polishing the sides of the aluminum camper

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Continuing on with the Ruby’s Revival series: we tried some simple aluminum polish on the exterior to assess how much work lies ahead of us for the “real” polishing job. Below, I’m sharing our surprising results!

getting a simple shine on camper sides

This year, K and I decided to keep our annual goals fairly straightforward. No massive to-do list, take things a little easy at home, and enjoy our little toddler. But we DID still set one big goal for the year, and it’s a doozy: we want to be able to start traveling with Ruby.

Right now, we’re a pretty long way from that goal. But as most of you already might expect, that’s not deterring me in the least! And part of that task list is closing the gap on all of the video footage we’ve recorded so far. So, I’ve finally finally FINALLY got a new episode of Ruby’s Revival up for you on my YouTube channel. Here’s a preview:

This episode is all about polishing. We* polished the exterior! And those of you who have been wanting to see more of Kyle in these projects, you’re in luck. He did almost all of the timelapse editing work and sat down with me on camera to discuss everything we learned during this process.

Kyle and Sarah doing the video for episode 5 of Ruby's Revival

(*and when I say “we polished the camper”, I mean mostly Kyle, since I quit about halfway through to do the demo work I was way more excited about)

I know plenty of you only came for the before and afters, which is perfectly ok by me. So let’s satisfy that curiosity. BEFORE:

Vintage camper after pressure washing with oxidized aluminum panels


vintage spartan manor with recently polished aluminum exterior

Pretty incredible, right? After we did the pressure wash, we bought two kinds of aluminum polish at an automotive store. Total whim, but we wondered if anything could help us see under the oxidation and tell us how much more work was in store in the future. All the research K has been doing says we’re going to have to do a multi-step sanding and polishing process with a kit like this, which we still plan to do. But we were too curious to wait for all of that, and tested it out.

Our Aluminum Polish Experiment

Both polishes got similar results, but the Blue Magic was far less smelly, so once we ran out of both containers, we re-bought only the Blue Magic. To use it, you take a very small amount and rub it onto the aluminum. As you rub in a circular motion, the polish begins to react to the aluminum and turn black.


Keep buffing, switching out the cloth to a clean side to gently buff the residue back off of the aluminum. Continue swapping out the cloth to a clean side until there’s no more black coming off of the aluminum. I assumed we might have some minor success — maybe remove rust spots or get things just a little bit less dull. But to my utter SHOCK, we saw a reflection!

Kyle seeing his reflection and smiling after testing aluminum polish on the camper panels

And that pretty much sealed it for us to buy a couple of battery powered buffers and give Ruby a full buff-down. Since the spot where we’ve had Ruby parked since we brought it up from South Georgia has no easy access to power, everything we have been doing so far has been based on short drives and battery powered trips. That’s all about to change very soon, though, because we found a new spot for it that makes things SO much more convenient to work on it regularly (even during the week!). More on that soon.

polishing Ruby vintage camper using battery powered buffer tools - aluminum polish turns black

We know this whole thing is a bit premature (Kyle now has a 46-step plan on what we do and in what order), because it has to be done again with a multi-step kit after a few other steps are completed. But it really gave us a lot of information about the condition of the panels and gets us so PUMPED to do more. I suppose when something sits in the woods for decades and looks like this when you first lay eyes on it…

vintage camper before - Ruby's Revival project

It’s perfectly normal to not expect much. But then when it looks like this…

polishing the sides of the aluminum camper

Suddenly, we have a camper that starts turning heads when we drive it (which I can count on one hand how often that happened in the last couple of years, but that’s hopefully all about to change!).

What do you think of our goal for this year? Next week, I’m setting a deadline for myself to get the sixth episode up, which will be all about the demo work. I shared a sneak peek of that with you here, but there’s more to come! And you know how much I love demo, so this will probably be my favorite episode yet.

woman sitting on a pile of demo work

If you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel yet, I’d love it if you would join us. Much like the last few years of tutorials, I plan on sharing both a written and video post to pair together so that those of you who love to read can still do so without missing anything, but if you wouldn’t mind showing your support over on the channel too, we’d really appreciate it! Have a great rest of your week. I’ve got some new plans that are also going live later this week, so stay tuned for that reveal!

More Ruby’s Revival

We’re restoring a 1946 vintage camper called a Spartan Manor. It belonged to K’s grandfather and has been sitting in the woods untouched for more than 30 years. Can we bring her back to life? Check out the video series and see for yourself!

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