Electrolosys - Plane Restoration Question

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Forum topic by pete79 posted 02-24-2011 04:16 PM 1164 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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154 posts in 3374 days

02-24-2011 04:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: refurbishing plane

I’m going to be making my first pass at a plane restoration this weekend using the electrolosys method of rust removal for a plane i just acquired via ebay. I have two questions regarding this approach:

1. Will this remove the japanning on the plane body and frog as well as the rust?
2. Does this process give off any toxic gasses or anything else that would prevent me from wanting to do this in my basement? I don’t have venting capabilities in the basement, so I’m wondering if I need to do this in the garage or somewhere else?


-- Life is a one lap race.

9 replies so far

View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 3617 days

#1 posted 02-24-2011 04:46 PM

The normal gasses that are always given off when you do this are hydrogen and oxygen, which of course can be an explosive combination in high amounts, but probably not with this. Any other gasses would depend on what you used as an electrolyte. Some salts will release chlorine. I don’t think the washing powder is a problem. As far as removing japanning, I had no problem on my old Bailey planes. Some other brands of planes just have paint, and on my Corsair plane, all the paint bubbled up and came right off. I’m sure someone else here can tell you more about the gasses, but I know I haven’t died or blew anything up yet.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

View swirt's profile


3546 posts in 3205 days

#2 posted 02-24-2011 04:54 PM

If you are looking to preserve the japaning and paint, then evaporust would be a better option.

-- Galootish log blog,

View Bertha's profile


13551 posts in 2927 days

#3 posted 02-24-2011 05:09 PM

I’ve used an electrolysis tank on many Stanley planes without any loss of japaning. I used a large blue (recycling-type) bucket in a two-car garage using boxed washing powder (without chlorine), rebar, and a trickle battery charger. I’ve never detected any toxic gases, but I’m not a chemist. I was more worried about a shock than an exposure. I usually follow the treatment with a gentle mechanical cleaning & have been happy with the results. I’ve used PB blaster without any loss of japaning but have no experience with evaporust (although I’ve heard favorable things from many others).

Paint stripper WILL absolutely remove japaning.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3231 days

#4 posted 02-24-2011 06:21 PM

I second the Evaporust. Not nearly as messy. Works well. Wish I had found it years ago.

If the japanning comes off, it is because there was rust under it and it was on its way out anyway.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4055 days

#5 posted 02-24-2011 08:14 PM

Pete, Dale is correct about the gas that electrolysis gives off. If I remember my chemistry 101 hydrogen would have to be contained and reach a concentration of at least 4% in your shop to reach the lower explosion limit. This is simply not going to happen given the amount of electrolyte that is present in the solution. You will have more hydrogen emitted from your car batteries than you are going to get from this reaction. It is safe to do so in your basement provided that you do not use table salt or any other electrolyte that contains chlorine. These will work just fine but the electrolysis process will give off chlorine gas which is both highly toxic and corrosive.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 3114 days

#6 posted 02-24-2011 08:53 PM

Evaporust works GREAT and I use it right in tub next to my kitchen sink. Non toxic and easy to clean up.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View pete79's profile


154 posts in 3374 days

#7 posted 02-24-2011 10:02 PM

Great feedback everyone. Thank you.

Any idea how long I will/should need to leave the parts in the electrolosys bath? I’ve read anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. That’s quite a range.

-- Life is a one lap race.

View Bertha's profile


13551 posts in 2927 days

#8 posted 02-24-2011 10:05 PM

I don’t know the recommended bath time but out of convenience, I usually let mine run overnight. From friend’s reports, the evaporust does a much more thorough job (without the aggressive manual step). I seem to recall it being fairly expensive for a larger tub but I could be mistaken. I was more interested in playing chemist & getting a head start on the wire brush work. Good luck!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View tnwood's profile


263 posts in 3320 days

#9 posted 02-24-2011 10:40 PM

While I think doing it in the basement is probably not a problem in general, I’d make sure I was not close to a open flame source such as a furnace pilot light, water heater, etc. as you can get some localized higher concentrations of hydrogen in an enclosed area which could ignite under certain but rare conditions. But it is better to not have to call the local fire department. Having experienced a fire due to spontaneous combustion from oily rags (in my school shop and not my home) , I try to err on the side of caution.

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