Removing rust from antique files

Hello Ganoksin, I have been lurking for a while and now have a
question to ask you…

My father’s best friend’s father was a professional jeweler active
in the 1930’s and I recently was given a box of his jeweler’s
tools!!! I am just starting to set up my first bench and can barely
afford one really nice long file so I’m very excited to now have this
large collection of antique professional files.

However, many of them have some rust on either the file or the file
and handle. I would love to fix these old files up and start using
them but want to make sure I do it right and minimize damage and
alteration. Here is a link to a photo of a few of the files to show
the way the rust is…I’m not sure if it requires a serious strong
solution or if I could use some simple home remedy.

Any tips are much appreciated!

Thank you,
Rebecca S. in NYC

Hi hope this helps all my tools are old some very very old 1800s I
always clean them with this oil that has a corrosion remover in it
can’t remember the the name (comes in a spray can) but i get it at
the hardware store and some fine sandpaper that can be used with
water then i spend hours just sanding away it helps to let the oil
sit on the tools over night. its not easy but well worth the effort
as i have a few new files and they do not work as well as the old
ones. I love old tools and even the ones where there is still a
little rust on the file edge still work well and I seen that while
using them some of the rust wore off. I received a lot of tool old
and new tools from our friends on orchid when i first started out
again while i treasure all of them the old tools that worked so hard
on are the best. As Treasure all those who helped me.

Jen Lane

I use Evapo-Rust from to safely remove oxidation
from iron and steel.

A scrub with wire brush and kerosene would be a good start. If the
rust has eaten the teeth away then they will be of no use as files.
As they are good high carbon steel they could be reworked as gravers,
knives etc. They would have to be ground to their new profile by a
competent toolmaker though.

Nick Royall

They look like nice files. We’ve got a few antique tools at work,
from a similar box we bought at auction. There’s a similar discussion
going on further up the list, but for your purposes, tread carefully

  • buy steel wool and a steel brush, and some oil, and go to work on
    them, working along the grain of the teeth, not against it.

If you start using aggressive chemicals, the files might never
recover. I’d love to know what else you got in the box. Are there
any tools you can’t identify?

Oooh, that sounds like a fun game. Maybe I’ll dig out some
unidentified too ls and do the same…


rust can be removed via a reverse plating ‘scheme’…there are
detailed instructions if you do an internet search on rust removal
and then read through the one that uses a motorcycle battery trickle
charger. i’ve used the process to reclaim some old wood planes and
some of my tools [from hurricane flooding].