Go Back   ADVrider > Bikes > Old's Cool > Airheads
User Name
Register Inmates Photos Site Rules Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 06-15-2012, 08:55 AM   #16
240sx4u OP
Gnarly Adventurer
240sx4u's Avatar
Joined: Oct 2008
Location: Madison
Oddometer: 295
I figured this would really bring people out of the woodwork. Thanks for the perspective guys.
240sx4u is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-11-2012, 01:26 PM   #17
puncar thogoole
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: Oct 2006
Oddometer: 238
Thought I'd revive an older thread rather than starting another.

I kind of agree that Rub n Buff might make our old Airhead alloy look a little too blingy if overdone but wondered about the black Ebony Rub n Buff, anyone tried it on the frame & black parts?
My frame isn't rusty it's just a bit tired, chips & discoloured areas, I've tried a few products but nothing really does it, in a perfect world I'd strip her down, media blast the frame & re-paint or powder coat but it doesn't really warrant that at the moment.
Thought I'd just ask if anyone has tried black RnB on the frame just to save me ordering something that ain't gonna work if it's no good..
puncar thogoole is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2013, 01:09 PM   #18
puncar thogoole
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: Oct 2006
Oddometer: 238
Ok I'll answer my own question for the benefit of others, seeing as no one else has thought of using Ebony Rub-n-Buff on the frame because nobody else is a smart as me

Works pretty well, OK it didn't make my frame look as new but it made it look much better.
puncar thogoole is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2013, 01:18 PM   #19
Kai Ju
Beastly Adventurer
Kai Ju's Avatar
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: So Cal
Oddometer: 1,910
Thanks for the tip.

Thanks for letting us know about the ebony on the frame.
What I really want to know is what the ebony does to the aluminum. Does it simply turn it dark or actually black? Inquiring minds need to know.
Kai Ju is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2013, 01:41 PM   #20
rockin' the toaster
Renner's Avatar
Joined: Jul 2007
Location: sunny SoCal
Oddometer: 2,331
I tried the "pewter" Rub'n'Buff last night.
It's a near-perfect color match to the fork sliders.

Truthfully I prefer the clean, natural casting.
OTOH this stuff is primarily carnuba wax (with metallic powders & pigment) and easily stripped with acetone.

Not necessarily a bad thing.
"If you want to fix it with a rock, you have to stick to stone-age technology" -Anton
"...solving the latest crisis that is preventing my Airhead from taking me to the bar." -Beater-
Renner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2013, 06:22 PM   #21
Beastly Adventurer
DaveBall's Avatar
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: Vancouver Island
Oddometer: 1,163
Not everybody has the ability nor can afford to do the full media blasting, Soda or otherwise. So, using a product like Rub'N'Buff makes a lot of sense. Especially on things like wheels and engine casings. I have a small media blasting cabinet that I use 3 different grades of glass beads in. It works great to get rid of all the staining and dicolourations, but once finished, I will sometimes use the pewter Rub'n'Buff on a part to give it a little bit of brightness and to give it some protection. It is easy and works. I really like it on snowflake wheels.
DaveBall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2013, 06:48 PM   #22
Gnarly Adventurer
dmftoy1's Avatar
Joined: Feb 2012
Location: Lexington, IL
Oddometer: 249
I used some silver leaf rub n buff on an airhead air cleaner that had oxidized horribly and had huge black spotches that no amount of scrubbing could get off. Even sand blasting just lightened them. Was real happy with how it turned out.
dmftoy1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2013, 07:17 PM   #23
Horizontally Opposed
Joined: May 2008
Location: U-puku-ipi-sing
Oddometer: 6,775
I found the rubnbuff worked well on the grungy oxidised steel fasteners that had given up their cad plated finish. Shock bolts and the like brushed up clean then wiped with the rubnbuff, looked quite good.
Pitted and oxy'd chrome parts looked much better with some RNB.
But after a year or two and rain the oxy is poking back through...
I tried it on aluminum but it looked too fake.
danedg is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-05-2013, 08:44 AM   #24
Wannabe rider
backdrifter's Avatar
Joined: Jan 2005
Location: Belleville, IL
Oddometer: 1,364
I've said a lot about Rub N' Buff in my build thread, but I'll add my input here too.

One thing I hear a lot is that it seems silly and people liken it to "makeup for your engine". I think that's a silly way to look at it. I've spent less than a collective hour applying Rub N' Buff to my engine during my rebuild, and it is going to prevent oxidation and ensure that the engine looks good for quite some time. Most people don't think it's silly to wax your tank or fenders to protect them and keep them looking good. In my mind an engine should be no different. I've worked very hard to remove all of the aluminum oxide from my old girl, and I think with a single application per year over the winter when I can't be riding anyway, the oxidation will never return as long as I own this bike.

From what I've seen (I haven't used it), Pewter is a good color if you want to achieve the look of clean but used and road-worn aluminum. Silver leaf is a great color if you want your parts to look very close to freshly media-blasted cast aluminum. Very close, but not perfect. There is a slight difference in the tone. I've attached a few photos for comparison. My take on it is that the RNB has a slightly cooler hue to it, and the natural aluminum is slightly warmer. If you've ever seen a chrome wheel next to a highly polished aluminum wheel, I feel this is very similar. The chrome wheel will be cooler in color with more of a blue tint, and the aluminum will be warmer. It is a subtle difference, and I think that anyone would be VERY hard pressed to determine if a clean engine did or did not have RNB applied without a second bike to compare it to.

Engine block has RNB, valve cover does not:

Engine block and covers have RNB, cylinder, head, and valve covers do not (yet):

Another thing I hear is that it looks too fake. I think a lot of this comes down to application. I've learned a lot applying the stuff over the course of my project. First, DON'T USE TOO MUCH!!! Less is better. If you put a pea-sized dab on your finger, you're overdoing it by a long shot. You need a tiny fraction of that amount. If you put too much on, it will completely fill all of the casting crevices in the aluminum. This makes the surface appear smoother, and I think this is what many people see that makes them think RNB looks too fake. If you apply very little at a time, lightly, it will just fill the high spots and leave all of those little dimples, and will look much, much more natural, as you can see here (RNB on all the cast aluminum in this photo):

You can also see what I'm talking about in the photo above with the engine block and the valve cover. See how you can still see all of those little dimples in the aluminum in the engine block? That's what you want to go for. If you fill them in, and you can, then the whole surface looks too much like plastic.

The other thing is buffing. The less you buff after applying RNB, the more dull of a finish you get. The more you buff, the more of a metallic sheen you get. In my opinion you can both underdo and overdo it. There's a happy medium when buffing that gets just the right sheen and truly looks like clean aluminum. It's not rocket science, buff a little and keep going until you get the look you like. This all sounds like a pain, but it can be done very quicky with very little effort.

To address the question about black RNB on the frame, it doesn't work nearly as well as RNB does on the cast aluminum bits. In my experience, RNB works far better with porous materials. The smoother the surface is, the more poorly it will work. I just bought some black RNB just to try it out on a few areas of the bike.

Here's a nasty scratch that I managed to put in the swingarm because I didn't remember to cover it when remounting the engine :

After RNB:

Sorry the "after" shot was out of focus, but you can see that the RNB did get rid of the color difference, but does nothing to fill in the scratch. It looks better for sure, but not perfect. It will have to do in this case since I'm not going to have the swingarm powder coated again. It's certainly better than before.

Here's my clutch lever perch before RNB:

And after:

Shinier, but not much better looking (in my opinion). I was hoping this might do the trick, but I now know I will have to paint or powder coat the perches.

This is how much I used to do both jobs above, and it was too much:

So, the stuff definitely has its place. I think it's a great solution and it can make very poor looking parts look near brand new very quickly and very inexpensively. If someone was the really lazy type, they could apply RNB straight to a dirty and oxidized airhead engine and make it look a million times better in about an hour (with the majority of that time taken up by those darn cylinder cooling fins) for under $5. Not a bad investment at all, if aesthetics matter to you.
"We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living."
-Thich Nhat Hanh

1973 BMW R60/5:

backdrifter screwed with this post 01-05-2013 at 08:51 AM
backdrifter is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-05-2013, 09:50 AM   #25
Boxer Metal
Mad Scientist
Boxer Metal's Avatar
Joined: Nov 2003
Location: Chico, California
Oddometer: 3,570
After originally reading this thread I order some. It is pretty amazing. Has anyone done in longevity test with this stuff to see how long/well it holds up?
BMW Biker Scum
BMW Mad Scientist!
VBMWMO #7770, BMW MOA #48694 & Airhead BMW Club #600
Boxer Metal is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-05-2013, 12:41 PM   #26
because I can
Joined: Sep 2010
Location: San Francisco Bay area
Oddometer: 9,116
Originally Posted by Airhead Wrangler View Post
Oil seals serve a vital function. Rubbing silver goop onto aluminum to make it look "more" like aluminum doesn't.. The same people must have developed those bathtub inserts. They share the philosophy that instead of fixing a relatively simple problem it's better to just hide it under a bunch of cheap crap that won't last.
I totally agree yet again. I hadn't read this thread until today. I got a few laughs out of it! Personally, I think any kind of painted on aluminum look looks lake crap. I can spot it a mile away. Including photos of that silvery stuff in this thread. Black painted engines look good for a year or two.

No one started at the beginning. WASH your bike! Then they won't get so nasty looking to start with! Airheads go on and on about maintenance. Washing a bike IS maintenance! You can not properly maintain a dirty bike!

I wonder what kind of dry blast patanga was using? I have used finer sand and glass on tons of BMW motorcycle parts and have never run into his troubles. Glass bead does not leave a sharp edge?
supershaft is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-05-2013, 01:01 PM   #27
Wannabe rider
backdrifter's Avatar
Joined: Jan 2005
Location: Belleville, IL
Oddometer: 1,364
If you can spot the difference between my cylinders and my engine block in the photo I posted above from a mile away, then you have much better eyes than I do.

I absolutely DID clean the engine, and will continue to do so regularly - it's obviously the way to do it right. After that, a little RNB will ensure that it STAYS clean. Wax guys, that's all it is. Don't over think this.
"We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living."
-Thich Nhat Hanh

1973 BMW R60/5:
backdrifter is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-05-2013, 02:06 PM   #28
rockin' the toaster
Renner's Avatar
Joined: Jul 2007
Location: sunny SoCal
Oddometer: 2,331
I'm putting a swb/5 together from parts.
scored some fork sliders cheap at a friend's garage, they looked like crap.
now experimenting with making them look better.

scrubbing with brass brushes & scotch brite (green) in my parts cleaning tank got them 'clean'.

this one's the worst of the two, after cleaning.

I did some studying earlier.

reportedly, phosphoric acid gives good results and is not terribly toxic.
(Used in coca-cola, it can be sourced 85% pure food-grade from

I shopped around and found this stuff which includes a fair percent of it.

^ these results were after three application at ~90 seconds each.

I then rinsed the slider in water with baking soda to neutralize the acid.
I'd say the results were better than it appears in the pic, but still those oxide freckles...

Here I've applied RnB pewter, obviously just in "quadrant of the cylinder" under the cast roundel.

below: same but with different lighting.
no RnB on the axle buttress, or left of the roundel.

for comparison we have here the second slider in the foreground, scrubbed and cleaned with solvent only (nice patina ).
Slider in back done complete in RnB pewter except for the upper, gaiter area.

in the pic below: foreground slider after etching with Aluminum Brightener (aka phosphoric acid).

IMO the etched slider would eventually oxidize to the pewter color.
I've not tried RnB "silver leaf" but it may closely resemble the freshly etched slider.

Same two as above, different lighting.

as seen below, I went ahead and waxed the second slider with the RnB.
(neither one was scrubbed, etched or waxed in the gaiter 'land'... that ~3 in. area at the top of the slider)

IMO it's a big improvement on these second hand parts. No way have they ever looked this good in this century.
from"Rub 'n Buff is made from imported carnauba waxes, fine metallic powders, and select pigments."

It contains a petroleum distillate which keeps it soft for application, and as this evaporates the wax hardens.
Easily removed with acetone, I like how it protects the aluminum from further oxidation while making it easier to keep the surface clean.
I guess it lasts about as long as a good wax lasts on patent leather shoes: depends on the duty.

Honestly, I'm not a 'cleaning' enthusiast and can't afford to spend a lot of time at it.
Having made the effort to get these castings clean, it's nice to keep them so while minimizing further effort down the road.

And I believe it will make the next owner happy as well.
"If you want to fix it with a rock, you have to stick to stone-age technology" -Anton
"...solving the latest crisis that is preventing my Airhead from taking me to the bar." -Beater-

Renner screwed with this post 01-05-2013 at 02:23 PM
Renner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-05-2013, 07:22 PM   #29
maximum shrinkage
squiffynimrod's Avatar
Joined: Mar 2010
Location: Flatskatchewan
Oddometer: 1,544
Thanks for the excellent research and posting the results. Anyone know of a source in Canuckistan? The local Micheals Crafts have no idea what this product is when I looked for some before.
Posting all the bikes you have or have owned in this spot is stupid.
squiffynimrod is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-05-2013, 07:48 PM   #30
rockin' the toaster
Renner's Avatar
Joined: Jul 2007
Location: sunny SoCal
Oddometer: 2,331
I couldn't find "pewter" here on the shelf, so ordered it online.
"If you want to fix it with a rock, you have to stick to stone-age technology" -Anton
"...solving the latest crisis that is preventing my Airhead from taking me to the bar." -Beater-
Renner is offline   Reply With Quote


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump

Times are GMT -7.   It's 03:12 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.5
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ADVrider 2011-2015