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Polished Crankset

June 26th, 2008 [print] Go to comments

I was inspired to do this project after seeing RL Policar’s How To Bling Your Bike For Less Than $5.00 post on MtnBikeRiders.com last week.

I had recently bought a used Shimano FC-M510 crankset off eBay for my wife’s bike, as a replacement for her Shimano Tourney crankset.  She likes the Tourney because of its integrated chainguard, but it’s always bugged me that the chainrings are riveted on, as opposed to bolted.  Once riveted chainrings wear out, the entire crankset is useless, since the rings can’t be replaced.  It was also a bit on the heavy side which, for someone like me, is downright blasphemous.

Not wanting to spend a lot of money, I ordered a used crankset from eBay.  While waiting for it to arrive, I found the above mentioned article and decided I’d give it a try.

The crankset arrived very scratched up, just as I had expected, but in perfect condition otherwise (unfortunately, the picture doesn’t do the paint damage justice, as it was far worse in person than it looks).  Also, a couple teeth on the large chainring looked as though they had a bite taken out of them by a piece of concrete, but this won’t matter once I’m done (you’ll see why).

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The first thing I did was (weigh it) remove the chainrings, then I gave it a thick coating of Citristrip paint stripper from Home Depot.  I let it do it’s job for about an hour, then came back to find that it basically did nothing at all.  Frustrated, I coated the crank arms a second time, then let them sit over night, sure that the paint would practically fall off the next day.  Wrong!  As it turns out, Citristrip is just about the most useless crap on the market, and basically just smeared the Shimano logo.

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Still, I went at the left crank arm for a couple hours with senthetic 000 steel wool, very slowly removing the paint.  This next picture was taken after about 45 minutes of work.

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It was incredibly frustrating, but I was hoping that by leaving the left-side crank arm (the one with the chainring spider) soaking during that time, maybe it’d be a little easier to work with.  Wrong, again…

After another frustrating hour of little progress, I finally headed to Wal-Mart to buy the same type of stripper that RL had used.  While I was there, I also picked up a set of 3 brass brushes, which I wish I’d had in the beginning.  I then let the part soak for about an hour inside a sealed Zip-Lock bag, after reading a tip online that stated this would keep the paint stripper from evaporating before it could do its job.  (*Note:  this is my first experience stripping paint from metal, if you couldn’t already tell.)

The results were a little better this time, although I had to re-spray it and do the Zip-Lock bag thing again a couple times, for 30 and 45 minutes, respectively.  Seriously, this paint did not want to come off!  The brass brushes really did make the work much easier, though.  I was also able to get into tight spots that the steel wool hadn’t been able to reach.

Eventually, after countless hours of paint removal with brass brushes, two types of stripper, real and synthetic types of steel wool, and lots of elbow grease, the paint was pretty much as removed as it was going to get.  The next three photos show the left crank arm after being rubbed down with 0000 steel wool, but before final polishing.

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Had I not already put so many hours into this, I may have spent more time working on the back of the chainring spider.  However, since it’s an area hidden from view, I decided it was time to call it a day, and left some paint behind (see next pic).  Maybe I’ll tackle it again once winter gets here and I’m bored, but this will have to do for the time being.

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So, was it worth it?  Well, as the next few images show, it certainly was.  However, if I try this again in the future, I’ll definitely be using the strongest paint stripper I can find from the beginning.  Or, I may just spend $30 on a media blaster kit, borrow an air compressor, and do the entire paint removal job in five minutes.

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After cleaning the chainrings and greasing the steel bolts, I re-assembled the crankset.  Since she never uses the large chainring, I replaced it with a BBG Superlight bashguard.  The bashguard will keep the chain from falling off and protect her from the rings’ nashing teeth.  Completely assembled, the crankset now weighs 649 grams.  Once she wears the teeth on the steel rings down, they’ll be replaced with lighter aluminum versions, along with a set of aluminum bolts.  Sub-600 grams?  Just maybe.  In comparison, the old crankset weighed 945 grams, about 2/3lb more!

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Ready to ride, baby — look at that shine!

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  1. Bruce
    July 9th, 2008 at 01:12 | #1

    I admire your tenacity! Recently, I picked up a used bike. It came with the same Deore crankset you polished up. My crank arms were in the same state as yours – most of the black finish had been rubbed off. Instead of stripping the paint, I cleaned them up, sprayed them with aluminum primer, and then finished them with low gloss black engine enamel. The low gloss finish looks very close to factory, and the paint seems reasonably durable. The finish could probably be made even more durable if the part was baked in a BBQ for an hour or so, but I didn’t bother. BTW, love your site!

  2. Aaron
    July 9th, 2008 at 21:23 | #2

    Thanks, Bruce!

  3. Jon
    October 21st, 2008 at 00:28 | #3

    G’day Aaron – I recently stripped my girlfriends bike down in preparation for a full custom respray.

    I got my paint stripper for an Auto-Parts store. This stuff is toxic (get it on your skin and you’ll feel it burning) but it sure works through the paint in no time. After about 15min the paint literally bubbles off the frame.

    Of course with this sort of stripper you want to use it where it is very well ventilated, use gloves and eye protection and be careful.

  4. Aaron
    March 28th, 2012 at 16:46 | #4

    I know your pain. I tried stripping the ‘paint’ on my shimano cranks. turns out it was powder coated. No chemical that I could get my hands on would strip that off. So I resorted to sand blasting and accepting the matt finish

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