Rust remover and other restoration techniques

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Forum topic by pierce85 posted 07-07-2011 11:40 PM 2258 views 4 times favorited 39 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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508 posts in 1649 days

07-07-2011 11:40 PM

I know this subject has been covered before in one way or another but I’m looking for specific product recommendations and techniques. I’m slowly acquiring vintage tools that require some work to bring them back to usable condition. I’m not primarily concerned about collector value per se, but I do want to have hand tools in top working condition and that look in top working condition as well.

What rust removal products would you recommend? Are there any resources – online or in print – that detail the proper way of restoring metal tools that have seen better days? This may sound weird but I believe tools that look like crap will be used differently than tools that look well taken care of.

In any event, if you were to restore a tool full of surface rust, how would you go about doing that and what products would you use?

39 replies so far

View jerkylips's profile


259 posts in 1657 days

#1 posted 07-07-2011 11:55 PM

the one I’ve heard is Empire Top Saver. I haven’t used it, but heard good things..

View Les Casteel's profile

Les Casteel

157 posts in 2146 days

#2 posted 07-08-2011 02:21 AM

I can’t tell you why it works. But, go and buy some plain ole’ MOLASSES. Mix up a batch 1 part molasses to 9 parts water, cover the tool wait and it works. I use it on all my old stuff. Do a search for it and you’ll find all sorts of resources including guys who mix up stock tanks and dip car parts.

Works for me.

-- Les, Arkansas,

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2070 days

#3 posted 07-08-2011 02:22 AM

As stated there are many ways and products out there. Having recently gotten my tools out of storage and having to deal with surface rust. I was short on funds to buy penetrating type oils. I took SAE 30 and thinned with mineral spirits and used the green scotch brite pads to clean off the rust followed buy a good wiping down with plain mineral spirits and a final wiping down with acetone before waxing.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View TechRedneck's profile


756 posts in 1944 days

#4 posted 07-08-2011 05:00 AM

I have an old Parks Planer I am planning to restore along with a few other tools. I found a website that was helpful:

I found there was a foundry that still makes parts that are original specs. I’m sure you can get some answers there.

-- Mike.... West Virginia. "Man is a tool using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.". T Carlyle

View MedicKen's profile


1610 posts in 2549 days

#5 posted 07-08-2011 05:44 AM

I have mainly used and continue to use electrolysis. However, you have to remeber my machines are disassembled to the last nut and bolt. Electrolysis is a very simple and safe method that involves the part to be cleaned, a sacrificial anode(old saw blade, rebar, metal plate, NO stainless), washing soda and a battery charger. To use electrolysis submerge the part to be cleaned fully in a non conductive container, plastic barrel, bucket etc, add the washing soda, about 1 tea spoon per gallon, hook the neg cable to the part being cleaned and the pos cable to the anode and plug it in. It will immediately being to bubble and when all the rust has been converted the process stops. It will also remove old paint and loosen some grime. After the process is done unplug the charger, rinse with clear water and hit it with a wire brush. Good as new!

Here is a unisaw top I did….Before


Yes thats the same top

Here a I am cleaning the top in my garbage can

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 1727 days

#6 posted 07-08-2011 06:42 AM

@Pierce85, I’m with you 100% on the “tools that look like crap will be used differently than tools that look well taken care of.”

You’ve already got some good responses here… from Topsaver to Electrolysis in 4 posts flat !

I see you mentioned hand tools. Are you also restoring bench or floor machinery (or their surfaces) ? Let us know what all you’re doing and you’ll get responses tailored to that.

If hand tools and rust is the main culprit, as usual you have mechanical, chemical and electrical removal… and combinations thereof.

Mechanical: Sandpaper, wire wheel, scotchbrite, sandblasting, buffing wheel with rouge, etc. for mechanical. Depends what surface you have now and what you want to end up with.

Chemical: Naval Jelly, Evapo-Rust, and others to remove the rust.

Electrical: Electrolysis for iron and steel parts.

Elbow grease may fall into one or more of the above categories as well ;=)

More on the finishing end, but some things do well to be powder-coated and others even re-plated.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View pierce85's profile


508 posts in 1649 days

#7 posted 07-08-2011 04:43 PM

Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. It would only be for hand tools. I have a bit-brace and some auger bits that have surface rust, as well as a few saws and other miscellaneous tools. I’m doing the ebay thing looking for planes and anticipate removing rust from them as well.

I might experiment with each of these methods, although electrolysis looks to be a popular way to go.

View kiss4afrog's profile


2 posts in 1601 days

#8 posted 07-08-2011 05:40 PM

The electrolysis works great. Have used it on automotive parts that aren’t replaceable.

View MedicKen's profile


1610 posts in 2549 days

#9 posted 07-08-2011 05:56 PM

If you use electrolysis remember it is ONLY for cast and steel. The process and chemical reaction will eat up brass, aluminum, pot metal etc. It is not fun to put a piece in and pull out a skeleton.

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View NBeener's profile


4808 posts in 2261 days

#10 posted 07-08-2011 05:57 PM

Throw “Evaporust” on the list.

No personal experience, here, but I’ve constantly heard good things about it.

What about old school Naval Jelly ???

And … for light, superficial rust … a Scotchbrite pad and WD-40 can do wonders.

-- -- Neil

View Bertha's profile


12982 posts in 1780 days

#11 posted 07-08-2011 06:09 PM

Voting for electrolysis with Ken’s caveats.

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

View WayneC's profile


12638 posts in 3184 days

#12 posted 07-08-2011 06:13 PM

Another chemical is citric acid. You can get it at brewing stores. It works fairly well for parts and stuff.

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

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2497 posts in 2524 days

#13 posted 07-08-2011 06:37 PM

Evaporust, Put it in overnight and all rust will be gone. i have it and cleaned all my old tools that I got out of storage after a 30 year lapse between woodworking. And… evaporust is non toxic, you can put it down the drain safely and it gets all the rust but won’t eat away at pits that rust can put into metal if it’s been rusted a long time. I’ve tried a bunch of stuff that either take a lot of work (electrolosis) or are messy (pink jelly) and evaporust works as good or better than any of them and is as easy as pouring water.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View DaddyZ's profile


2474 posts in 2127 days

#14 posted 07-08-2011 07:08 PM

Soft wire wheel & elbow grease

I am thinking of electrolysis though in the future, I have heard & seen good things from it.

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View thiel's profile


374 posts in 2379 days

#15 posted 07-09-2011 05:58 AM

The trick is finding the really really GOOD planes on ebay. Don’t let some jerk from up the road pawn off a crappy old #4 on you! At least make sure he sharpens it first! :-)

I just did some auger bits with Evapo-Rust and it works well … just be careful about leaving it in there too long or else the metal will turn black. Since you really need to immerse things in Evapo-rust, don’t be afraid to make your own custom troughs or bowls using cardboard and plastic garbage bags—that’s really the only way to submerge a long auger bit without using gallons of the stuff.

I’d also recommend picking up some light oil—I use Camelia—to seal things right after you derust. Do it quick or you’ll get flash rust. I find that citric acid is best for flash rust.

One thing not mentioned is automotive rubbing compound… works well for me for fine stuff.

One last thing: buy all this stuff at They have great prices on everything (and they sell EVERYthing) and the ordering process is shockingly simple.


-- Laziness minus Apathy equals Efficiency

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