Monday, June 25, 2018

Rust removal

A constant battle in our wet/dry climate, and if you are into vintage tools, you know you are gonna have to address it somehow.

As I often said before, when I consider a vintage lump of rust, my first question to myself is always: Can I restore this tool to be a working tool again?

I also tend to treat my tool with the respect they deserved for I am only their temporary caretaker.
All that to say I tend to approach rust removal like anything else I do to the tools, only as necessary.

Years ago I discovered Electrolysis as a rust removal process. It works great but has a couple drawback.  It is messy, potentially dangerous (Hydrogen gas released can cause an explosion)

I tried other chemicals solution, Naval jelly, white vinegar and etc, but I long settled on Evaporust.
It’s non toxic and kind to my septic tank (yes, I live in the country side, town sewer and water does not come to my street).

It is also reusable, but of course unless you strained it each time, it can get messy, dirty and work less effectively...

And since I now use Crud buster to degrease and clean the rusty object first, my Evaporust last longer, go figure :-)

But perhaps the biggest negative about Evaporust, like all other chemicals that works by chelation, is that the metal is left with a dull grey surface and if you did not soaked entirely the object, it will be left with a quasi-permanent tell tale line of demarcation.
Some tools like a saw blade require a long shallow container

On the plus side it is relatively gentle, does no harm and is very thorough.  But you have to make sure to rinse it properly to stop the chemical action and dry it quickly before flash rust appears.  At this stage, it is very vulnerable to new rust.  After a few years of this routine, my heat gun recently gave up in a shower of sparks and then fume...

R.I.P. Need a new and better one

So far my usual treatment after Evaporust has been to wiped it with WD40 if it is going into storage or rubbed it with Autosol to impart some of the shine back and leave a protective layer behind, if I am to used it sooner.

Yes, of course I have also used various forms of scraping and sanding, but...
Lately after seeing some works done by Jonathan at the Bench Blog  and more recently Ralph at the Accidental Woodworker  I decided to up my game and try more in depth restoration, E.G. stripping, painting etc. My first attempt was my Beam Boring Machine (BBM)

I long wanted to try a wire wheel in a grinder, but always disliked the over used of such wheels on vintage tools.  But maybe used in moderation it should be OK??
I bought a few wire brush wheels, steel and brass, to give it a try on my grinder and or drill press.

For my first trial I used the drill press at a medium speed. My first specimen was a Scottish brace, I got last year from Patrick.
He had previously buffed away a part of the chuck to reveal the Mathieson & Son name, and the remainder of the tool was a darker brown /black.  Did not care for the resulting look, but how am I going to blend in those areas??.

The brace as received

The end has two facets buffed shiny to reveal the name.

I gave it a try on a small wire wheel on my drill press. Not too fast and easier to approach. If you are starting, strongly recommend getting familiar with the operation on the drill press before moving to a 3450 RPMs bench grinder.  Safer for both the tool and you :-)

The only other equipment used was a pair of soft leather gloves, synthetic scrubber blue, Jig-A-Loo lubricant (for the catch release) and Autosol, in an effort to better blend my work

I did not tried to make it look new, just to even out the finish surface.  Not bad, but could have done better, will revisit later.

Next I tried a badly rusted Irwin bit. Really impressed how it came out of the Evaporust, cleaned the pesky threads and all. Almost sharp coming out, impressive!!

The Irwin rusted bit

Two rusted spoon bits 

Two Irwins out of the Evaporust.
Top one is the familiar dull grey
Bottom one was nickel plated

Both bits after rubbing with a Fine Rust Eraser 

But it still  has that grey surface....
Always thought I should buffed my drilling bits, lets give the wire wheel a try

After a few minutes at the drill press, it really came out looking very shiny, almost look like it is Nickel plated again... WOW!

Looks even better in person

Then I had the brilliant idea of trying my rusty spoons bits which were also previously treated in Evaporust. HUGH!

Does not look as bad on the pic, but look almost aluminum

Look too shiny and phony, never saw a spoon bit that bright before. Sure don't like it, but Heh, if left untreated it will slowly tarnish again.  I will leave that bit alone for a while :-)
But, lesson learned. That bit has been salvaged and the next one wont look so bad

Tried next a metal bit.  It was not covered in rust, did not get an Evaporust bath but had some issues. That one, I like the results. Nice and shiny, with the cutting edges remaining sharp.

Lastly, tried a center bit.  These were traditionally left with a metal oxide finish (black), want to see if I could preserved it.  Based on my earlier experiences with the Scottish brace, I thought it should.
And yes it does but you have to use a light friction, if I was to really pushed it into the brushes I'm sure I would get to shiny metal quickly.

From T to B
Irwin, Metal bit, Spoon bit, and center bit

So, I'm happy with my results so far, much more to be learn but, that method has now its place among the one's I would used.  It has some drawbacks; If too aggressive (coarse wire threads or too much pressure) it can quickly obliterate markings and etc, but with the wheel I used at the speed I was using, with the pressure I used, it came out sharp, no rounded over edges and it even unearthed some markings I did not knew existed.

The tang of the spoon bit is stamped "B&T" or "R&F" ?

Irwin bit turned out to be a British made bit (Gilpin) and has a clear "1" size stamp

Here is more details of the equipment I used.

Bought this set of 4 pcs at my local Canadian Tire

Running the drill press at an intermediate speed
3rd pulley out of 5

I have seen lots of guys on YouTube videos not using any kind of fingers protection, and presumably no other either, but I valued my fingers and wore a pair of leather gloves.
Eye protection is a no brainer either, or if it is, maybe you should consider a different hobby like knitting... NO wait, you could stab yourself in the eyes with the needles, just go for a nap! :-)

Some thing else to be cautiously aware of, is the tendency of the wheel to want to grab and flung your object.

It depends a lot on the rotation speed, the angle of attack, the pressure used, the shape of the object and etc, but be aware. And another good reason to wear eyes and hands protection.

For these reasons, I did not approach the cutting end of the bits too close to the wheel, did not wanted to catch in the cutting spurs or round over their edges.  Other than that, works great and the bits will work better now that they have smooth surfaces  to eject smoothly the chips.

I think I am going to run a bunch of bits thru this wheel ….
Once I get more experiences under my belt, I will revisit that Scottish brace, like I said, the finish could be more even...

Bob, still with 2 eyes and 11 fingers and only 103 brace bits (according to my records) left to do...


  1. For rotary wire brushes safety glasses with side shields are a must. I cleaned up a vise years ago and had strands of brush sticking out of my face when I was done. Luckily, none in the eye. I wear normal eyeglasses like you but the flying wires gave me a scare.

  2. Looks great, I seem to only be able to get a layer of black gunk on my metals when I use evaporust.

    Also, I don't mean to be that guy, but consider wearing thin latex gloves or something else that will tear if caught in rotary equipment. I worked for a time in an auto factory where their safety videos put the fear of God in me about the need for gloves with tear-off fingers.

  3. Hi Steve
    Yes i value my eyes also. Ouch you had a close call there.


  4. Hi Andrew
    Interesting, never thought of loosing fingers because of gloves, but yeah i can see it happening. Especially on a 3450 Ripems grinder, that could get scary quickly.
    But on my drill press, at the speed im. Going, i feel safe for my leather covered fingers, must will certainly keep that in mind.

    Thanks for sharing experiences


  5. Oh yah, forgot one thing Andrew. If your pieces are comming out with black goop, it is because they went in too dirty or your stuff is getting older, time for fresh stuff. How long you leave it will also leave a darker color it seems, but it all comes off easily with a Rust eraser or in this case, on the wire wheel.


  6. I woudent were gloves on a buffing wheel lathe or drill press if it gets a hold of you you wont get a lintel burn you will end up in surgery at the hospital and if there gear driven they can take your arm off

  7. Hum, thanks Loyd. Between you and Andrew I guess i should reconsidered wearing gloves...

    Thanks for the advice