Stainless Steel polishing question

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Tommy Tourbus, Feb 21, 2009.

  1. Tommy Tourbus

    Tommy Tourbus Senior Member

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    I have a Tele control plate in mill finished stainless steel. I want to shine it up to a mirror shine, so it will match my nickel plated bridge plate. I have the option of having it nickel plated which will cost me $85. However, I thought I'd try and save myself the expense by buffing it to a shine myself instead.

    I went to Home Depot to look at products and one of the guys there recommended I wet sand it w/400 grit sandpaper, then switch over to 1000 grit sandpaper. I don't have a buffer or any shop tools, so I'd be working with just regular sandpaper sheets by hand.

    Will doing this really get it to a plated level mirror-like shine? Or will it get it just kind of there? I don't want to go to the time and expense just to end up throwing in the towel and going in and having it plated when all is said and done.

    Any advice? (don't tell me to just buy a new plate please)
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2009
  2. countandduke

    countandduke Member

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    Check with the guys at stew mac. You can even just get a car buffer from any car supply stored and use meguire's mirror glaze, not sure if I spelled that right. If you don't have a buffer, prepare to use some good elbow grease. BUT, 400 grit is pretty coarse. Depending on how shiny it already is, you may just need to wet sand with say 800 and go up from there until you can switch to the mirror glaze stuff. But again, a hand held buffer shouldn't be too expensive.

    Chris
     
  3. Ron4406

    Ron4406 Member

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    Try SOS soap pads first. If its rusted at all, that will get rid of it. Sand out the fine scratches.
    Anything courser then 1500 is redundant. Its allready smooth. Use 1500 wet then 2000 wet. Buff by hand with some Final Cut 3M compound. Take your time and be thorough. Then shine it up with some metal polish.
     
  4. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

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    Actually, just go to a polishing shop (your plating house should have a reference or two). A small piece like that should cost $10 to polish one side. The results won't be as good as a plated piece, but it's probably the only option that will give you acceptable results short of buying a polishing wheel and a few polishing compounds. Also remember that non-plated surfaces will oxidize faster and are a little more difficult to keep clean. Eventually you will have to polish the piece again or lacquer one side.

    I hate to be the buzzkill pragmatist, but a shiny new Genuine Fender replacement plate is $18. It just seems like a waste of time and resources to modify such an inexpensive part.
     
  5. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    I'm really having a hard time figuring out why not to buy a shiny new nickel one, or how or why you ended up with stainless to begin with. If you don't have the tools, going through the trouble to polish it (or paying to have it done), just to have it still not quite the same sheen as the Nickel hardware just doesn't make much sense to me.

    What's wrong with the cheap and easy route? It's not as though this has any tonal or functional impact, or even much one of style.
     
  6. Tommy Tourbus

    Tommy Tourbus Senior Member

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    because it's a custom control layout and was a pain the ass to get someone to make it. it's also thicker than normal to match the thickness of the pickguard.

    i'm actually just going to go ahead and have it plated. this way it will match the bridge and knobs perfectly.
     
  7. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    Ahh. Makes a bit more sense now.

    Yes, plating it will give you the best results with the least hassle. Polishing stainless to a true mirror gloss really does require some buffers and compounds. Still, $85 for plating seems a bit pricey to me. The place I used to go to would have done a piece like that for maybe $20-$30 at the most. That shop may have been unusually cheap, but I still would consider shopping around a bit.
     
  8. Keyser Soze

    Keyser Soze Member

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    Many types of stainless steel will not achieve a mirror shine no matter how finely you try to polish them, sometimes a brushed finish is the best you can do. D2 tool steel (non-stainless) is another example of a steel that refuses to be polished to a bright surface shine.

    Plate it.
     
  9. Tommy Tourbus

    Tommy Tourbus Senior Member

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    they tell me they have a minimum shop fee they need to charge, even for one small piece.
     
  10. Marcel

    Marcel Member

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    Find a metal shop with a barrel polishing machine. It has little stones in it and these will polish your plate to mirror finish.
     
  11. xcycle

    xcycle Member

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    First rule: Never trust a Home Depot employee.

    400 grit sand paper will scratch the surface so deep it will take weeks of hand polishing to get it out unless you just barely push on it. Also you would never leap 500 grits between sanding to polish metal.

    I would start at 800, then 1000, then go up to a buffing compound. A mirror finish will be very hard to achieve by hand. I once used a set of micro fibre polishing cloths to get a previously shiney surface back to its original shine and it took hours.

    Cheers
    Eric
     

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