Aluminum is a soft metal that needs to be “finished” for appearance and durability. “Raw” aluminum that hasn’t been finished scratches easily and collects fingerprints and grease. Here’s a quick and relatively simple method for finishing aluminum Eurorack panels with a scouring pad (and help from a cheap palm sander), then sealing with acrylic. Perfect for one-off DIY modules, prototypes, or trying out graphics before screen-printing.
UPDATE: PANELS NOW FOR SALE [HERE].
5052 .08 inch (2 mm) aluminum alloy from the fab.
Panels have tooling marks and are easily scratched. Fortunately, even panels this badly scratched are easily cleaned up.
Here the surface has been heavily scuffed to a matte finish with a scouring pad. Not only does it look nice, but it’s more resistant to scratches and fingerprints.
These were deliberately scratched to see how well even deep scratches can be removed.
Tools of the trade: Hand file for removing tooling tabs off corners, Cheap “random orbit” palm sander ($10), “Scotch-Brite” scouring pads, and degreaser.
The working surface has a foam pad to help hold the workpiece.
The scouring pad handily sticks to the sander’s velcro loops. The scouring pad should contain aluminum-oxide abrasive — many off-brand scouring pads have no abrasive. They will still work, just not as quickly.
Move the sander in quick circular motions for a couple minutes with decreasing pressure.
Watch for tracks caused by buildup trapped underneath scouring pad. If that happens remove the debris and keep going.
Very deep scratches can be removed with regular sandpaper.
After scuffing. Surface is more resistant to scratches and has a soft matte finish.
What a difference!
Panels with pre-cut holes scuff evenly.
Close up of the texture before acrylic coating. An optional step is to give the panel a soaking in Sodium Hydroxide for a very smooth matte finish that looks anodized. The panels are cleaned with a degreaser then given a couple light coats of acrylic spray paint.
The acrylic coating helps the toner stick to the panel. A light spray of water holds the paper down for alignment, and a sheet of foil and then parchment-paper between the toner-transfer sheet and the iron distributes the heat better and prevents the iron from moving the transfer paper. This is a very awkward step that takes some practice. Fortunately, mistakes are easily removed with some acetone and a shot of acrylic.
Another coat of acrylic and the panel is done.
Finishing Stages. Raw Aluminum -> Scuffed -> Coated-> Labelled & Coated
After final acrylic coating the surface is durable and looks pretty good for a prototype.