built about 10 of them). He's the one that gave me the idea of putting an original luggage rack on the back of ERA (won't be a narrow-hipped car, but will be street trim--no pipe, scoop, or roll bar). His car has a 427 side oiler. I built a 470 out of a 427 new side oiler BBM cast iron block. My motor is pretty tame--it only makes 450 HP and 500 ft-lbs of torque--just about right for a nicely mannered street 427.:rolleyes:

Next weekend I will fab an arbor to hold the stand-offs so I can complete the sanding up to 2000 grit, then polish. Thanks for the tip!

I think I'll pick up a polisher at Harbor Freight (unless somebody tells me it's a waste of money). My 8" bench grinder is 1750 RPM--good for grinding tools, not so good for buffing. While I'm on the topic, what do folks recommend for polishers and wheels? I've seen the long shaft versions as well as the ones that look like bench grinders.

One other question about polishing stainless--I assume a respirator is a good idea to avoid breathing what's coming off the wheels?
 
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#14
Unless your doing wheels or parts that aren’t accessible from a bench grinder wheel I would stick with a bench grinder. Wheels you can check Eastwood company,casewell,even grizzly has them and the compounds. I use the sewn ones which are a little stiffer. I don’t like the floppy ones that are a bunch of disc on a arbor. You’ll need a wheel for each compound so you don’t contaminate wheels. I use a bunch of old hacksaw blades bunched together to ruff up wheel when it gets glazed. Works great. A regular bench grinder will do the job you don’t need a specific polishing grinder unless you need the long shaft that comes with that polisher. And rubbing alcohol cleans all the left over compound perfectly. Can be a bear to get out of corners without rubbing alcohol.
 
#15
I've polished parts for the Camaro. Sand with progressively finer wet dry sand paper until you get to 1000, making sure your'e getting all the smaller and smaller scratches out in each finer step, then polish with compound and finish it with a final cut polish. As previously stated, use a polishing wheel or you'll be at it for a long time. Sorry, this is an old point & shoot camera photo, so it's a little fuzzy. The parts were actually pretty close to chrome. The downside is the finish won't last like actual chrome, so it needs constant attention to keep it's shine.
 

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#16
A polisher is useless for this, as are Simichrome and Flitz. You need the cotton buffing wheel on a bench grinder, using black rouge. No need to sand finer than 400-500 (actually 320 will do). The wheel will do the rest. Clean with industrial alcohol, not rubbing alcohol.
 
#17
A polisher is useless for this, as are Simichrome and Flitz. You need the cotton buffing wheel on a bench grinder, using black rouge. No need to sand finer than 400-500 (actually 320 will do). The wheel will do the rest. Clean with industrial alcohol, not rubbing alcohol.
What do you mean by a polisher? I meant something like this:
https://www.harborfreight.com/6-inch-buffer-94393.html

Is this the black rouge?
https://www.harborfreight.com/1-4-quarter-lb-black-polish-compound-96779.html

Sewn wheel:
https://www.harborfreight.com/6-in-spiral-cotton-buffing-wheel-69700.html
 
#19
For small projects, diamond paste works well. It is available from MSC and McMaster Carr in grits as fine as 14,000. It cuts fast and requires very little to do the job.
 
#20
Passivate then electroplate . :encourage:
 
#21
Passivate then electroplate . :encourage:
I think that’s why I love polishing so much. Don’t get me wrong I have a pro street Harley and absolutely everything is chromed except the tins,seat,and tires.
You can take a dirty piece of aluminum, stainless,brass, what have you. Put aliitle time and love into it and you can get some pretty amazing results. “If you know what your doing”. And not cost a dime but time and effort.
 
#22
I think that’s why I love polishing so much. Don’t get me wrong I have a pro street Harley and absolutely everything is chromed except the tins,seat,and tires.
You can take a dirty piece of aluminum, stainless,brass, what have you. Put aliitle time and love into it and you can get some pretty amazing results. “If you know what your doing”. And not cost a dime but time and effort.
Liquid hand soap with that fine grit , warm water and scotch bright works for me .
 
#23
The "unitised wheel", I spoke of, is also damned handy to deburr machine metal items.
Running a part under the wheel, makes it go from NICE to WOW. Not to polish, just to remove the micro, sharp edges that are present.
The polisher would be a nice assett. Put a Unitised wheel on one end.
Using the buffer, different wax for different metals.
 
#24
I find the only way to get shiny, really shiny is it has to be SMOOTH. I sand to at least 1200-1500 before I even start to polish.
Made a few stainless belt buckles a few years ago. I use the unitised wheels a lot and use the 555 compound too. With a lot of sanding, polishing and elbow grease, you can get a really shiny, almost chrome finish.
Just my 2cents !
 
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#26
The "unitised wheel", I spoke of, is also damned handy to deburr machine metal items.
Running a part under the wheel, makes it go from NICE to WOW. Not to polish, just to remove the micro, sharp edges that are present.
The polisher would be a nice assett. Put a Unitised wheel on one end.
Using the buffer, different wax for different metals.
Mark,
I like that idea. Empire Abrasives also makes Scotchbrite-like belts (look like the same material as the unitized wheel) I might try.
https://www.empireabrasives.com/1-x-42-surface-conditioning-sanding-belt/

Evan
 
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#27
I forgot to mention above, the Very Best High polish outcome ive achieved I followed an old timers recommendation to change the sanding direction by trying to Cross sand the previous grit marks as close to 90 degrees across the previous sand marks as possible. Doing it this way works the corser sand marks down to a smoother finish with much greater efficiency without changing the final shape enough to be a problem.

If you already have a lathe you can bypass the polisher assuming you wouldn't mind getting your lathe a bit dirty! And those scotch brite belts for the belts grinder work great so long that you pay very strick attention to the material you remove from pass to pass or risk removing more stock then targeting!
 
#28
I brought the parts to the current finish with wet/dry sandpaper followed by Flitz on the lathe. Cross sanding will be tough on these parts.
 
#29
You can get up to 100,000 grit diamond paste from a good lapidary supply outfit. The key to getting a good polish is avoiding cross contamination. If your 10,000-grit buffing pad gets contaminated with 600 grit, you will never get any further than a 600-grit finish. I used to polish samples for microscopic examination, with the final step being a pass with 50nM (nano-meter) colloidal silica. That size of "grit" polished samples down to the atomic level, showing no evidence of scratches with SEM examination @50,000X and higher. At that level polishing action is closer to chemical etching than physical polishing, hence it is dubbed CMP -- chemo-mechanical polishing.
 
#30
After thinking about it overnight, I decided against getting a buffer right now. I did order black, green, and white rouge with a selection of drill and Dremel mounted buffing wheels. Given the shape of the stand-offs I think they'd be dangerous to buff, so I like the idea of spinning the stand-offs and holding the buffing pad, or clamping the stand-offs and using a drill or Dremel.
 
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