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Polishing my crank

Old 12-20-21, 12:21 AM
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Polishing my crank

Like "frosting the pastry," "wind surfing on Mt. Baldy," or "shaking hands with Abraham Lincoln," "polishing my crank" may sound dirty but it really isn't.

In this case, it was the result of planning a parts bin build for my recently acquired Cannondale, but then seeing how nice the paint was cleaning up and deciding that I needed to build it up with nicer looking parts. I had considered rebuilding it with the original parts, but when I started stripping it down I saw that they were too heavy and in too poor shape to even give a fair impression for a few test rides to see how I like the bike. So I started going through the parts bin to see what I could use. I've got an FSA Gossamer triple crankset that I've had for over ten years and at this point use almost exclusively for bin builds (more on that later). It's so chunky and badly scuffed up that I never want to leave it on a bike that I like any more, but it's perfectly functional, so I keep it around for quick builds of newly acquired frames.

I thought I'd do that again with the Cannondale, but as I polished up the beautiful, sparkly metallic blue paint, I began to fall in love. And so I started reevaluating what parts I had on hand. I've got some really nice 10-speed Shimano derailleurs and a set of SL-7900 indexed Dura-Ace downtube shifters, but I had no suitable crankset. Then I thought, maybe now is the time to take a deeper dive into the wonderful world of parts polishing. I've got some Mother's aluminum polish, and I've used it to very good effect on parts that were in basically good shape but had lost their luster. The Gossamer crank, unfortunately, started life as an anodized part and more than half of it still was anodized. So, recalling a few instructional threads I'd read here, I decided to pick up some oven cleaner and see how well the trick of removing anodizing works. I figured this crank couldn't get much uglier, so there wasn't much to lose.

It turns out, the trick works really well.

Stepping through this to show my progress, here's the crank with chainrings removed, showing its full patina.



I had tried sanding the anodizing off of the NDS crank arm, but the impracticality of that asserted itself quickly. For the drive side, I used nothing but Heavy Duty Easy Off and a wet sponge to get this result.



Next, I spent some time wet sanding, using 400, 600, 1000, 1200, 1500, and 2000 grit sandpaper, to get to this point:



Finally, a very little bit of work with Mother's Mag and Aluminum polish yielded a very shiny surface, shown here with the merely de-anodized NDS arm for contrast.



Another half hour or so going through the same process with the NDS arm, and I had a matched set.



And, of course, the thing that made this project worth undertaking was that I had some very lightly used chainrings to put on it.




Those with good eyes will see that I left a lot of small scratches. I hear you can work those out with more sanding, but I didn't want to do that much work. It also looks like I didn't sand the NDS arm down quite as well as I did the drive side. I'm OK with that too. I imagine after a few rides even the most perfectly polished part will start to look like what I've got here. The key for me was to get a crank looking nice enough to not detract from a frame that was starting to look nice. The frame isn't perfect either, so this is a good match. I also think the oversized tubes on the Cannondale will be more forgiving to the chunkiness of this crank than a steel frame would be.




Finally, I'd like to explain why I thought this was worth sharing. There have been other threads posted by people more skilled and more patient than myself. They've also left better instructions for how to do this yourself. Apart from being pleased with my own result and wanting to share, I thought it would be worthwhile showing others who, like myself, are impatient and unskilled at this sort of thing that they can, nevertheless, get some pleasing results.
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Old 12-20-21, 12:22 AM
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Also, I promised in the first post that I'd say more about the history of this crank as my go-to parts bin build crankset.

This crank was original equipment on a 2008 Kona Jake that I bought new. It originally had some FSA logo on it, but that disappeared before I started keeping pictures of my bikes. I used that bike for everything from commuting to cyclocross racing to weekend road rides. The crank has had a hard life, but when I sold that Kona Jake, I put a 46-36 cyclocross crank on it and kept the triple. Since then, it's been on a lot of bikes. Here's a brief pictorial history.

The original 2008 Kona Jake with the original black chainrings


2009 Surly Cross Check (powder coated as soon as I bought it)


2001 LeMond Nevada City, the FSA logo was gone by this point


2001 LeMond Buenos Aires


1984 Pinarello Gran Turismo, last appearance of the black chainrings


1976 Austro Daimler Ultima


1987 Pinarello Montello


1980 Schwinn Voyageur



Now that I've polished the crank, I feel like it has new life. Who knows how many more bikes I might use it on!
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Old 12-20-21, 12:27 AM
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That's a lotta crank love.
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Old 12-20-21, 12:30 AM
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My first thought is that this wouldn't work with a square taper bb. Things would get clicky or sloppy after a moving from so many bikes.

But wow, the travel of that triple! It seems rare to find something that works so well that you take it from bike to bike like you have.
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Old 12-20-21, 01:00 AM
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Originally Posted by billytwosheds View Post
My first thought is that this wouldn't work with a square taper bb. Things would get clicky or sloppy after a moving from so many bikes.

But wow, the travel of that triple! It seems rare to find something that works so well that you take it from bike to bike like you have.
Yeah. I've probably used at least four bottom brackets with it. The original FSA Mega Exo got gritty after a few thousand miles. Since then, I've been using it mostly with Shimano bottom brackets but through the random mix and match of whatever was on the shelf when I grabbed this, it's been a bit promiscuous.
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Old 12-20-21, 01:39 AM
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Originally Posted by billytwosheds View Post
My first thought is that this wouldn't work with a square taper bb. Things would get clicky or sloppy after a moving from so many bikes.

But wow, the travel of that triple! It seems rare to find something that works so well that you take it from bike to bike like you have.
Not sure where this comes from or is going.

Many of the cranks we swap around here have been on dozens of bikes over decades.

I had a "Mighty" Sugino Mighty Competition set that I got on my first good bike in high school, I rode it 1000's of miles then including the first belated overhaul after the BB had the pathetic factory grease washed out before I realized it was going south in waterlogged PDX. I got the tools, a supply of new bearings, proceeded to carefully replace bearings and grease monthly for several months to mitigate the damage to the cups and spindle. After that frame broke, it was eventually moved to a Raleigh SC that was also ridden many 1000's of miles before that was stolen.

I would bet good money its still going strong as are all of the old cranks I have acquired here and on the bikes I have also gotten from all different sources.

Just my 2 cents and I know it seems like some don't hold up.

I did have one that I thought was creaking, turned out to be a cracked frame.
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Old 12-20-21, 02:41 AM
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Blue Magic polish is much better than Mother's or anything else.

In the 2000's I had a sports car with very expensive HRE wheels which were non-clearcoated polished aluminum. I was living in NJ unfortunately and the rain up there is very hard water. The water spots it left after every single rain shower were horrific, almost like it was corroding the aluminum. I tried Mother's and every other store bought polish and nothing would get rid of the spots, not even a little bit. Then I came across Blue Magic at Advanced Auto and it completely wiped them off with no effort. Now I use it to restore and polish up vintage bike parts. Mirror finish after wetsanding.

https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Magic-40.../dp/B000BO8Z9I
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Old 12-20-21, 05:28 AM
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I've got the same crank. I picked my copy up at the coop just to try the outboard bearing thing. I was actually quite impressed with the lightness but the look bothered me. I will say I use much smaller rings. It usually has 24-41-bash guard. Mine is also grossly underpolished. Frankly I should use it on any bike I ride a lot because it's an excellent crank.
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Old 12-20-21, 09:02 AM
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That looks real nice Andy. I did something similar once with a set of I believe Veloce cranks. They had that cheap plastic looking dull gray finish (no not the Century finish) so I did a similar process sanding off the finish and working my way down to 1000 grit paper. I then made some water slide Campy shield logos to replace the ones I sanded off.


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Old 12-20-21, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Lazyass View Post
Blue Magic polish is much better than Mother's or anything else.
I haven't had any complaints with Mothers, but I'm always interested in different products. I have no idea how any of them work. With Mothers, I know if it turns dark gray when I rub it on it's probably going to work. I don't know if that's a chemical reaction or the result of light abrasion. Blue Magic claims to be non-abrasive, so it must be triggering a chemical reaction.

I did have one case where an old stem wasn't improving with Mothers and I had to sand it a bit. I don't think it was anodized. It was just extremely weathered. After sanding it shined up pretty well. I wonder if Blue Magic would have worked better in this case.

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Old 12-20-21, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Spaghetti Legs View Post
That looks real nice Andy. I did something similar once with a set of I believe Veloce cranks. They had that cheap plastic looking dull gray finish (no not the Century finish) so I did a similar process sanding off the finish and working my way down to 1000 grit paper. I then made some water slide Campy shield logos to replace the ones I sanded off.
That looks great. How well did it hold the shine? Did the decals last?
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Old 12-20-21, 02:02 PM
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I always love to show pictures after I polished my crank. This is on my '71 Bob Jackson.

One thing I found important after spending a lot of time polishing my crank was that I also needed to wax to keep everything clean. To be clear, I mean wax my chain.
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Old 12-20-21, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
That looks great. How well did it hold the shine? Did the decals last?
Held the shine pretty well and decals were great. I think I brushed a little clear coat on top and they still looked good when I sold the cranks after a couple thousand miles of fair weather riding.

I found a couple pics. One is the crank after about 3 years of use and the other is before the strip and polish.



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Old 12-20-21, 05:40 PM
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I picked this home made grinder up at a yard sale one day for a very small cost...


I can achieve terrific results in very short order with it. I did, however, have to buy/install a cloth wheel and buy a couple of sticky of polishing compound...


The results are top notch, in my opinion...
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