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Electrolysis Rust Remover


User-Contributed Project
This project guide is not managed by MAKE staff. A homemade rust remover that's easy and uses common materials. Author: stan the toolfool Time required: 1 hour to make 3 hours to use Difficulty: Moderate x0 x 10 x4
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Tools
Battery charger

Relevant parts
Plastic bucket 5' to 25' Steel wire, Rebar tie wire works great! wooden stick or plastic pipe washing soda

Metalworking
Building with and working with metal.

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Step 1 Electrolysis Rust Remover


Nasty, rusty lathe tools.

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http://makeprojects.com/Project/Electrolysis-Rust-Remover/2253/1[2012/6/5 08:28:40]

Electrolysis Rust Remover DIY How-to from Make: Projects

Step 2

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Get a battery charger, plastic bucket washing soda (not soap!), some plain steel wire (no stainless, ever!) and a stick or plastic pipe. Next is the fun part, but it is not the safest. THIS PROCCESS CREATES HYDROGEN AND OXYGEN GASES WHICH ARE VERY EXPLOSIVE! THE SOLUTION WILL REMOVE THE OILS FROM YOUR HANDS! Be careful, ventilate, no sparks, and wear gloves.

Step 3

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In your PLASTIC bucket pour some clean water and about 1 tablespoon per gallon of washing powder. The amount does not have to be precise. Then with plain steel wire make a cage to closely fit the inside of your bucket, all electrically connected, with a lead above the edge.

http://makeprojects.com/Project/Electrolysis-Rust-Remover/2253/1[2012/6/5 08:28:40]

Electrolysis Rust Remover DIY How-to from Make: Projects

Step 4

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Suspend your rusty part from the pipe or stick with wire, submerged, making sure it does not touch the steel basket lining the bucket. Do not use copper like I did. Use steel wire, the same as for the cage. Make sure the two poles ( positive and negative ) never touch. Make sure your work area is well vented! Unplug your 12-volt battery charger. Set it to about 2 amps. Hook the positive (red) lead to the bucket basket and the negative (black) lead to the rusty part lead. Plug the charger in and look at the meter; it should be drawing about 2 amps. If it is a lot more or things are smoking, UNPLUG! The part will slowly start fizzing. When it stops (a couple of hours later, depending on the part), unplug your charger and remove your part. Clean the black slime off of it and paint or oil it to protect it. The water is NOT toxic; it is safe to pour down a drain. It is just soap and steel. The process should have removed any loose paint also.

Step 5

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Your parts should look like this now! All this and more at http://www.toolfools.com/forum!

http://makeprojects.com/Project/Electrolysis-Rust-Remover/2253/1[2012/6/5 08:28:40]

Electrolysis Rust Remover DIY How-to from Make: Projects

This can be made from scrap materials and recycled or re-used when finished. It is very simple to make when you understand the simple process, You can improve on your next one! It will not last, the cage is a consumable. Build it custom for each project, do not over-think this. K.I.S.S. For more information, check out the Metalworking category page. Did you successfully follow this guide?
I didit! it! Success! Success! I did

This guide has been completed 4 times. Page 1 of 1

Comments
Guide
This is a neat idea. A lot of my tools rusted up before I put a dehumidifier in my garage. The "cage" part is poorly documented. I'm guessing that what you actually want is wire only going around the perimeter of the bottom of the bucket, not criss-crossing as alluded to by a cage. That way it's easier to suspend the part, one side could actually touch the bottom of the bucket. Or do you actually need it criss-crossing? Other questions: does the cage need to be a different metal than the 'rusty part lead'? Also why was copper a bad idea and what you you recommend? aluminum? Matt Park, May 15 @ 7:03 AM I was just researching this to clean up some old milling and lathe parts, and from what I can tell copper is fine, but you don't want it touching the water. Only the steel should be submerged. I imagine with copper's lower resistance the current will preferentially bypass the steel, killing off the electrolytic effect, and rapidly corroding the copper away. This is only suitable for ferrous metal, if I read right. More info here: http://antique-engines.com/electrol.asp Plognark, May 16 @ 10:39 AM I'm not sure about the material for the cage, but everything I read indicates that you want to stick with steel. Other examples I see use a steel clamp or chain to suspend the item to be cleaned. As long as they don't touch the electrodes I think you're ok. Stainless steel is mixed with chromium, and while it's consumed more slowly than regular steel, this reaction would steel create chromate and hexavalent chromium. These are pretty horrible things, so don't do it. Hexavalent chromium dumping is what Erin Brockovich fought against. Cancer is bad, mmkay? Plognark, May 16 @ 10:56 AM Yes, more like a cage, all parts of the rusty item need to be "line of sight" with the cage, but not touching. This wire is a consumable and is not graded for neatness! Everything but the battery charger can be junk from the scrap pile. If you find a working charger there that's great too! stan the toolfool, May 16 @ 6:12 PM

http://makeprojects.com/Project/Electrolysis-Rust-Remover/2253/1[2012/6/5 08:28:40]

Electrolysis Rust Remover DIY How-to from Make: Projects

Oh yeah, I remember that "Chrome 6". I suppose you could also use a similar process, by making the cage out of zinc and swapping the charge to lightly galvanize the part for long term storage? Though I guess oil would work about as well... Regardless, this is a sweet guide, and I look forward to trying it. Matt Park, May 20 @ 11:01 AM

The "cage" is like a basket, every side of the rusty item needs to be " line of sight" with some of the steel cage. Just do not let the two touch and short out. This does not need to be fancy. a plastic container big enough to hold a plastic milk crate wrapped in rebar steel tieing wire, including the bottom would do great! of course wrap it on the outside, use one continuous piece about 20' long and bring both ends out of the water and hook to the lead. this wire is a consumable and does not even have to be neat. use plain steel wire! as Plognark states stainless is bad for the reason he ( or she ) explains. The copper wire works, but bubbles too. We want all the bubbling to take place on the rust. If you use it on the cage it corrodes in minutes and turns the water green. Also an unwanted reaction. This is a simple project, when you are done throw it away or recycle. Build a new improved one next time! stan the toolfool, May 16 @ 6:07 PM Did a successful test run with some old rusty nuts and bolts. I had to use a deep cycle 12 volt battery for the power source; the power supply I got has some finicky circuitry that I haven't gotten figured out yet. Plognark, 17 hours ago

Just finished setting this up for a hand plane I found in my Dad's garage. Since it is a No. 5 I had to use a 6 gallon bucket. I used a coffee can for the anode. With the top and bottom removed I cut the can into two halves. I drilled holes in the sides and connected them with copper wire, and a hole at the top of each half for the leads to the battery charger. So far it has worked like a charm. The rust is off of the blade, and the body is bubbling away. At least, I assume it is working judging from the thick brown foam that has formed at the top. I don't seem to be having any issues from the copper, other than the fact that the copper on the anode has oxidized to green pretty quickly. The copper wire attached to the tool is not oxidizing at all. Michael Werling, 3 days ago I hope you didn't copper plate your plane, it will turn green. Use steel wire only! stan the toolfool, 3 days ago Your results sound about right. You may not notice anything with the copper yet, but I did dig up some more info on it: "It is important that any copper connector to the anode not touch the solution. If it does, copper will oxidize to cupric ion, Cu++. The connector will be destroyed. Most of the copper ions formed should precipitate as copper carbonate or copper hydroxide, but if any of this dissolved copper reaches the cathode it will be reduced to copper metal on the iron object. Its presence will promote rapid rerusting." Had to dig down deep in this thread: http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthread.p...) If I understand the chemistry right most of the copper will settle out, but any of it that manages to swirl around and hit the iron cathode will help oxidize the iron all over again. Plognark, 15 hours ago

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http://makeprojects.com/Project/Electrolysis-Rust-Remover/2253/1[2012/6/5 08:28:40]