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Protecting steel tools and mandrels



I have been trying to find a product called comoline or
something similiar to protect my steel tools (mandrels and dapping
stuff) from getting cruddy over time. I can’t seem to find any
kind of protectent that is not flammable at the Hardware store.
One sales clerk told me to use Wd40 (!) after I told him I
work with a torch.

Any product suggestions out there ?



Hi DeDe A product which is flammable only during application
could be used . One item which I use is called "Alpine Silicone
Spray " . Heat stable , non toxic, non flammable, stainless,
odorless, colorless, tasteless, greaseless, non gumming,
foodgrade and comes in a regular spray on can . Don’t use it on
anything which you might want to paint later though. The address
of the manufacture is as follows

45439 - PHONE # 513 - 294 - 2656 .

This is a silicone spray lube which I have used on my tools and
other items which I don’t want to get cruddy . I have no vested
interest in this product , just a user .

Robert L.Powell - @rlpowell


Hi DeDe,

I think the item you were looking for is ‘cosmoline’. Ask an of
the GI’s from WW2 (probably other wars too), they cleaned lots of
it off just about everything. It was used as to rust/corrosion
proof things in storage/ transport for a extended period of time.
Cosmoline is very thick petroleum product containing very few
volatiles. It’s a PITA to clean off anything.

Depending on the length of time you’ll be storing your items, a
good spray with WD40, then storing in ziplock bags may work. If
you plan on storing them longer, (6 months or longer) it may be
advantageous to coat them with a heavy grease. A lot depends on
the climate you live in. If your in Arizona humidity isn’t much
of a problem, the highest the humidity has been the past week is

One advantage of the WD40/plastic bag technique is ease of
cleaning prior to use.



Hi DeDe

I copper plate my steel tools, mandrels, domes, etc. Dip them
into a solution made up of old pickle and Cu sulphate. Yes,
pickle! It plates the same way silver gets plated in the pickle
in the presence of iron. In the case of plating iron-based tools,
the solution just plates the tools in an instant. Dip a couple of
times or leave it in a few more seconds to build up the layer of

The cu plate wears off with use, but those are the areas that
probably won’t get time to rust. If you intend to leave the tools
unused for a while, re dip for an overall cover.

It’s a trick I got from someone in the USA!

B r i a n A d a m J e w e l l e r y E y e w e a r
@Brian_Adam1 ph/fx +64 9 817 6816 NEW ZEALAND


A number of products similar to WD-40 will work. Make sure they
contain a silicone lubricant. Most of what you spray will be the
petroleum solvent carrier, just as is the bulk of WD-40. This
is, of course, flammable. But it evaporates quickly, and with a
silicone lube, the remaining silicone film is NOT flammable.
WD-40 itself is probably safe too, since after a few moments,
the remaining film has lost most of it’s really volatile
componants (use the stuff with ventilation, for this reason).
And remember, steel is not flammable, and starts out at room
temp. It keeps a thin film, even a modestly flammable one, cool
enough so it won’t burn. I’m assuming, here, a film of a more
oil like material than a film of kerosene, so we’re talking about
the remaining oil, not the initial highly fluid sprayed on stuff.

And for really cheap and effective, forget the sprays. Get a
quart of any decent light motor oil. Most good motor oils have
corrosion inhibitors in them, and they really don’t burn easily.
Hit em with a torch, it might smoke a bit, or even burn while the
torch is on it, but remove the torch, it goes out. Safe enough.
You can use such oils to lubricate ingot molds, for example,
without setting fire to the shop. Or quench red hot tool steels
in them to harden. Similarly, no great flare up results…
Traditional “machine” oils are similar, but usually without the
corrosion inhibiting or cleaning additives. Just wipe the tools
down with a bit of the oil on a rag when you’re done using them.
Remember to store oily rags safely. Don’t pile them up all in a
bunch. hang them up on a towel bar or similar such solution, so
they cannot trap any heat that might build up from spontaneous
combustion. That is also much less a possibility with the
synthetic motor oils, as they are more combustion resistant in
general. Usually, when you go to use the tool, the slight film
of oil is not a problem. In those cases where it is in the way,
you can remove it easily enough with a little denatured alcohol.
Same thing if the tool has gotton cruddy with dirt or dust being
attracted to the oil. Just wipe it down again, or if it’s gummy,
clean it off with alcohol (or kerosene, or WD-40, which is mostly
kerosene anyway) and then re-oil it.

Peter Rowe



First, the product you refer to is cosmoline (sp?)! It was used
during WW11 to ship all metal items from rifles to entire tanks
disassembled and in crates for shipping. As a petrolium based
product, I believe it’s also very flammable. Personally, If I keep
the steel away from the pickle pot, I don’t have much of a
problem with rust - and I work in my basement! If, for some
reason you do have trouble with rust, I would simply follow your
hardware clerk’s advice or keep two rags around. One to apply a
light coating of oil and another to remove it when time comes to
use the tool.




The chemical I believe you are referring to is called cosmoline.
It is used by automobile manufacturers to protect metal parts
during shipping. You may be able to contact an automotive machine
shop in your area for info on where to find it.


The product is “cosmoline”, not sure where to get it. I use
plain, old-fashioned petroleum jelly (big jar for $5-8 US), which
is just wipe on in a thin coat when I’m storing tools. It
dissolves in hot soapy water–the kind you wash your dishes in,
regular detergent–and is absolutely waterproof and protects
steel for years without renewing the coating. Sharon Holt


Hi DeDe,

Go to your local (liberals please don’t listen) gun shop and ask
for a large can of RIG.(Rust Inhibiting Grease) It works great on
firearms and all metals. I once greased a gold ring with it and
there is nary a sign of rust in 15 years!:o) It cleans up
easily with most solvents. If you have an old impregnated
polishing rag that is about to bite the dust you can work some
RIG into it and store it in a ‘baggie’. A heavy piece of cotton
flannel works well also.


Skip Meister
N.R.A. Endowment &
Certified Instructor
in all disciplines
Certified Illinois D.N.R.
Hunter Ed, Instructor


Why dont you try keeping your steel shot in non corrosive
automobile antifreeze, I tumble mine in that mixture the shot
does not corrode or rust, give it a try. Charles in Austin



We used to use plain old petroleum jelly to protect gauge blocks
which are made from highly polished steel, from rusting. Gauge
blocks are used for very precise measurement and as such any rust
(even the acid left from a fingerprint) ruins them. Just wipe on
a paper towel to remove the excess before use (or use a solvent
if it has to be real clean). Wrap the tools in wax paper to keep
the dust off and the jelly in.

Cameron Speedie
Island Gem and Rock


I’ve been using WD40 for a couple years with no problems with
fire. Why would you need a fire proof protectant on your steel?
Do you use flame or red hot metal on these? Anyway, WD40 is
quite flammable but this can be fun! I can remember running
around my with cans of the stuff and bic lighters having napalm
fights in my Dad’s shop while he was gone. Not the wisest thing
to do, I had a friend have a can blow up in his face when he was
burning yard waste in a barrel. He was lucky and just had
blisters on his face for a week. Sorry to get off the subject.

Jeff Cleveland aka JevFro
301 N. Lincoln
Ellensburg, Washington 98926


What you are looking for is called COSMOLINE and probably isn’t
made anymore – it was widely used in W.W.II to protect guns,
engines, etc. during packing and shipment. It was petroleum
based, which should make it incompatible with torches, etc. I use
a wax based product called Prevox made by Kano Laboratories. But
I can’t imagine it would be torch-resistent. Another approach is
an anti-oxidizing paper that machinists used to protect tools and
finished work. It’s not torch resistent, but protects the metal
between uses. Kind of like anti tarnish silver storage cloth
bags. you can get it it at Graingers or any machinist supply

		Michael Knight

F.E. Knight, Inc., 120 Constitution Blvd., Franklin, MA 02038 |
508/520-1666 |