Introduction: Clean Up Rust on Tools & Machinery

About: Just your average non engineer in beautiful New Zealand, solving my seemingly unique problems because I cant find any one else that has.

Unfortunately there was a bit of a problem with small floods of the garage in our rental for a while..(until we took matters in to our own hands) and as a result some of my tools and machinery started building up a fine layer of oxidization ( rust)

I have been reading all over the net the suggestions for cleaning it up... ranging from steel wool, sandpaper, electrolysis, apple cider vinegar, and various other chemical products....

Then one day.. i tried plain old white vinegar - (mostly because apple cider vinegar used in one of the other methods is just plain expensive in these parts..) and was surprised by the results...

I found two ways to make it work...;

The first method was for a whole bunch of small tools and parts - I used;

  • 20 litre plastic bucket ( any container will do to suit the size of the items you wish to clean... )
  • 5 x 2 litre bottles of White vinegar
  • Oven tray with aluminum foil to cover
  • The kitchen oven.
  • Can of spray paint

The second method was for large parts of machinery which i couldn't immerse, - I used;

  • Bottle of White Vinegar
  • Small paint brush
  • Pile of old towels and rags ( towels are best)
  • Piece of steel wool(with out soap added!)
  • Piece of 800 grit wet and dry sand paper
  • Block of pure bee's wax
  • Bench vice.
  • Level
  • News paper
  • Water proof gloves

Step 1: Method 1 - Bucket Method

  1. Fill your bucket / container with White Vinegar
  2. Drop all the items into the bucket - ensuring its covered (take apart any tools with multiple bits - i take photos as i take complex tools apart to help putting it back)
  3. Leave the items in the bucket for a minimum of 1 week, (an impressive rusty scum will appear on the surface) just keep and eye on your parts until they are clean.
  4. If you don't live some where hot and dry.. then turn your kitchen oven up to 50 degrees C
  5. Lay the parts out on a tray covered in aluminum foil and dry for 30 minutes. *1
  6. Using a spray pant can, i put a thin layer of my favorite anti corrosive vinyl etch primer and then where possible a thin top coat over primed metal.... some people prefer to just rub the tool with WD40 or a similar oil based preparation to protect the bare metal.

*1 There remains the unanswered question ... Do i need to rinse all the parts in water before drying.. or is it ok to just do as i do... time will tell i guess?

Step 2: Method 2: Wipe On

The bed and fence of an old Jointer i was given, all had a coating of fine rust - but are clearly to big to place int he Method 1 bucket.

  1. First dissemble the machinery part as required.
  2. For large parts with flat surfaces, fix them so the flat surface is level ( i used a vice)I then clamped the part in a vice gently, and used a level to get it flat - to help prevent vinegar run off..
  3. Spread out newspaper to catch any drips
  4. Pour small puddles of vinegar on the flat surface(Image 2) and spread it out with the paint brush (Image 3)
  5. After 30-60 minutes, but not quite long enough to let it dry...
  6. Using the piece of toweling - wipe off the rust scum on the surface (Image 6)

Then i repeated the whole process 2 or 3 times until the metal surface was pretty clean of any rust, then i finished off with;

  1. First a piece of steel wool, - wipe clean, (Image 5)
  2. Then the 800 grit with vinegar to clean up any remaining spots - don't sand to hard.
  3. Re wipe until the surface is clean and dry, and then pour on some solvent, ( i used kerosene) and wipe clean and dry(Image 7)
  4. When the surface was completely dry, then i rubbed the bee's wax over it, ensuring complete cover of the metal.(Image 8)

So far its still lovely and clean and man does the wood feed well now..! - i envisage i will need to re wax at sometime in the future...

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