This question/comment was recently posted on the "Before and After" thread:
"is(are) there tutorials on restorations in the forum??
that would be awesome"
Since I'm starting a couple of new restoration projects, and have had some minor success in reviving old frames, bearings, and shiny parts in the past, I thought I'd throw it out there for everyone to comment on as they wish.
I'll start the thread with my two-bits (and that's about all it is) about what I do first on any new-to-me bike that I work on.
1. Take detailed pictures of the bike it as it was delivered. This will help you appreciate your progress as you go, and also help get things back together if there are any questions. (Most importantly it allows you to show the off your work when it's done.)
2. Get it on a workstand and spray down all the nuts, bolts, derailers, pedals, cable openings, and seatpost with a penetrating oil (Tri-Flow, WD-40, etc.). Anything that you are going to want to remove will need it.
3. After the rust is loosened up remove the wheels and all the little parts. I try to get the bike down to a bare frame, with just stem/handlebars, fork, and crankset still attached.
4. Put everything you removed in zip-lock baggies and label them (this is especially important if you have multiple projects going on.) I also try to put things back together before they go in a bag if they were taken apart because sometimes a couple days later I can't remember how it all fits together.
5. Check the headset and bottom brackets bearings to see how tight they are. If things (the fork or the cranks) have any slop in them then bearings may need to be replaced.
6. Remove the stem, forks, clean off the bearings and races and see if bearings are smooth and round. Place them in a bag for later greasing/repacking.
7. Remove bottom bracket and do the same thing. Bag the bearings, cups, spindle, and clean out the old grease and check inside the frame for rust. Now is a good time to apply some kind of frame-saver or rust inhibitor to the interior of all tubing on the bike.
8. Start cleaning and inspecting the frame. At this point you can determine how serious the renovation will need to be.
9. Depending on the condition of the paint and frame, I will polish it with a rubbing compound and car wax. Any touch up that is needed should be done before final polishing and waxing.
10. Next I start cleaning and polishing each little piece before reinstalling. Anything chrome gets rubbed with really fine steel wool to remove the rust. If you want it to shine then do every single bolt, nut, etc. Aluminum parts get the same treatment with a small ball of tin (aluminum) foil. I also use a metal polish/paint polish on all these parts after they sparkle to protect them in the future. Be careful with printing or model names painted on aluminum (derailers, etc.) because steel wool or tin foil can remove it.
11. Reassembly begins, which typically happens in the reverse order of the tear-down. I always put on new cables and cable housing.
12. Wheels, hubs etc. should also be cleaned and polished (although this is my least favorite part) and just take a lot of time with steel wool or aluminum foil before oxidation is removed and they look okay.
13. Get it all back together and ride it.
This is way more information than I originally intended to post, but its how I go about (in a very basic sense) restoring a bike, usually over the course of a week or more.
I'm anxious to hear other's detailed descriptions of how they take care of paint and chrome especially. I've read about but never used Oxalic Acid for rust so that would be nice to learn more about as well.