OT: what do you use to remove rust buildup from tools?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Basschair, Mar 16, 2006.

  1. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    I've got some older tools that I recently dug up that need to be cleaned, and am wondering if I can use one of those rust removers (CLR or something like that)...suggestions? Come to think of it, my father-in-law has a bandsaw with rust on the platform as well, so same question: what's the easiest, most safe way to remove it?

    Thanks guys

  2. bill h

    bill h

    Aug 31, 2002
    small town MN
    steel wool and the oil them
  3. Hi Paul,

    There are various methods of rust removal, some of which are: citric acid; electrolysis; vinegar; molasis; urine (you read right...). What I do is remove heavy rust carefully with a blunt chisel so as not to mark the object, then use a citric acid solution.

    As I said, I use citric acid (container filled with water and one small container of citric acid) for all my rusted tools, which will remove heavy rust. I check the object every 30 mins and wipe away rust with steel wool. Once it's ready, I take it out of the solution and clean the remaining rust off with steel wood again. However, care must be taken with citric acid or any other types of acid because if not removed from the solution at the right time, will eat the the metal. Hot water speeds up the process. I then apply rust inhibitor followed by some boiled linseed oil or wax depending on what tool it is. This process does stink once the object is taken out of the solution.

    With electrolysis, you need a tub with table spoon of washing soda, battery charger, electrode and wire to connect it all up. The rusted object can be left in the solution for long periods and won't affect it as it does with acid based solutions. Electrolysis produces oxygen and hydrogen, which are potentially explosive so shouldn't be near a combustable source. The process does create fumes or a bad smell.

    Urine, the poor person's rust removal process. Just pee in a tub over a few weeks to generate enough, well...piss, and throw the rusted object in. This process also smells.

    Whatever method you use, should be followed up with some sort of rust inhibitor and/or oil or wax because once the object is taken out of the solution it will rust almost immediately. Using rust inhibitor helps slow the rust process, but needs to be neutralised.

    For lighter surface rust, some oil with a scourer should be fine. The above methods work well for heavier rust and hard to get at areas.

    Regarding the bandsaw. I've cleaned a bandsaw table with oil and an oil stone, followed by a scourer. There are various methods on cleaning this kind of thing also, depending on what one has at hand.
  4. Here are some links:

    Rust Removal using Electrolysis
    Something I forgot to mention is not to put stainless steel in an electrolysis solution. Stainless steel contains chromium which dissolves and becomes poisonous in the solution. Anyway, the link above documents the setup and process in detail. One other thing, make sure you cover the tub with some wire caging or the like to prevent something crawling in it. I've seen a pic of someone's electrolysis solution posted on a woodwork forum. He was cleaning up a plane I think and was shocked that the solution looked so discusting that he thought the whole tool dissolved - a cane toad jumped in it and fried for two days.

    A Primer on Rust
  5. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    Thanks guys, I'll get on it...gotta drink a bunch of water first :p
  6. mslatter


    Apr 8, 2003
    I've use Boeshield's Rust Free with some success. It took multiple applications, and scrubbing with a synthetic wool pad, but it worked effectively. Then follow-up with a protective coating. My tools don't get frequent use, so I like a relatively heavy coating, like Boeshield. I followup with wax on top, to help the wood slide over the iron. Many people get by with just wax, but I haven't had such luck.
  7. callmeMrThumbs

    callmeMrThumbs Guest

    Oct 6, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    *thread jack*

    Could you just soak them in Coca-Cola, or is that a myth/unreasonable? And would these processes remove dirt and grim as well as rust? Just curious...

  8. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    99.9% myth:
    Plain seltzer would work nearly as well.
  9. Citric acid will remove dirt and grime, you'll notice that some cleaning agents are acid based. However, this will slow the rust removal process leaving the metal exposed in the acid much longer than necessary, which may cause acid damage (pin hole damage) to some or all areas of the exposed metal. What I do, is clean it before hand with a chisel (for thick coated rust and flaking paint), followed by steel wool. If you decide to clean the object with oil, then it should be degreased before placed in the solution.

    With electrolysis, I can't say because I haven't tried, I just know about the process and the results from others who've used it. I have heard though, that some people just put the tool as is in the bath for a day or two with excellent results.
  10. Ok, here's a thread where a guy restored a nice old plane, scroll down to the electrolysis part:


    If you're interested, he resotres the whole plane in the thread. Note, this is only one method, which I must say is not cheap due to the materials required (power supply, scotch brite wheel and he does make use of existing power tools). There are cheaper alternatives to this using just citric acid, rust inhibitor, steel wool, oil or wax as mentioned in previous posts.