Preserve the Beauty of Raw or Rusted Steel & Iron Surfaces

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I see many ibles made with black pipe here but rarely do they mention any coatings to prevent rusting. I also often build with rusty items where I need to cover the rust so it won't rub of on clothes etc. but don't want to lose the beauty of the patina. An architect once told me he used linseed oil to preserve rusted iron outdoors. I tried it but the damned stuff never fully dries! I could use polyurethane but the oxidation will continue underneath and it will eventually flake off. I've tried "rust stabilizers" but they turn the rust black so it loses it's color. I finally got turned on to a product from an old timer in a paint store I would probably never have found on my own.

Step 1: Penetrol

He recommended a product called Penetrol normally used as a paint additive to improve flow and adhesion that also seals and stops rust. It can be used alone as a base coat on bare metal and will fix the rust while preserving the appearance. The finish will be darker than dry rust but similar to rust sprayed with water or oil and can be top coated with a polyurethane for a more durable finish.

http://www.flood.com/paint-additive-solutions/pro...

Be sure to open and view the rest of this ible before sending me questions. ;-)

Step 2: Obey the Bot

(I originally made this a single page post since it's basically just a product recommendation but "the Bot" didn't like that. It yanked the post and sent me a note to mend my ways. So... I chopped it up and added some numbered steps. Hope it stays put this time. ;-)

1) I usually wipe down the piece with paint thinner to remove excess dirt and oil but since the product is oil based you don't need to remove every last trace. For a rusty surface I'll usually clean it real good with water and a soft brush or cloth to get any dirt off. In the case of the steel vanity tops shown in the intro I left one out in the rain for a week to cover some scratches and wanted to preserve the light layer of rust. I just rinsed it off with a hose on saw horses, let it dry in the sun then

2) applied the Penetrol with a brush. Even on the perfectly flat surface it didn't leave brush marks.

3) I always spray on a mat polyurethane top coat or two for a smooth finish and the finished piece looks completely natural.

I've used this method for several years now including on towel bars hung with damp towels everyday and for a countertop under my bathroom sink. So far they look just like the day I finished on all my projects.

Step 3: Answers to FAQs

The reason I use the polyurethane top coat(s) is that the Penetrol is a linseed oil product, and as such, is not very hard or durable. The polyurethane is a good, stable, long-lasting finish that won't easily wear off.

I've also been getting a lot of questions about clear, un-rusted metal. I wrote this about protecting and preserving the rust for it's looks. But if you don't have rust, you can skip the penetrol and just go straight to the polyurethane.

I AM NOT A PAINT EXPERT!

I'm just a guy who, by chatting with an old time paint guy, stumbled onto a way to stabilize and preserve rust without hiding it. please don't ask me how to repaint your car or patio furniture. I don't know. This post is only about preserving the beauty of rust while stabilizing it to make a rusty object useable and not so messy.

INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH POLY
A table top, specially a work table or dinning table, is a pretty tough environment. It's prone to lots of impacts and abrasion. At the least, you should use several coats of polyurethane. You might also talk to someone at a Sherwin Williams store about SherClear. It's a HD industrial clear coating. It's pricey ($100/gal?) but incredibly tough. It's made for ships and equipment but a friend uses it to coat canvas floorcloths and says it lasts for years in high traffic areas and under tables and chairs.

OIL vs. WATER BASED POLY

If you already have an oil base coat like Penetrol, you can only use an oil based product on top of it. Remember that oil floats on water. You can use oil OVER an water based coating but not the other way around. The reason is that oil based coatings don't set up completely hard but remain somewhat flexible. Water based products set up hard and inflexible and will eventually flake and peel on top of oil based coatings.

4 People Made This Project!

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271 Discussions

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TCooper2064

21 days ago

Hi, thanks for making this helpful page, I have an old rusted steel tractor tire which I would like to turn into a water feature. I want to do it the right way, and want to prevent flakes of rust from clogging the water pump and also want to prevent the rust from developing any further and causing any holes or anything. Would you recommend Penetrol for outdoor water use? I want to preserve the rustic look.
Thanks so much.

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BrianJewettTCooper2064

Reply 20 days ago

As I’ve said many times before, I have not tried any wet or outside applications. That said, my instinct would say to skip the polyurethane and see how it goes. Polyurethane doesn’t last well in the sun. Since the penetrol is an oil that never really hardens all the way, you should be able to redcoat it occasionally as needed. Just keep an eye on it and see how it lasts.

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AaronV59

Question 2 months ago

When you say "Mat Polyurethane" on the metal, what kind of Poly are you using? All I am ever able to find is Polyurethane for wood, and it says "Not Recommended for Metal". So what Polyurethane are you finding that you can use on metal?? And is it brush-on or spray?

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BrianJewettAaronV59

Reply 20 days ago

I’ve never seen that note but I haven’t bought any lately. Just make sure it’s the oil based Poly, not the water soluble kind, and you should be fine. Besides, you’re not putting it on metal. You’re putting it on Penetrol.

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DarlaC6

4 months ago

Has anyone used this to protect the patina on an outdoor stair railing? I am starting work on one tomorrow and I am just going off the application for rat rods, No plans to add a coat of poly. I use this on other outdoor applications with great success, but none of them include a patina.

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RustySailor

Question 7 months ago on Step 2

I’m in the process of experimenting with metal sinks and wondered about your feedback as to how long the sink would last before needing to be resealed here’s what I’m making them out of see pics

image.jpg
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BrianJewettRustySailor

Answer 7 months ago

The non-rusted countertop above has been in daily use in our bathroom for 8 years and looks like the day it went in. However, the pre-rusted one had soap left on it by a young house guest that compromised the surface. A sink will get a lot more exposure to soap and water, but if you're careful not to let any soap sit on the surface and don't use any harsh cleansers i'd think it would last for years.

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UpJackCreekFarm

Question 8 months ago on Step 1

I am planning on covering an interior wall with rusted corrugated metal roofing I salvaged from an old barn. I love the rusty look and want to keep it but don’t want the metal to continue to deteriorate. Would you use this method for this and this particular wall is in a location that will not be rubbed against so should I also cover it with poly or is it not neessary? I absolutely do not want a glossy finish.

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SusanL183

10 months ago on Introduction

I made this sculpture out of railroad spikes about a year ago and put two coats of penetrol on top of the Rusted railroad spikes and had then set the sculpture outside in North Florida with this very corrosive environment and the penetrol has completely preserved the metal . unbelievable! I threw in a couple pics of more rusty metal pieces preserved with Penetrol....that stuff works!
Off 'Da Chain Metalworx....Panama City Beach Florida

IMG_20171225_072917_811 (1).jpgIMG_20171225_072917_817 (1).jpgreceived_588923234776705.jpeg
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BrianJewettSusanL183

Reply 10 months ago

Thanks Susan! I get frequent questions about outdoor durability but all my applications have been indoors.

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SusanE74

Question 11 months ago on Introduction

Please tell me the brand of poly that works over the penetrol. The paint stores will not recommend one. Thank you.

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SusanE74SusanE74

Answer 11 months ago

We painted bare steel panels with Penetrol to seal and stop rust. Works great but leaves a pretty high shine. I just used Zar Ultra oil-based polyurethane Clear Antique Flat over the penetrol (did not sand). Turned it into a beautiful flat finish. Very happy with it. It seems durable. Only time will tell.

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BrianJewettSusanE74

Answer 11 months ago

Any oil based paint or coating will work over another oil based coating.

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chiwahua

Question 1 year ago on Introduction

Nice project!

SherClear seems to be acrylic and not polyurethane.

Did you mean SherThane?

We have a patinaed steel countertop to seal with a matte clear but not sure what to use. Thanks!

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BrianJewettchiwahua

Answer 11 months ago

I didn't know SherClear was acrylic. don't use acrylics (water based) over oil based coatings.

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allpawsahead

1 year ago

My new outdoor table is of a painted metal. I have used Penetrol in the past which is great but it leaves a shiny finish. I was hoping there is a product that produces a dull finish. Is there such a product? Many thanks.

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FlorinJallpawsahead

Reply 1 year ago

You can also change the gloss level with very fine steel wool. Pass over the table in many different directions, without pressing too hard. The microscopic scratches left behind will not be enough to damage the coating, or to make it non-transparent, but will take away the gloss.

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BrianJewettallpawsahead

Reply 1 year ago

If your table is new and painted, there's no need for Penetrol. You can change the gloss level with a clear top coat of polyurethane in flat or satin finish.