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Aluminum Parts

I wanted a nice chrome light for my tail light and I originally thought I would chrome the one I had. After asking a few questions on the BBS I realized that I might be able to resurrect the rare VBA tail light I had with a little help.

Older tail lights on Vespas are made from cast aluminum (sometimes called "pot metal") and on my bike it was actually painted too. Aluminum does get a pitted surface over time and oxidizes if not properly maintained but it can also be polished to a mirror like finish.

The biggest problem with this tail light was the two holes that someone had drilled in the top face. I needed to fill them with aluminum so that once it was ground flush and polished the repair would not be visible. I took the light to Weiss Welding in San Francisco and for only $25 they filled the holes and left them a little proud of the aluminum face (see below).

I started removing the extra weld with a flat hand file and when I got it close to the original aluminum I switched to 200 grit sandpaper on a block. The block is important because if a block is not used your fingers will follow the high and low spots instead of just hitting the high spots. After it looked pretty good I went down to 400 grit and then sanded the entire light with 600, 1000 and finally 1500 (see below).

I bought two polishing wheels and compound for a borrowed grinder at the Eastwood Company. The first wheel and compound is used to buff the metal while the second is used to polish it to a final shine. The compound is solid and heats up when added to the rotating wheel. It is important to hold the part very securely as it can go flying in a split second. Also wear eye protection as compound can come off the wheel in your face.

Buffing and polishing definitely takes a little getting used to. The kit comes with very good instructions and it doesn't take long to get good results

The final result below looks almost as good as new!