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Dumb rolling mill question

I purchased a very inexpensive Italian rolling mill and when it
arrived it was bathed in grease. I’m talking thicker than bill gates

My question is what kinda maintenance do you have to perform for your
rolling mill and how often. I am sure it is in direct proportion to
the usage, but surely you don’t leave all that grease on it.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

I live and work in a city where the air seems to delight in
corroding any untreated steel surface. Anything that isn’t treated
gets rust blooms within 48 hours and it doesn’t get any better with
time. I’ve just accepted that I have to “treat” my rolling mill
whenever I put it away.

That said, treatment is pretty easy. When I bought my Durston mill
I was given a jar of brown “rust inhibitor” which works wonders. I’m
not sure of the composition but it seems to me that it’s a rust
proofing grease dissolved in white spirits. It’s easy to apply and
only takes a couple minutes to clean off at the start of the day.
All my steel tools, at least those that don’t get used every single
day, get the same treatment. In my case these few minutes of
prevention save hours of “cure” (repolishing).

Trevor F.

Hi, The grease is a protectorant, basically seals the rollers from
water and rust in it’s long storage from manufacture to your bench.
Clean this off with a rag then some mild degreaser. CAREFUL with the
degreser you want the gears to be greased/oiled so don’t strip it all
off there, but get the rollers like shiny.

Rust or even minor corrosion is the enemy of rolling mills.
Depending on where you reside and the exact environment you place the
mill you will have to plan accordingly. I live inland San Diego Co.
USA with an average 40% relative humidity, with my mills I use a thin
layer of Tri-Flow which has a bit of Teflon in it, it tends to stick
pretty well yet wipe right off when I need to use it. Any grease/ oil
combo would work fine your strving for a compromise between good
prtection and getting it off quickly. If you will only use the mill
every few weeks use something heavier, if daily a thin layer will
suit you fine. Remeber oil/grease collects dust and grit which can
damage the rollers. Always wipe the rollers clean before you use

Also be careful that you only roll nice clean SOFT metal. If you do
some roller printing with a harder material make sure it’s
sandwhiched between 2 softer metals. Brass, copper, gold , silver all
fine. I’ve used stainless steel to create patterns and would never
let that touch the rollers. Make sure your metal is also clean too. I
just retruned a mill that had scratches and what looked like steel
wool imbedded in the rollers as if it was cleaned with steel wool and
several fibers left that imprinted on the rollers.

With care even an inexpensive rolling mill can last for many years.
The biggest compromise on less expensive brands is the hardening of
the rollers so you need to make sure you are diligent in care.

Warren Allen
Whatrix Designs

I am no expert on this subject; however, you may have encountered
"Cosmoline" A combination of grease, shellac and beeswax with copper
sulfate added as a corrosion inhibitor. It is initially heated and
thinned with alcohol during the mixing state, then is allowed to
cool and set up. If that is what the factory used; you now know the
what it is made of …and that might offer some clues as to what
might be used to remove it.

Regards, Mark

Trevor, I too live in a very humid area and am forever battling
the rust problem. Could you please give us more details about your jar
of brown " rust inhibitor ".What is the brand name, where do you buy
it etc. thank you, Adrienne

As a part time woodworker, we use a monocrystaline wax on bare metal
surfaces. The wax is very thin and really doesn’t affect the rolling
mill. You might try it. Usually, such products are available at good
woodworking supply stores.

Big Daddy, your question is not dumb. Your repulsion to that
quantity of grease is natural.

That big gob of grease is the rollers’ best buddy during transit and
long-term storage. For the weight a durability of such steel, you
must envision that steel as delicate.
Grandma’s-heirloom-china-teacup-type delicate!

Go after the heavy grease. Definitely it needs to be removed prior
to use. In lieu of the grease, some 3-in-1 or similar oil needs to be
applied for protection between rolling sessions.

Dan Woodard, IJS

    .... Could you please give us more details about your jar of
brown " rust inhibitor ".What is the brand name, where do you buy
it etc. thank you, Adrienne 

I wish I could be more helpful Adrienne but I’m afraid there’s not
much I can add. The Durston people had included the jar when they
delivered the mill to my supplier. And the bottle is unmarked aside
from 1/2 of Durston’s standard sticker.

Once I realized how good this stuff was I contacted Durston and they
indicated I could get more from them whenever it was necessary.
Happy with that I pursued it no further at the time. That won’t last
for long though 'cause my bottle is about 1/2 gone. Given the choice
I’d buy a gallon of the stuff.

I’ve tried a number of other greases and oils for this same purpose
and nothing seems quite as aggressive in it’s protection and as
easy to apply and clean up as Durston’s “little brown bottle”.
Doubtless there are equally satisfactory solutions available but I’ve
never seen them.

Trevor F.

Hello Orchidland, OK. I must be either very lucky or have stumbled
onto a miracle. I have not made a practice of coating my mill’s
rollers with grease or oil. I put a bag of the moisture-absorbant
silica beads on the mill’s base and cover the whole thing with a
plastic bag - not sealed, just covered to keep dust off. My work
place is in the mechanical room in the basement, so maybe the HVAC
unit keeps humidity down. I rarely find any rust on any of my
tools, that that rust is usually a result of my foolishly handling
the tool with damp hands. I’m getting nervous after reading all this
discussion of what should be done for one’s rolling mill… yet I
hate to tamper with apparent success. Guess I’ll put a humidity
gauge in the area and see what moisture is in the air. Please don’t
chew me out too badly on my failure to do the oil thing. I do like
the woodworker’s wax application though. an uneasy Judy in Kansas

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
B.A.E. 237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhatttan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936 FAX (785) 532-6944

Just my $0.02 worth. I live in Florida where it is humid all the
time, and I keep a light coating of Vaseline on the rollers of my
mill. It seems to do the trick for me. HTH, Gail

    moisture-absorbant silica beads on the mill's base plastic
covered to keep dust off. 

Judy, Some foods come with little packages of dessicant. It would
take too long to accumulate enough to take care of a rolling mill,
but I still save them all, unopened, and toss them in with my
woodworking tools.


Judy, Some foods come with little packages of dessicant. 

You can buy this stuff from the hardware store in large bags, about
3 x 6 inches. You dry them out in your oven when they get too wet.

Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Studio 925; established 1992

Go to any firm that sells industrial supplies in the machinery line,
and explain that you need a storage and preserving oil that you can
apply by brush to steel surfaces, that’s suitable for indoor storage
and which can be easily removed with a rag and white spirit or
naphtha. You do not want a product that forms a continuous peelable
film. A name I am familiar with is “Shell “Ensis” fluid”. There
are various types of “Ensis”, and there are other manufacturers too,
and I declare former employment by Shell. These products are cheap,
totally effective, and “Ensis” is dark brown (!).

Having invested in expensive tools it seems to make sense to get the
right product to protect it, doesn’t it? But, for those who really
really want to brew something themselves, try using lanolin. Mix
annhydrous lanolin (from a pharmacy or shop selling ingredients for
home-brew cosmetics) with white spirit so that you can brush or glop
it on. Personally I stick with “Ensis” for machinery, but lanolin
is good for small tools that might not be used often. An advantage
is tht normally there’s nothing to wipe off before use. In either
case be aware of flammable vapurs given off during drying etc etc.

Alternatives include covering with “Vapour Phase Rust Inhibiting
Paper”, from the same places that sell “Ensis”, then covering with a
plastic bag, or maybe just a plastic bag with a suitably large bag
of silica gel dessicant. Much depends on local conditions, and how
long the storage period will be. –

Kevin (NW England, UK)

Just my .02 before we beat this to death. I have a sponge wired on
the top and bottom of the mill to where the rollers make contact. The
sponge is saturated with light motor oil. Seems to keep the rollers
coated well and wipes away any dirt or debris when in use. I use the
mill almost daily so dunno about long term storage, but I do know its
no fun sanding rust off the pins.


Kevin, thank you for the great info.

I did a Goggle search for “Shell Ensis Fluid G” which led me to an
Orchid posting of Nov. 08, 2001 ( art # 00254 ) by Sara Durston her
self, recomending using this “proper rust prevenitive”.

Unfortunately this search showed these Shell products are a big hit
everywhere but in North America. Europe loves the stuff.

So, RIO GRANDE, could you PLEASE look into getting this product for

I’m sooooo tired of wasting time - picking up a tool and finding I
have to clean it up or have to have a “rust day”. I’ve tried
everything discused on this form and then some . This looks like it
might finally be the best solution.

A very big thank you to all, Adrienne