Electrolytic rust removal

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Electrolytic rust removal

Postby Robin Fawcett » Sat Mar 20, 2010 1:28 pm

I know you can chonk away with angle grinders and rotary wire brushes etc to get the rust off when refurbishing old tools but I wondered if anyone has any experience or comments about the electrolytic method of rust removal?

http://www.instructables.com/id/Electrolytic-Rust-Removal-aka-Magic/
There are loads of other sites on the net where the method is described. I first came across it years ago when I was a member of T.A.T.H.S http://www.taths.org.uk/

but have never got round to trying it out.
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby goldsmithexile » Sat Mar 20, 2010 3:26 pm

I have used the electrolysis rust removal method extensively, and consider it to be the most effective way to remove oxides/grease/soot/paint etc. It is not labour intensive, doesnt destroy good steel or an old patina, is cheap to do and basically never fails. I have tried acid etches, emory, etc, but find them to be smelly/noisy/dusty etc.
I posted this a few weeks ago on BCUK. The hook was recovered from the waste tip.

I started the billhook refurb right away. First step, electrolysis clean.
Plastic tub full of mild caustic soda solution
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Removing the old handle. There IS a use for cheap xmas gift chinease chisle's then after all...:lmao:
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Battery charger
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All connected up. posi + (red) connected to scrap anode, this attracts the rust oxides.neg - (Black) connected to the blade.
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A stream of tiny bubbles tells me that we are cooking on gas, so to speak....
I will leave this to cook now for 24 hours or so....more to follow:)
Here are some latest pics
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Virtually no pitting
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Axe head suspended in vat. Cooking nicely.....
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Immediately after removal. The rust has turned to a gungy jelly its no longer bonded to the good metal
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close up
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A minute or 2 later, gentle rub with finne wire wool and rinse with clean water.
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close up
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More to follow, watch this space....:)
I completed the refurb of the harrison billhook which I found in the waste dump a few weeeks ago
From this as it came fresh from the skip
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to this
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Custom made ferrule. I prefer heavy duty ones. This was made from a short length of 3mm seamless tube, which I pressed between 2 sledge hammers. It was fitted to the ash handle by pounding and shaving to get a snug fit. Handle soaked in oil and waxed.
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The tang was burned dull red into a slim pilot hole in the wood (done in 2 heats), then peened over onto a thick custom made washer.
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The point for pushing thorns away had gotten stubbed and rounded over so I reshaped it with files
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Cheers Jonathan :)
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby SeanHellman » Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:04 pm

Interesting, very interesting, this could save me a lot of hassle.
Now which way do you attach the - and + terminals of your battery charger? Is it - on the tool and + in the solution?
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby goldsmithexile » Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:19 pm

Yes, the red one connects to the anode (any piece of ferrous scrap toattract the rust off the object) and the black one attaches to the item to be cleaned. I use caustic soda in the vat. The vat must be non conducting. I made a custom one for doing saw blades out of ply lined with roofing silicone. The one in the pics is a plastic waste bin. For small single items I have used ice cream boxes or cut down milk containers
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby REM Thomas » Mon Dec 06, 2010 4:16 pm

I remember cleaning up an old plane when I were a lad. Battery charger, glass or plastic bowl, piece of stainless stell sheet , 3 dsps of baking powder and left object in solution. One terminal to ss sheet and one to metal to be cleaned.

EPNS or Silver

Plastic box or glass vessel. Put in a square aluminium foil, tsp of baking soda, tsp of salt, tsp of washing up liquid. Pour on boiling water. Throw in object to be cleaned. Rinse under running water. Pour used liquid down the sink.

Bob
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby SeanHellman » Mon Dec 06, 2010 10:44 pm

Robert Thomas wrote:I remember cleaning up an old plane when I were a lad. Battery charger, glass or plastic bowl, piece of stainless stell sheet , 3 dsps of baking powder and left object in solution. One terminal to ss sheet and one to metal to be cleaned.


On a lot of the discussions I have read, they say do not use stainless steel. If I remember correctly the ss contains chromium which will go into the solution, and if disposed of down the sink or on the land will be a very nasty pollutant as it is a heavy metal. Only use a mild steel anode.

Since my last post I have been using this method to clean up a lot of tools and it works very well
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby goldsmithexile » Fri Dec 17, 2010 5:27 pm

Nice one Sean :D . It has never failed me yet, this method. It is non aggressive so it only takes dirt and oxides it wont eat good steel or even the acid etch on old saws. Many times I did blades that looked like they came out of time team dig, yet after electrolysis the etch reappeared.... :lol:
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby Billman » Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:11 pm

Just to reiterate a previous post - do NOT use stainless steel - chromium and nickel salts are toxic, and the resulting sludge is classed as hazardous waste. Plain mild steel works just as well and you can add the sludge to your garden compost as it only contains iron salts.

Ref: ferrule fo handles, old bicycle frame is superb and just the right size... several good posts on rehandling billhooks on the British Blades forum
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby HughSpencer » Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:44 pm

Damn, I missed this post and spent far too long messing with Jennolite last week. I shall press that old plastic bin and battery charger into service as soon as I get home!
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby jrccaim » Sat Apr 09, 2011 4:00 am

goldsmithexile wrote:I have used the electrolysis rust removal method extensively, and consider it to be the most effective way to remove oxides/grease/soot/paint etc. It is not labour intensive, doesnt destroy good steel or an old patina, is cheap to do and basically never fails. I have tried acid etches, emory, etc, but find them to be smelly/noisy/dusty etc.

I started the billhook refurb right away. First step, electrolysis clean.
Plastic tub full of mild caustic soda solution
...
)

I am coming in late (and a dollar short) to this discussion. Sorry and apologies and all that. My question deals with the solution. One thing is caustic soda. That is sodium hydroxide, AKA lye. It is indeed caustic and toxic. It is sold, if you can find it at all, for cleaning drains; but it is also used in soap-making. (Soap is fats + sodium hydroxide). Another thing entirely is baking soda, alias bicarb, chemical name sodium bicarbonate. It is non-toxic, a very good cleaner, used to make shortbreads and pancakes, in fact. Removes tea and coffee stains from cups, I'd never be without it! Maybe both of them would work (in fact I will try sodium bicarb soon -- any day now). If I had the choice I would plump right away for bicarb. My drainage system is a septic tank, and I go to extreme lengths not to poison it. Where I live there are no city drains. Maybe both of these chemicals work; I have read elsewhere about electrolysis with bicarb. But boy, If you have the choice go with baking soda.
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby HughSpencer » Mon May 16, 2011 5:52 pm

I took the grindstone offered for free at the Bodger's Ball to try and get it round again - just for the challenge and for my boys to learn a thing or two about fixing stuff.
We marked a circle of good stone with a pencil and then drilled holes outside the pencil mark with a masonry drill. This allowed us to snap off the wonky bits leaving a rough circle with lots of drill grooves in it.
We then used a piece of the removed stone and some water to lubricate and settle the dust. A merry hour or so proved we would be able to end up with a nice finish so we stopped and I let the boys learn how to dismantle the whole thing. As it is a rusty as hell we then went to the local store and bought a bottle of drain cleaner which is pretty caustic. A lump of stock mild steel and some garden wire to connect it and the bits of machinery to a battery charger. I got Daniel to look up this thread on his DSi and say which way it should be connected - so he learns electronics as well as chemistry. Sadly schools don't do anything interesting any more so he has to learn this sort of thing at home. I'll post some pictures of the process when I have a moment
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby HughSpencer » Tue Jun 07, 2011 3:12 pm

Further work on the wonky grindstone. We took the whole kit and caboodle down to my mate's workshop in Hainault in Essex.
Dave has among the detritus of a lifetime;
    A 6.5 Ton fly press
    Bridgeport mill
    Colchester lathe
    Turret lathe
    Shot blaster
    Oxy/acetylene
    shim punches

So we spent a happy bank holiday showing the boys how to mill out the castings, turn bronze bushes to fit, pressing the bushes in, shot blasting the casting that had a broken lug and then brazing the lug back on and finally refitting the whole thing back together. All this accompanied by explanations of every step we took.
These are a few of the pictures of the start and end of the process. The handle is elm and turned by Charlie.
The stone requires a bit more work but that is easy if a little tedious. You take a piece you cut off, water the wheel with a watering can and grind the surface of the wheel with the fragment.
recircle2.JPG
How we re cut the stone
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recircle1.JPG
drilling with a masonry drill
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recircle3.JPG
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final1.JPG
the almost finished article
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final2.JPG
end view
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby Robin Fawcett » Tue Jun 07, 2011 7:06 pm

Great Hugh - they probably learnt more useful stuff than they would have at school.
Look forward to seeing the fully refurbished grinder in use!
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby gavin » Sun Jul 10, 2011 8:20 pm

HughSpencer wrote: The stone requires a bit more work but that is easy if a little tedious. You take a piece you cut off, water the wheel with a watering can and grind the surface of the wheel with the fragment.

Wille Sundqvist suggested using a bit of mild steel pipe to dress the stone - I found 32 mm worked well.
For my experiences of stone dressing, refer viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1878
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Re: Electrolytic rust removal

Postby anobium » Mon Oct 24, 2011 8:43 pm

As the previous owner of the grindstone it gives me great pleasure to see it back in action.
So far as truing the wheel is concerned, I wonder if it could have been done using an angle-grinder with a diamond disc clamped to the frame and slowly turning the wheel ?
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