As our MGBs age the anodizing on a lot of windscreen frames starts to lift off and make for a mottled and unsightly appearance. It cannot be polished, since the anodizing is a coating on the aluminum frame.
There has been a lot of discussion on the boards about stripping the windscreen frame with several suggestions on how to do it. Some of them are good, some bad. The most prevalent recommendation seems to center around using multiple types of sandpaper, a lot of time, and a lot of elbow grease. It has also been suggested to use a mechanical polisher/sander to remove the anodizing. Although these methods will work the chance of sanding low spots or grooves into the pieces is something to consider, especially if a mechanical sander is used.
One should note that the side pillars are cast of a different, and harder, aluminum than the top and bottom rails. Sanding or grinding on one piece will have different results than sanding or grinding the other pieces. Whatever the case may be it should be cautioned that the aluminum is relatively soft and should be treated accordingly. This is evidenced by the number of bottom windscreen rails that have had dings beaten into them over the years by the wiper blades.
What follows is the Easy-off method that was related to me by a board member years ago. Ed Meadors (Eddie Petty on the BBS) was an accomplished restorer, not only of MGs but other vehicles. He took a rusted hulk of a tractor that looked like scrap junk and made it new as the day it rolled out of the dealer and the last time I heard from him he was restoring a Beardsmore taxi. I used his method to strip my windscreen after spending a lot of time physically sanding a side pillar.
The method is pretty simple and should take only take a couple of hours or less to do a disassembled frame. It is, however, a bit messy. The up side is that you can do it in a lot less time than physically removing the anodizing with little chance of damaging the frame. The down side is that it can be a bit messy, which is why you should do it outside. Pick a good place to work, preferably outside where you have access to a hose. I use a couple of sawhorses with a chunk of plywood as the table. You will need the following items:
- Easy-off oven cleaner. One can of Easy-off should do the job, but get two and do your oven while you're in the mood.
- Gloves. The yellow ones like Dexter's mom wears, the kind you would use to clean an oven with.
- Safety glasses. Remember, this stuff is caustic, being a lye product. Take care not to get it in your eyes. If you get Easy-off on your skin simply rinse it off with the hose. Prolonged exposure is not recommended.
- Steel wool. Some coarse steel wool and some 000 or 0000 steel wool.
- Small bowl. Metal or china. Don't use the Wedgwood.
- Water hose.
Take one of the pieces and spray it down well with the Easy-off. One important tip is that you need to keep the piece you are working on wet with the Easy-off at all times. Do not let it dry on the piece for any real length of time or else it will form small pits in the surface. Do one piece at a time. Once you have liberally sprayed the piece let the Easy-off work for a few minutes. Spray some Easy-off into the bowl you have sitting there. After a few seconds you will see the anodizing foaming up. As you keep it wet with Easy-off you can start scrubbing it with the coarse steel wool. Dip your steel wool into the bowl and keep it wet as you continue to scrub. Once you've gone over the piece take the water hose and rinse the piece thoroughly. Use a cloth or paper towels to dry it and you can see if there are spots that need more attention. They will appear as whitish patches. Spray them down and go over them again. I like to finish scrubbing with the 0000 steel wool. Always rinse the piece you have just finished stripping with plenty of water. Dry it off and you now have a clean frame ready for the finish of your choice. If you have dings or minor scratches in the frame pieces you can now sand them smooth with some 800, 1000, or 1500 grit wet sandpaper. Be careful not to sand grooves into the piece.
Initially, I polished a spare side pillar to a mirror finish on the buffing wheel using white rouge. It didn't really appeal to me so I ended up going over the frame after it was stripped with 0000 steel wool and Blue Magic polish. When you are using metal polish and 0000 steel wool it is a good idea to stop every now and then, wipe the piece off with a soft cloth, and see what the finish looks like. It is possible to get it pretty shiny with just the steel wool and the polish. My frame ended up as close to the original finish as I could get without sending it out to be anodized. No coating was applied to the frame, I just hit it with Nevr-dull once every few months and it looks just as good as it did when it was finished 7 years ago.
If you prefer the mirror finish then you'll need to keep going. Get a loose section buffing wheel for your bench grinder and a stick of white rouge. One really useful accessory for a bench grinder that is being used as a buffer is a shaft extension. This will put the buff wheel out further from the motor and make it easier to work with the piece you are buffing.
A word of caution here; a buffing wheel is like having your own pet rattlesnake. It can snatch a piece of trim made of unobtainium out of your hands faster than you can blink an eye while simultaneously twisting it into a useless pretzel and slicing a finger off for good measure. You must use caution; never hold a thin edge to the wheel. Always buff off to the edge of a piece. Always wear gloves.
With the wheel spinning load up some rouge on it by holding the stick end-on to the wheel for a couple of seconds. You'll see the stick melting as the wheel picks the rouge up. It doesn't take a lot. Start buffing the piece by passing it back and forth with light pressure against the wheel. Stop every few seconds and use a soft cloth to clean the buffed area so you can see how it is progressing. Take it in small steps and pretty soon you will have the feel for it.
A great resource for buffing information and supplies is Eastwood's Metal Polishing & Buffing Article
This method worked nicely for me but you must observe basic safety precautions. Follow the label instructions on the Easy-off and wear protective gloves and eye protection. Use at your own risk.
With a bit of work you can have your windscreen frame looking new again. Stripping and polishing it will yield great results and is one of those restoration tasks that is very rewarding to look at. A nicely done windscreen really sets the front of the car off.
- Wray Lemke, Mt. Pleasant, SC