Rust Removal By Electrolysis

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Greg Mueller

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Munich Oktoberfest
Mar 3, 2006
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Datil, NM
Rust Removal By Electrolysis

I ran across this technique while a member of a woodworking machinery collector's forum.
It's an amazing way to remove rust without all the labor of sanding and scraping and it allows you to get in to nooks and crannies that are impossible to get to in any other way.
I like the low labor part.


I had found an old Delta Radial Arm saw on Craigslist which had been sitting out in the weather for some time. The "bones" were good and the price was very right.
Kind of like some of our satellite dish deals.
I got them to load it in to the truck with a fork lift and I brought it home.


I did not have a fork lift to unload it and it needed to be disassembled to be restored anyway, so I took it apart and unloaded it out of the back of the truck.

The basic idea is to submerge the rusty metal (steel) parts in a solution of water and soap powder and apply 12VDC. It's a self regulating process and when it's done it just stops working. It's done outside so escaping gases can go away. Depending on how bad the rust is, it can take a couple of days. I just walk out and look at it and if it's still bubbling I go back inside.
As it proceeds the rust changes the water to a nasty looking rust color.

Things you need.....

Rusty Steel Part
12v battery charger
Box of Soap Powder (It HAS to be Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda)
Some rebar
A container that's bigger than the rusty part
Some steel stove wire
Water

I built a container out of 2x12s and lined it with storm window plastic to make it water tight.
I have used a 5 gallon bucket for smaller projects and it's a lot easier, but it wouldn't fit this one.



Put the part in the water with the soap powder in the container.
Hook the charger PLUS SIDE TO THE REBAR, negative side to the rusty part.
It will start to bubble.
Leave it on until it stops bubbling.

THIS ISN'T VERY MUCH VOLTAGE BUT BE SURE TO UNPLUG STUFF BEFORE YOU WORK ON IT!

Here's a composite picture of the top and bottom of that part after a ride in the cooking tank for a few days.

Let it dry and get some good primer and paint on it and you are done.

Here's the soap brand you need to find. Not all stores have it.

I'll be doing this to a couple of dish mounts I have waiting as soon as I get a tub that will hold them.




Reference articles....

Excellent Youtube video.....

Quick reference on Wiki.....
(I did not use the battery just the charger)
Rust Removal By Electrolysis - VintageMachinery.org Knowledge Base (Wiki)

Have Fun!
 

Magic Static

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Somewhere on this forum I think someone laid out the plans for a 5 gal bucket system for multiple use. Definitely a neat deal. I like your custom built container idea. :)
 

Greg Mueller

Thread Starter
Munich Oktoberfest
Mar 3, 2006
850
85
Datil, NM
I dangle the rebar in as close as I can get it to the part without touching it so it works faster.
Sometimes it's horizontal sometimes vertical. I really don't know if it makes a difference.
On the polar mounts I will probably have them horizontal and inside the ring. Maybe not.
It's pretty much like magic
 

Greg Mueller

Thread Starter
Munich Oktoberfest
Mar 3, 2006
850
85
Datil, NM
On the saw...
There was a metal label that I took off and found almost the original color of paint underneath.
I was able to take it to a NAPA store and they were able to mix up some paint that was darn near a perfect match.
 

KE4EST

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Now you have to show us the finished saw when it gets done. :)
 

Greg Mueller

Thread Starter
Munich Oktoberfest
Mar 3, 2006
850
85
Datil, NM
I did this project (by the dates on the pictures) in the spring of 2013, so it's been done for a while. It's down at the shop and it's kind of a dungeon but I'll try to get one that isn't as bad as the others. :)
The scariest part was the motor which is a dedicated 3 phase unit. I couldn't get it going at first so I took it down to a motor shop and they asked me what was wrong with it as it worked fine for them. My mistake. (Happily)
Oh and correction it's not a Delta it's a Rockwell.
 

harshness

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May 5, 2007
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I can't help but think that this would be more popular than "tanking" something in a chemical dip if it were so much better.

There can be little argument that reversing the electrolysis process that deposited the rust in the first place is better for the environment.
 

Greg Mueller

Thread Starter
Munich Oktoberfest
Mar 3, 2006
850
85
Datil, NM
I can't help but think that this would be more popular than "tanking" something in a chemical dip if it were so much better.

There can be little argument that reversing the electrolysis process that deposited the rust in the first place is better for the environment.
Well it surely is cheaper....and I like cheap.....;)

To answer the question about the rebar....
I dangled a couple pieces parallel to the part (horizontal) just to get them closer. I also wrapped a couple pieces of vinyl tube around the part just to get it up so stuff could circulate around it. Don't know if you can see it in this pic.

 

Brct203

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does it remove only the rust? I mean, if you were to leave it too long would it keep "eating" the good steel?

That sure looks interesting!
 

wvman

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Once it eats the rust it just stops.
I heard something about this a few years back and kinda forgot about it. Glad you brought this topic up again. I have a few items I need to clean and I was wondering what the best way of doing it was. Great thread. In fact, I have some iron skillets I need to clean as well. :)
 
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Greg Mueller

Thread Starter
Munich Oktoberfest
Mar 3, 2006
850
85
Datil, NM
When you get to the polar mount, be sure to post some photos.
This is going to be an interesting one. The mount I have in mind (first) is the Ajak mount ring and it's BIG.
36" (more like 42) in diameter and about 16" deep.
Still trying to think of something that's cheap that's big enough to hold it. Maybe a watering trough or toddler's pool?
Maybe something out of Masonite.....
 
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