Gene Waugh's Tips on Rust Removal


I know that I have been running off at the mouth (fingertips) a lot lately; I guess this comes mostly from the two hours in the morning after I get up when the wife does, until I leave for work.

But, I thought that some of the things I have learned recently (mostly from many responses from the list), might be helpful to some, especially newcomers.

Problem 1: Cleaning up old implements (small), etc., some of which are pretty severely rusted, etc.

Problem 2: Absolute novice, limited $$$ & tools.

I am getting pretty good results with electrolysis. ALL MY THANKS to those who mentioned that my newer charger might have to have a battery connected in parallel to convince the charger to kick out the amps! This has made a great difference. A real quick battery jump doesn't do the job, but if I leave it in the 'circuit' for 5-10 minutes when starting a batch, my little charger will settle down at around 8 amps.

I bought an assortment of 'crocodile' clips, and have made various jumpers, etc., so I can easily set up multiple pieces in the soup. To insure conductivity, I have not hesitated to use the cup brush or even the grinder to clean off a spot for connection. When in doubt, I make a quick continuity check with the multimeter. I pull the 'waste piece' (anode or cathode, my 35 year old high school chemistry escapes me, which one is positive??) at least once a day & give it a quick scrape. At present, I am using a piece of 2-1/2" square tubing scrap heisted from work for this. I have been contemplating taking part of an open-ended 30 gallon steel drum, set up inside a 50 gallon plastic drum, for the anode(???) This would give LOTS of surface area and 360 degree action. As long as parts were well supported to avoid contact, should work. I am presently using a 30 gallon plastic drum for a cauldron.

My best purchase has been a Milwaukee 4" grinder, and a twisted wire cup brush. Much of my rusted stuff was painted over the rust, and the electrolysis does leave a lot of residue on these parts. The rust is pretty well busted up under the paint. With the grinder, clean up, while messy!! is pretty darned easy and effective.

I have been using a 'home' type air compressor with a suction sand blaster, borrowed from my brother. The not too old (couple of years) el cheapo Sears airless compressor (15 amps at 120V, so it is one of the larger airless types)has deceased. I must get the numbers & repair parts from Sears, as even this VERY WIMPY sand blasting setup has been great for cleaning the electrolysis residue. Of course, a new two stage compressor & blasting cabinet would be wonderful, but...

I started out prepping for primer with a couple cans of brake cleaner I had laying around. When that was gone, I started using ethyl acetate (gotten from work) for the final rinse.

I am painting these implements International Red, using Ace Hardware paints. Started out with Rustoleum, but have opted for Ace's equivalent due to cost, and Ace has a really nice nozzle on these aerosol cans. Also, Ace has a 'red' primer in this line that will minimize appearance problems from wear, etc. (I will be using the stuff I am cleaning up.) In that much of what I am doing at the moment is heavily pitted, etc., I think I will try brush painting and see how it goes on the rough stuff. Again, cost.

When I start finishing the Sattley, which is not nearly as rusted as what I am presently working on, I am going to take greater care with the finish. Clean up the casting a little, use 'Icing', etching primer, and really try to get it shined up.

So, that's it. This has been a real learning experience, sped up several years (time warp) by the Stationary Engine List. Again, Thanks!!


Gene Waugh
Elgin, Illinois USA
1-1/2 hp Sattley, David Bradleys, & assorted other bits & pieces of Rusty Stuff!