Most homes and man caves are filled with the same old flat pack furniture from some boring old furniture shop. The art on the walls are from a budget high street chain or quickly thrown together with a few paint strokes that have been inspired by the latest fads on a DIY TV show. It doesn’t have to be that way… for a little bit of extra effort and a reasonable investment, you can have some unique and exciting mirror polished aviation themed art and furniture around your home. It will be very shiny, it will have real history and it will make you the envy of your friends.
Before dreaming of a dining table made from a fighter jet wing or an awesome mirror polished WW2 era propeller hanging on your wall, you need the correct tools. Without the correct tools you will fall at the first hurdle. I learnt this from bitter experience after thinking I could achieve a mirror finish on one piece, with a simple drill mounted polishing set! Unless the item is small, it won’t happen. There are a wide range of tool available whatever your budget. The more you spend however, the longer they will last (meaning you can create future pieces) and they will also make light work of the job at hand.
Essentially two or three different tools are required. The first and most important tool you will need is an orbital sander with various grades of sandpaper, ranging from 200 or 400 grit right up to 1000 or even 2000 grit. You can purchase a good sander for around £45, which will be ideal for most small to medium projects. If you spend upwards of £250 however, you will have a good strong workhorse that is perfect for large or multiple projects.
Some orbital sanders, through use of attachments also double up as a buffer for the compound/polishing stage. This is a good way of saving you money, however it may be worth having a separate tool for this (again prices range from approx £50-£300+) to minimise wear and tear. You will need three buffing heads and various polishing compounds depending on the piece you are working on. For example you will need different compounds for aluminium as you would titanium or steel. I personally recommend the Nuvite Nu-Shine range, as it saves you having to muck around with compound blocks which can be very messy.
Finally you’ll need a good polishing tool. I highly recommend the Cyclo ‘Orbital’ 6CE, which although expensive at around £350 it will not leave any polishing streaks! It achieves this through two unique polishing heads that mimic the circular motion of your hand. This will save you endless hours of trying to achieve a streak free mirror finish. Finally other tools you will need will be the usual screwdrivers, spanners, hacksaws etc and a mini powered polishing set for the nook and crannies.
Now you have the correct tools, you need to decide what furniture or art you want to make, set a budget and stick to it! Also plan your project thoroughly. For example if you wish to make a plane wing desk, how will it stand on its own? Will it have power points built in? Will you have drawers? Will you fit lighting? Research all the methods for making the parts you’ll need, such as the table legs, the best way of fitting them etc. Preparation is key.
When it comes to buying aircraft parts, eBay is your friend. There are literally thousands of plane parts from full working jet engines to simple cockpit dials. Many have a wealth of history and a story to tell or some are ‘new old parts’ that were never used. When it comes to history, for example a crashed WW2 Spitfire wing, I generally wouldn’t recommend buying it, stripping all the paint off, polishing it and turning into furniture. That would destroy real history and it should be left as it is and hung on your wall. Instead look for common objects, such as RAF Tornado panels that are fairly readily available and can’t be traced to a specific aircraft. These make fantastic wall hangings and are generally available for around £150. My latest project was based around a Tornado panel and makes a good subject for this article.
The piece I recently completed was an RAF Tornado engine panel that was turned into a fantastic piece of mirror polished wall art. The panel itself I purchased from eBay for £180 and it’s unique in that it suffered some damage (a fist sized hole) during a heavy landing. This automatically turns it into an interesting conversation starter. But how to turn it into mirror polished wall art? You can apply the following process to most of your aviation projects, be it an ejector seat office chair or a plane wing desk. Take your time, have patience and save thousands of pounds over buying one that has already been done for you.
Note: Use a face mask and goggles while completing the following process. Work in a well-ventilated area and expect to get messy.
I wanted the panel to be a piece of wall art, so before even attempting the polishing process, I fitted the wall fixings to the panel. It’s essential you do any cutting or drilling at the beginning to prevent damage to your new mirror finish! Once complete you can start sanding.
The panel was still covered in its aviation paint, which refuses to budge with standard paint stripper. Aviation paint is incredibly thin but also very strong, so the most obvious way to remove it was through sanding. I also noticed various deep scratches that I wanted to remove, so I attached a 400 grit paper to the orbital sander and got stuck in. Move slowly and continually along the panel to keep an even sanding pattern until the paint has been removed and any deep scratches are reduced. Also use a sanding compound such as Kangaroo oil to control the depth of the ‘cut’. This is essential otherwise you won’t achieve a uniform finish.
Following the initial sanding, I moved up to 600, then 800, 1000 and finally (not essential) 2000 grit paper. Keep moving slowly and uniformly. Each step smooths the aluminium that bit further making it the perfect base for a mirror finish. Remember to use the Kangaroo oil! Once complete, wipe down the panel to remove any dust.
The next stage is the compound stage using the buffer tool. This removes the sanding marks and achieves an ever brighter and reflective finish. The compound effectively cuts into the metal, removes blemishes and polishes the metal. I dabbed the Nu-Shine compound in small quantities all over the panel (which was looking fantastic already) started up the buffer and moved slowly all over the panel until it was covered in the compound. Once covered, turn up the speed of the buffer and, as before, move uniformly and slowly over the panel until the metal starts to shine through. By this stage the panel already looked superb, but it wasn’t finished yet. Look at the panels from all angles and check for any sanding/compound marks that may still remain and repeat the process if necessary.
Finally it’s time for the polishing stage. Again dab the polish all over the panel in small quantities and run your polishing tool all over the panel slowly. Once covered start running the polisher over the panel until the metal starts to shine through. Change the polishing pad to a clean one and remove any remaining residue and admire your mirror polished aviation art!
I didn’t want to stop there however. As fantastic as the panel looked, I felt I could take it one step further. I created some blueprint artwork of a Tornado on black anodised trophy aluminium and attached it to the front of the panel so the viewer would know where the part came from. I also then fitted some high quality blue LED lights to the reverse that would shine through any openings and surround the panel in a blue hue on the wall. This looks fantastic at night.
Not taking the tools or man hours into account, the whole project with the extras cost around £300-330. If you went out and bought something similar, you could easily end up spending £1000, so the additional cost of the tools seems insignificant.
So there you have it, a unique piece of aviation art for your living room. With some investment, you’ll be well on your way to making some aviation based furniture.
Steve Gillions is Director of The Man Shed, a company that sells various handmade products suitable for man caves and man sheds by artists and engineers worldwide, as well as in-house built aviation and motor sport themed projects.
Article Source: https://EzineArticles.com/expert/Steve_Gillions/2003255