the rollers aren't rusted but the gears are in several places. I
had put sewing machine oil on the rollers and WD 40 on the rest of
it and put a muslin bag over it
Not the right lubrication. sewing machine oil isn’t so bad, but
it’s really too thin for this. Use a decent motor oil, same as in
your car. It’s also got corrosion inhibitors in it which increase
the protection. Or better, use the oil on the bearings, but put
actual grease on the gears themselves.
And DON"T use WD-40. It’s not actually much of a lubricant. Mostly
it’s a solvent, designed to free up frozen parts. As a temporary
immediate lube it’s OK, but it mostly evaporates. And applying it
to something that already is oiled only lets it wash off some of the
oil or grease. For the most part, it’s not much different from plain
kerosene. Not exactly a lubricant. You can use it on things that
need only very light lubrication, since it does leave traces of
oil. But not enough for heavy load things like the mill gears. The
muslin bag itself is OK, especially if it’s slightly oily (use a
synthetic oil, not petroleum based, if you oil the rag, since the
synthetics, like Mobil 1, and the like, aren’t prone to problems
with oxidation over time, which can lead to spontaneous combustion.
This won’t happen with the bag actually over the mill, exposed to
air, but if it’s oily, and crumpled in a corner for a bit, then it
can. The synthetic oils are safe in this regard. Even without the
oil, a dry muslin bag won’t cause the mill to rust by itself, but in
humid climates, perhaps the muslin absorbed some moisture, then
raising the humidity underneath. Oiling the bag will prevent that.
The main thing the bag does is keep off dust, which isn’t a bad
And as to the rust, if the rolls themselves are fine, thank the
stars, and then if you like you can remove whatever of the rust you
can remove, with a bit of steel wool. But this is mostly for your
aesthetic pleasure after you’ve removed the loose stuff. A little
bit of rust on the gears, once you’ve got them again properly greased
up, will do no harm to anything other than your pride in the mill.