Polished Aluminum Tanks

Ah, the polished aluminum tanks. They're probably the most dramatic and distinctive feature of my bikes. They look fantastic, but it takes a tremendous amount of work to get there. For almost the last two weeks I've been working on the tanks for the Grand Prix bike. I've alternately been excited and worn out. Hopeful and discouraged. It's that hard to make these things. 

The goal is a perfectly formed and perfectly polished surface, but along the way you have to go from a flat sheet of aluminum that you've banged on with a mallet and welded and ground down to an apparently perfect surface. In between is a lot of patience and effort. 

Starting out is kind of fun. I've gotten so I can form the parts of a tank pretty efficiently. Within a day or two you can see the basic form of a tank take shape. But then comes the welding. That introduces a big seam that has to be ground down, and it changes the shapes of the parts. All of that has to be corrected with a mallet, a pick, and a lot of sanding. After a day or two of work you can feel like you'll never get the tank smooth and straight. Imagine taking a sheet of aluminum and randomly beating on it with a mallet and then using that same mallet to remove all of the dents you make with absolutely no evidence that they were ever there. It's that hard. 

Except  that it's actually a lot harder. Not only must you remove any evidence of any dents or dings, you have to make perfectly uniform and smooth curves that flow into one another and into flat surfaces without any imperfections. The tiniest of imperfections will show up in the reflections on the tank. 

Anyway, after nearly two weeks of working on the tanks, I finally polished the oil tank yesterday and all the effort and anguish is worth it. It's the best I've ever done. It's almost flawless. Beautiful smooth surfaces with flowing curves. And the polish is excellent too. That's another skill that you might think would be easy but it's not. You have to balance the right amount and type of polishing compound with just the right amount of pressure and you have to go over the tank again and again. But, as I said, I finished the oil tank today and it's all going to be worth it. When the gas tank is done, it should be spectacular and the most prominent feature of this bike will be done.