Citric Acid - It's not just for distillers anymore.

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Blog entry by Emeralds posted 02-28-2009 05:33 PM 1902 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been working at improving my overall skills and decided a while back that it was inevitable that I learn to use hand planes. Being a die-hard skin flint with a bad gold swing, and a worse poker face the economics of hand planes required that I buy old and make new. Reading, reading and then a little more reading readied me for the market place so out to Ebay and the local flea’s I went. Quality pickings were slim but I managed to find a few pieces that were in structurally sound shape although they were all in various states of disrepair. This is one example of Stanley No. 35 smoothing plane that was pretty rough, rusty and incomplete when I got it.

No cutter, cap-iron or cap-iron screw came with this 1906 vintage unit, but it did possess a solid body and transitional plate, the tote and knob although slightly chipped and pretty loose were both sound, the japanning was in decent shape and sole and mouth were also in great shape. All in all it was a rust covered diamond waiting to be renewed. I read somewhere on LJ about using food grade citric acid, the stuff home brewers use, to remove rust so I gave it a shot in a one cup to one gallon of water solution. It worked very well for the most part. After soaking overnight I was able to remove all of the rust with a brass brush and rinse away the carbon residue with water and a nylon brush. Now I won’t say that it is as easy as what I have seen posted about Evapo-Rust, but it is initially less expensive although you can’t store it and reuse it a month later like you can the commercial product, and it does require some wire brushing. All in all the citric acid did a nice job on several planes as well as an assortment of other rusted implements I decided to immerse.

If you have the need and availability to Evapo-Rust, I would likely recommend it over citric acid. But where Evapo-Rust is not readily available everywhere in gallon quantities (you can pick up quarts at most chain auto parts stores), I know of few towns that don’t have a “home brewers supply” and they will virtually all have citric acid as it is essential to their process. Give it a try; it’s safe and effective at removing the corroded metal and leaving everything else in tact, including your wallet.

-- JMP

3 comments so far

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3466 days

#1 posted 03-01-2009 12:11 AM

Thanks for the tip. Can,t buy evapo rust but I can get citric here in the Philippines easily. Good luck with the hand plane trip.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View RalphB's profile


25 posts in 3389 days

#2 posted 04-06-2009 04:53 PM

OK, stupid question: Did you have to disassemble the plane completely and not put the wood portion into the solution??

View Emeralds's profile


143 posts in 3586 days

#3 posted 04-06-2009 05:36 PM


Only “UNASKED” questions turn out to be stupid. :)

The answer is yes. You don’t want to soak the wood at. Each part should be completely independant with as much surface area exposed to the liquid as possible, therefore not lying flat on the bottom of the container.

Soak only the metal parts, use a brass wire brush to remove the loose oxidized rust and you’ll be pleased with the results.

-- JMP

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