Improving Finish of Steel Tools




Introduction: Improving Finish of Steel Tools

If you ever go scrounging through your garage or an old toolbox you are bound to come across a rusty cast iron tool or two. I found this slightly corroded one under a shelf and thought it needed some work before I put it back to use.

This is a very simple project and can be performed many ways, I'll focus on the method I used but I'll also touch on other ways that work.

Step 1: Tools Required

I used an electric grinder with a wire brush installed, you can easily use most any abrasive surface to do this job with a bit more work.

With the method I used a pair of needle nose pliers were helpful to keep my hands away from the wheel.

If you use a wire wheel be sure to have face protection and wear long sleeves and an apron to be safe! (Suggested by Instructable user BeachsideHank) I can not personally recommend gloves because they can get caught and drag your hand into the tool but finger less gloves may help if you want to wear a pair.

A degreaser may also be handy if your tools are sticky or greasy.

Other tools you could use:

  • Steel Wool
  • Wire Brush
  • Sandpaper
  • An abrasive disk on a rotary tool
  • A one inch belt sander or a belt grinder

Step 2: Disassembly

Carefully loosen any screws and separate parts of the tool. My nut and screw assembly was loose on the tool but was solidly rusted to itself so it took some work to get it off; a touch of degreaser or penetrating oil could be used to split them up. If your tool is complex I highly recommend you take a few photos of the disassembly process, it is never good to have a shiny tool you cannot put back together. It is also good to look for any cracks or dents that would render the tool useless at this point so you do not waste time cleaning only to learn the tool does not function.

Step 3: Clean It Up!

At this point take all your parts and soak them in a degreaser for 10 minutes or so if they are oily. My pair of pliers were only corroded so I skipped this step.

Now comes the hard part. I carefully pushed each piece into the spinning wire wheel and watched as the years of rust and oxidation were swept away into the air *wear face protection* (a particle mask may have been useful too). Using any method to remove the rust is about the same as with the wheel; abraid the metal until its clean. Some methods work faster than others but if your are persistent you probably could clean a tool with 550 grit sandpaper (not recommended).

*Be sure to not damage any threaded sections with rough cleaning or the tool will be ruined*

If you use a wire wheel as I did a pair of needle nose pliers canbe helpful to hold the small parts and to keep fingers safe.

You can see in the picture above one side of the tool is cleaned up and the other is untouched.

Step 4: Reassembly

At this step in the process you still should have the photos you took while taking the tool apart. Put everything back together as in your photos and apply threadlocker to any loose screws and nuts. My tool had a nice friction fit so I did not need anything to keep the nut tight.

I am a busy student and it is hard to find time to make instructables, if you want to see more projects from me please let me know by voting and favorite this project!

Post your cleaned tools in the comments below!

Happy Fixing!

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    5 years ago

    Have you thought of attempting a hard coat to the tools after you clean them up?


    Reply 5 years ago

    I have never looked into doing anything with the tools once they are clean. The process is so simple that I just clean them with the wire wheel whenever they are corroded or have paint on them. I'll do some research on it though.


    5 years ago

    When using motor driven wire wheels, you really want to use double the eye protection of goggles and a face mask, those strands do fracture and break off into tiny but harmful missiles traveling at a very high velocity, and a shop apron would also be a good idea too.


    Reply 5 years ago

    Yes! Good point! The little plastic shields that come with the wheel are not enough.