Hands On
Service Methods and Tips

NOV/DEC 2002
Volume 45/Issue 6

Project Articles
The Pembroke Table
The Cheval Mirror
The Child's Sled & Climbing Bear

Ask Smitty
Owner’s Gallery
Letters from Owners
Academy Notes
Scrap Wood Secrets
Service Pointers
RUST - The degeneration of tools & how to deal with it
Safety Tips
Horizontal Boring Machine Set-Up & Safety

What's New
Dial Indicator Gauge and Adjustable Stop Collar

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National Woodworking Academy in Dayton, OH

Online Accessory Catalog
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Copyright 2002.
Shopsmith, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Service Pointers
RUST - The degeneration of tools and
how to deal with it

Printer friendly PDF copy of article

1 rust / n a: The reddish, porous, brittle coating that is formed on iron especially when chemically attacked by moist air, and that consists essentially of hydrated ferric oxide but usually contains some ferrous oxide and sometimes iron carbonates and iron sulfates.
2 rust / v a: To become corroded. b: To deteriorate or degenerate through idleness or neglect.

Look in the dictionary for a definition of rust and these (or variations of) are the answers you'll find. But we all know what rust is...it's that ugly, reddish-brown, corrosive termite that eats away at our cars...our old steel gutters and downspouts...and yes, our precious hand and power tools. In short, that miserable, corrupt stuff that ruins ferrous metal objects before their time.

However, rust, or the corrosion of metals, is a totally natural process. In the “unnatural” process of making steel, iron and carbon are combined...and the resulting substance is always ready to combine with its plentiful, natural enemies - water and oxygen - to form that dreaded new compound - RUST. “Natural?”, you might ask. The fact is, it's through oxidation and corrosion that steel returns to its “natural” state of iron ore, from whence it came.

Don't give up, though. There are steps that can be taken to fight the relentless, parasitical menace we call RUST. Neglected or improperly cared-for tools can, in most cases, be restored to like new condition. Cleaning and sharpening will certainly help. But the first step in the restoration of rusted metal tools is to remove the rust and dirt.

Chemical rust removers will brighten most metals. Simply apply the solution and allow it to “soak in” for a specified length of time, loosening the rust from the metal so it can be wiped away with a rag.

An old toothbrush, small (brass) wire brush or metal-handled, throwaway “acid brush” can be helpful in the application of these chemicals. Steel wools, emery cloths and nylon abrasive pads (such as ScotchBrite®) are also effective rust removers when used with turpentine. In this example, the turpentine helps loosen additional dirt and grease that the abrasives alone may not remove.

For stubborn, anchored-on rust, more aggressive work will be required. Start by sanding the item down to clean metal. Remove all rust and pitted metal with a fine grade (150-180 grit) wet/dry silicon carbide abrasive. Progress to finer grades until the surface can be smoothed with a super-fine (320-grit or finer) abrasive.

If you find that rust has overtaken a part of a tool that was once painted, remove the rust down to clean metal, dry the surface thoroughly, apply the proper primer, then repaint. Should you decide NOT to repaint the surface, apply a coating of lightweight machine oil or a sealant such as Dri-Cote® to prevent future rust build-up. Another option is ordinary furniture Paste Wax®. Remember that the frequent application of these materials must become a part of your normal tool maintenance procedures to avoid future rust problems.