cleaning an steel square?

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Forum topic by mhein68 posted 02-27-2010 11:23 PM 3714 views 1 time favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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62 posts in 3191 days

02-27-2010 11:23 PM

I bought a Stanley 45-4500 square at yard sale for $1. I guess I could have passed it up, but for a $1! It is rusted to heck… Question is what to clean the rust off with? Is it worth going through the headache? It seems in good shape except for the rust.. Any suggestions or ideas? Thanks!

-- Mike, Southern IL

9 replies so far

View WayneC's profile


13776 posts in 4268 days

#1 posted 02-27-2010 11:38 PM

People use a variety of techniques. EvapoRust, vinigar, citric acid, and electrolytic.

Check these for a couple of examples, not sure if steel would be an issue.

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

View Chris Wright's profile

Chris Wright

540 posts in 3652 days

#2 posted 02-27-2010 11:59 PM

This may seem like a silly thing to ask, but it may answer your question for you. If it’s that old and rusty, is it still square? I know some of my squares have aren’t at 90 degrees anymore so I thought I’d just ask.

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

View mhein68's profile


62 posts in 3191 days

#3 posted 02-28-2010 12:37 AM

Chris, That is a very good question.. enough that I ran downstairs to check it againts a couple others.. It seems to be true.. If it wasnt I wouldnt even try cleaning.. Thanks!

-- Mike, Southern IL

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3345 days

#4 posted 02-28-2010 12:40 AM

I’ll be following this thread.

When my dad died, his (lovely) wife sold all of his tools that would fetch even a quarter.

In the leftovers … was his rusted, rosewood handled try square. I got it.

It’s square, but … I should clean it up, and treasure/use it.

-- -- Neil

View sphere's profile


109 posts in 3202 days

#5 posted 02-28-2010 01:00 AM

I like to wire wheel the major crud off, then spray paint fluorescent orange the square. Then sand off the paint with 220 and an orbital sander, leaving the paint in the lines for my old eyes to see in failing light.

-- Spheramid Enterprises Architectural Wood Works

View sphere's profile


109 posts in 3202 days

#6 posted 02-28-2010 01:04 AM

Oh, there are ways to re tune it sq. using a center punch on an anvil like surface. If the sq. is CLOSED too much, make a divot with a center punch at the inner corner of the intersection ( picture a diagonal line from inside corner to outside corner) maybe two divots in line away from inside.

This “upsetting” opens the legs. To close an open condition, strike the punch on the OUTSIDE corner of a face.

Trial and error, there is no formula for perfection.

-- Spheramid Enterprises Architectural Wood Works

View 1yeldud1's profile


301 posts in 3213 days

#7 posted 02-28-2010 02:07 AM

Well if you would ask a person that does body work – go to an area where overspray wont hurt – then spray the square with “WD40 or a similar product” and take a “red” scootch bright pad to the square – this will clean off the crud – when finished take “brake cleaner” as it doesnt have oil in its contents and clean the square several times using paper towles to wipe it down. If desired then you can paint the square and clean it off again using a 2nd scotch bright pad to leave the numbers painted – hope this helps !!!!! Note automotive carb cleaner contains light “oil” so I always use Brake cleaner for a home solvent to remove any traces of oil on my tools !!!!!!!

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3240 days

#8 posted 02-28-2010 02:21 AM

I’ve cleaned square squares by scraping off the serious crud, spraying them with WD-40, and using a detail sander to run them from 100 to 220 grit sandpaper.

If I want to repaint them, I clean them with brake cleaner, paint them, and sand them with 220 to remove the paint (except in the marks and numbers). When the paint has thoroughly dried, I give them a spritz of WD-40 – or a coat of automotive paste wax.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3958 days

#9 posted 03-01-2010 06:17 AM

Sphere is right on with “tuning a” a square. A small ball peen (used lightly) also will work if its way out (you dropped a framing square off a roof, etc)

Bottom line on any square, lay it against a straight edge of a board and scribe a line. Flip it and scribe a line in the same spot. If they are not exactly the same, it is not square (or the edge is not straight) and requires tuning. Many “store bought” squares are not when they come from the store. There is a reason why you pay more for some brand names like Starrett, etc.


-- Go

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