Restoring Woodworking Hand Tools #1: How to Remove Rust from Woodworking Tools

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Blog entry by WoodAndShop posted 04-29-2014 01:26 PM 4239 reads 2 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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By Joshua Farnsworth (Writer at

I’ve tried almost every method to remove rust from metal parts! In the above VIDEO I show my favorite method for removing rust from metal parts – specifically traditional woodworking hand tool parts – but it’ll work for most other metal parts, like auto parts. Click here to read the original blog post with links.

But first let me tell you about the other methods that haven’t worked very well for me:

-Electrolisys with a car battery charger didn’t work very well, and is quite difficult to setup
-Evaporust worked great the first time, but not so well when I bought a smaller container…go figure. But is really expensive.
-Krud Kutter didn’t work, and it’s expensive when you break it down to a per-ounce cost
-Vinegar sort of worked, but not perfectly…I had some strange issues with the metal afterwards

I hate rust because it causes corrosion and pitting on metal tools. So what worked the best at rust removal? A Citric Acid solution! Sound complicated or dangerous? Well, it’s not. It’s safe on the environment & hands, and it is the least expensive method I’ve found.

Supplies that you’ll need:

Here’s a list of everything that you’ll need to remove rust from your metal tools (visit my original post here to get links to the products that I use):

-Citric Acid (5 lb. bag will last you for a long time and is the most economical)
-Rubber gloves (will prevent pain if you have any cuts on your hands)
-Small wire brushes
-Mineral Spirits or Lacquer Thinner
-Zep Citrus Degreaser (I like the 1 gallon size) or Simple Green degreaser (I use Zep for removing grime from my road bikes)
-Spray bottle for the degreaser
-Oil or spray lubricant (I love this DuPont teflon chain-saver lube)
-Plastic container that will hold your metal parts (a used ice cream tub works great)
-Paper towels and a black towel (for quick drying)


-Place your metal parts into your plastic container and decide how much warm water you’ll need to add to just cover the parts
-Remove the parts and fill with the container with enough warm water to just cover the metal tool parts that you’ll add
-Add ¼ – ½ Cup of Citric Acid to the warm water while stirring…this creates a solution
-Stick your metal parts into the solution
-If you don’t see bubbles after a minute or two, just add another 1/4 cup of citric acid
-After an hour, use a wire brush to loosen the rust
-If it doesn’t loosen very well, leave it for another hour or two until it scrubs off more easily
-Quickly dry the parts with a large black towel and immediately lubricate with oil or spray lubricant…or else rust will appear within a couple minutes.
-That’s it! You may choose to polish the parts up since they’ll have a matte finish.

What are your favorite methods for rust removal? Please comment below!

-- Joshua Farnsworth - Free Traditional Hand Tool Woodworking Tutorials:

6 comments so far

View Deycart's profile


444 posts in 2428 days

#1 posted 04-29-2014 03:14 PM

I use a similar method. I let my stuff sit in purple power for an hour or so to get some of the really greasy planes clean. Then I put mine in citric acid. But I have a warming plate connected to a temperature sensor that turns the plate off when it gets too hot with mine. It can really cut the time needed to get the rust off. I don’t recommend leaving it going for longer than 2 or 3 hours especially with blades as it can start to attack the tool steel at the bottom of the blades.

I haven’t tried zep for planes yet. I used the green stuff on a really greasy kitchen and it was like magic.

View WoodAndShop's profile


149 posts in 1680 days

#2 posted 04-29-2014 03:27 PM

Thanks for your input Deycart!

-- Joshua Farnsworth - Free Traditional Hand Tool Woodworking Tutorials:

View Ken90712's profile


17592 posts in 3359 days

#3 posted 04-30-2014 04:02 PM

Great video Might have to give this a try! Thx

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View WayneC's profile


13776 posts in 4268 days

#4 posted 04-30-2014 04:43 PM

I’ve had good luck with Citric acid as well. The instructions relative to temperature of water and amount to use I think will be very useful to folks.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View WoodAndShop's profile


149 posts in 1680 days

#5 posted 04-30-2014 05:07 PM

WayneC, thanks for your comment. I’m not so sure a precise temperature is necessary. “Warm” enough to make a solution is good enough to me. And the amount of citric acid depends entirely upon how much metal is being treated. Like I said, if the bubbles aren’t forming, then add some more.

-- Joshua Farnsworth - Free Traditional Hand Tool Woodworking Tutorials:

View Deycart's profile


444 posts in 2428 days

#6 posted 04-30-2014 06:39 PM

I personally use about a half a cup. The container I use is a baking pan that is 12×8 x 1.5 filled to about an inch. I use larger plastic containers for bigger parts like beds. I do not heat these. The hotter the liquid the faster it works. It depends on how impatient I am to how hot I make it.

I reserve evapo-rust for nicer parts that are just discolored.

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