Polishing Your Airplane? Tell Us of All Your Procedures, Tricks, Tips and Photos

A few Zenith builders have chosen to polish their aircraft rather than paint (including me). Many have posted some photos along with some tips. These are very valuable to those that trying to decide whether to polish or not and to those that have just began to polish their airplane. It is difficult to find all the posts that include these procedures. Let's make this discussion thread all things polishing. If you find this thread and have already posted something relevant to polishing an aircraft else where, please copy your comments and photos and post them in this thread. If everyone brings their experiences here, it will be more valuable to those that follow later on. Thanks.

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Hi Joe!  Good Idea!  I hope to polish my 750 when it's completed and would like to contribute

to the thread, but I can't find the thread.  Could you advise me how to find it?  thanks,  Frank A Pisz

I'm polishing my build, less weight and less parasite drag. I had to do some experimenting to get it down, but it goes much faster now.

  I use a 10in.orbital buffer (Great neck) something you can get at most auto stores around 30-40$.  I tried a cyclopolisher for 5 minutes and decided ,No way, I just use a towel on a buffer, works great. 5 steps Nuvite F-9, Nuvite F-7, then Nuvite grade-C, Mothers Mag& Aluminum, then last Nuvite grade-S. I do an area about 1 1/2 foot square, F-9 and F-7 I use the same towel, I use about 4 towels for one area total start to finish, I don't wipe anything off between steps. But the very last step after using grade-S I use a clean towel on the buffer to wipe that off. By that time it is a mirror polish and if you use your hand to wipe it you will get slight swerl marks.

This is the thread Frank. Oh BTW I should add, I don't press down on the buffer, I just let it do it's own thing, about 1-2 minutes each step.


I went with the rolite polish on my 650. I tried using a regular car wax buffer (cheap one from menards) but ended up using the makita polisher with great effect. I think I have a picture on my page of the horiz stab all polished. I'm gonna do the top/bottom wing, fuselage sides, and rudder as well. Leading edges, fiberglass, bottom of fuse, glareshield, and top rear skin going to rudder will be painted. Partly for effect and partly to reduce polishing work load. It's a teadious process. Also I don't want any thing that will get real dirty to be polished(like the belly).

Just put a few dabs of each compound on the area you're polishing and "wet" the polisher with the compound. Not too much, just a teaspoon a square foot; can't remember exactly, It's been a few years since I did the rudder/stab (great past time while waiting for the next kit portion to come). As for technique just go slow and steady. Really trial and error is the best to way to learn. There is no error, so it's mainly trial. Mix up the time you spend and pressure you apply(really not much).

I did find cleaning off the excess dirty polish with mineral spirits worked well. Get a good chair if you can and have the surface to be polished in a vertical position. Rudder and stab were done flat on a table; leaning over to do that got old quick.

I won't lie; I'm dreading the last polishing, but the look is awesome and the money you save from a professional paint job(and weight savings) are worth it.

As a side note, I'm using the self primer from NAPA with rustoleum. I prepped and painted a spare piece of aluminum and fiber glass and hung it on my fence as a test. Two winters & summers in Nebraska and it looks fine. A good test for an aircraft that will be hangared.

Thanks to all who have added. I have just begun to start my trial and error process. Here is a link to a document that I have been using: http://www.sonexaircraft.com/documents/instruction_sheets/nuvite_po... So far I have started some polishing around the rear windows of my CH750 which I did by hand. I borrowed Lawrence Van Egmond's (who is also polishing his 750) rotary buffer and used Nuvite F9 on the main landing gear. I tried various methods. Most of it, I have done only one pass, but some areas with 2 passes and a small area with 3 passes and a follow up with Grade C. There is a lot of grain still showing on the main gear spring. I am tempted to try sanding (with aluminum oxide wet dry sandpaper). Do you think that is a bad idea?

You can see the grain in the bottom photo. Does anyone know of any tricks that one could do to knock the grain down?

I didn't fight the grain ... I enhanced it! I briefly considered polishing the gear legs, but knowing that area would probably be subject to the highest wear, I elected to just brush the legs with the grain with Scotchbrite and then clearcoated it with ProtectAClear. I really like the ProtectAClear coating - pretty tough, but if it gets scratched, you just clean up the area with some xylol and reapply. The best part - bug splatters easily wipe off.

Of course, this gives a matte finish - works well with a painted fuselage, but I guess would look good with a polished plane, too.

I started compound polishing mine when things were in the sub-assembly stage using Nuvite.  I heard of people polishing individual skins prior to installation so I tried that initially.  After I flung a few sheets across the garage or bent the crap out of a corner I decided to only work on completed pieces where the structure could hold up to the polishing process.  I did my first polishing of the wings while they were sitting vertically in the homemade storage rack.  I only polished the bottom wing surface (601XL) this one time in these stands.  I have not polished the bottom since I assembled the airplane...well I tried it once and gave up after about 5 minutes and sore arms.  It is too much work for something no one ever sees up close.  I took this train of thought to the fuselage bottom and painted it with Rustoleum aluminum color spray paint.  I have been flying for over 4 years now and try to give it ahit of polish each spring.  I did not have time this spring and it looks a bit cloudy as a result.  I have only used the compound polisher with Nuvite F9 and C polishes.  I have not gotten to the orbital polisher covered with flannel stage becasue I thought I still had too many milling marks on the skins to get rid of.  I should probably try it sometime and see what the result looks like.

It is very difficult to remove all the "stretch marks" out of the gear from when it was formed. I used wet/dry sand paper starting with 220, the going to 500, 800, 1000 and 1200 on the flat areas. I used a sanding block. I used a file on the edges to make them smooth and then sandpaper. I used Nuvite polish starting with F7, then going to C and then S. I used a variable spped polisher / sander from harbor freight. I only did the outside of the legs that shows. This took about 10 hours. I wish it was shiny like a mirror, but I need to get in the air someday! EAA has a good video on polishing.


Wow, you know its shiny when you can see yourself taking a picture on the part! Great job, looks beautiful. Hope it still does after 5 years!!! :)

Man, you guys are really into the polishing, I'm embarrassed to say my gear is in its natural state :-)

I've also gone the polishing route but have an issue with condensation in my hangar falling on the plane and combining with dust from a mining operation across from our airport leaving rings. A friend recommended using rejex coating after polishing to help protect the surface and so far it seems to be helping. 


Well, I have the polisher and polish that I had planned on using and have spent a couple of evenings polishing. First, for me, the process is not as bad as I had feared. Although it is not a job that will be completed over a weekend, I think I will be able to get through it before giving up. I borrowed an inexpensive polisher and then bought a Makita Sander/Polisher; the Makita is well worth the extra money. It is powerful and will hold any rpm with ease no matter the pressure (force) you put on it. I am using Nuvite but I don't believe it is necessarily any better than other brands. I chose Nuvite just because there seemed to be more experience with it on 6061 T6 with published procedures. So far, I have only used F9, a little F7, and Grade C.

I polished the landing gear by first sanding of some of the grain (roller milling marks) with a random orbit sander using aluminum oxide 220 grit sandpaper. I then followed by using a maroon scotchbrite pad on the random orbit sander. From there, I polished with F9 and went over it twice. Then I went over it once with Grade C. It looks pretty good but not perfect.

Then I rolled the fuselage on its side so I could start polishing the bottom. I am planning on flying it as soon as it is ready, whether or not I am done polishing. For this reason I am first polishing the areas that will be hard to do when the airplane is fully assembled. I polished the forwad fuselage area twice with the F9. Most of the work seems to happen during the first pass. I am not even sure it is necessary to make the second F9 pass where it is not so visibile. I am using more polish than what many are saying is optimum but I find I am able to feel "the sweet spot" with a little more polish than I would have thought. "The sweet spot" is when you have the right amount of polish that gives quickest results. Too much polish and it is "greasy" and does not cut. Too little, and the polish is gone right away and the bonnet is just spinning without cutting (moving aluminum). You can feel when it is just right because there is a lot of drag on the polisher. It also seems to polish better when I am polishing across the grain.

I'll report back when I have a little more experience. In the mean time, here a couple of photos.



looks great...might try polishing mine...thanks for sharing.


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