Rusted tools

I recently had a major inconvenience at my apartment. Awater pipe
burst and spewed hot water, apparently for hours. This created a
sauna in my small apartment and coated everything in condensation
(imagine a day at the spa from heck!). I came home from work to find
a soggy apartment, a scared catand a bench full of rusty tools.
Everything from my hammers, to the chuck in the flex-shaft
hand-piece, to the vice and beyond. My question to the good and
knowledgeable people of Orchid is how can I repair this damage? Can
these surfaces be refinished and “cured” at home, and how? I imagine
it might involve steel wool and a good oil. Being the foolish
procrastinator that I am, I have not gotten around to signing up for
renters insurance, so I’m trying to salvage some of these tools on my
own. Any advice? Please accept my thanks in advance for your time
and suggestions. Shelly Eley

I think that you are right about the steel wool and oil. I would
probably use 3 in 1 oil . I don’t see how you could have a heavy
enough coat of rust to need something like Naval Jelly. I also think
that the flex shaft will clean up ok.

Marilyn Smith

Fine steel wool and a light oil (wd40) is a good start. You may also
try a Scotchbrite pad.

Another approach is to use a phosphate rust remover treatment. One
of these is “Naval jelly” a phosphoric acid rust remover . There
are also other phosphate treatments that you will find at Home
Depot or a paint store. they are all basically the same .These will
remove the rust and convert the iron surface to a phosphate that
will resist further rusting. You will still have pits from any
heavy corrosion either way. Jesse

Ooh Shelly, What a bummer! I feel for you and your poor cat.

All those rusted tools to deal with, and one has to wonder about the
internal mechanisms of your flexshaft. I’ll bet the tool docs can
offer some help besides just condolences. Have you used a
dehumidifier to take out residual moisture from clothing, floor
coverings, and furniture? It would be a good idea, or you may find
light rust appearing on your tools in the future.

On the hand tools, the easiest and most inexpensive treatment is
probably a soak in good 'ol Coke - the phosphoric acid does a good
job on cutting the rust. Check your progress in a couple hours and
be prepared to change the liquid if progress seems to have stopped.

The surfaces will still be rough, so you need to be ready to smooth
and polish any parts that contact your jewelry. Here’s a thought on
the polishing effort - a tumbler might do the job on pliers and
smaller parts. Best of luck on this task, Judy in Kansas

Hi Friends,

If you check the Orchid archives, there is a remarkably ingenious
method for removing rust. It is non-toxic, and very labor
un-intensive. It involves using water and soda (baking soda or
washing soda seems to be a question, but I suspect both work) and a
car battery charger. I won’t rehash the whole thing here, as we do
every year or so… but it’s well worth investigating. Especially if
you have a number of things needing attention. I’ve used it on my
mandrels, punches and other steel tools, and it’s a dream.
Electricity and chemistry or elbow grease? Easy decision for me!

All the best,


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

I learned something new last year about rusted tools. My workshop is
in my garage in Florida and over the summer when I retreat to
Michigan I stored my swimming pool chemicals in the garage. The
chlorine and Acids normally used for water treatment caused all of
my jewel-tools and my regular tools to rust.So, if you are storing
any acids near your good tools-- don’t.

I recently had to remove rust from a number of my tools -
burnishers, mandrels, files, and pliers. I was able to remove heavy
rust using 220 grit silicon carbide paper well lubricated with a
good machine oil. I then continued with 400 and 600 grit. For
surfaces I wanted very clean and polished (eg. burnishers) I
finished with Simichrome or a little buffing with tripoli or red
rouge. I though most were goners but they came out very well. (And
they still look good afer several months). Files I cleaned with a
fine steel wire brush and again lots of oil. The files will never
be as good as new but most have some good life left in them. I
stayed away from the corrosive cleaners and it seemed to work ok.

The cause of my rust - a good idea I thought:

I have a metal tool box with sliding drawers on my workbench.
Annoyed by the clanking of tools everytime I opened the drawers I
dedcided to line them with felt (held in place with carpet tape.
Shortly after that I moved locations, put aside my jewelry hobby for
a couple years). When I opened the drawers I found all the tools in
their place - stuck to the felt!!! They had rusted where ever they
touched the felt! These tools were kept in a relatively dry
location, but felt provided enough electrolyte and held enough
moisture to cause the rusting. I now enjoy the sound of clanking of
newly polished tools in my felt-free metal drawers.

The best way to beat the rust, never let it form!