Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Rusting tools

Hi everyone, I am having a problem with pervasive rust. We live in a
very humid area (in the summer) and it seems like I’m having to oil my
tools every few days because the joints seize up and they are rusting
horribly (everything from my pliers and hammers to my bench block and
anvil). To top it all off, oiling them so much leaves a residual on
my metals which I have to clean thoroughly. Am I missing something -
is there something I can do to prevent this from happening? Also, I
am new to polishing in general and am hesitant to try my hand at my
tools for fear of ruining them. Any suggestions how to go about
removing the rust from them so that it isn’t leaving patterns in my
metal? I should mention that a controlled climate (air conditioning)
isn’t an option as our house is passive solar (with an eye toward
active solar) and energy constraints limit this.

Carrie Otterson
in the muggy Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky

Dear Carrie, use WD40 all the time on your tools to prevent the rust.
If = you want to remove the rust take sand paper 4-0 and WD40 to
removed it. that the solution I use for 18 years

Carrie,sounds like you may have some scid sitting around unsealid.If
this is not the case,I suggest you try inclosing your tools in some
sort of continer.Perhaps something like cigar boxes.

Good luck
Ralph Cross
Fremony Jewelers

Hi everyone, I am having a problem with pervasive rust.

Just a thought. Why not get a large plastic storage container with a
snap on seal lid from the likes of Walmart and store your tools with
a few bags of silica gel to keep them dry. At the end of the day
just warm the tools and the silica bags in an oven at say 250 deg F
before putting them away. Kelvin Mok

Carrie, Make sure your stell tools are not anywhere near a corrosive
acid. I had problems once which I traced to a CLOSED container with
CLOSED acid gold testing bottles!! You should not be having that
much problem from humidity…here in the Pacific NW we are usually
well over 85% humifity, often 95% plus and we do not have those
problems. A closed nitric bottle in a closed container WILL leak into
the air.

Original Message:

I live in the humid East Central Indiana in the woods and have a
basement studio so I know what you mean about the rust although my
problem is not as bad as yours. I just used a belt sander on a
planishing hammer and tee stake last night and followed it with one
of Rio’s fiber buffs on the buffer and then followed that with
Graystar buffing compound on an eight inch buff. I have done to before
and I don’t like to do it but it’s better than the pits We
also run several dehumidifiers all summer and have lots of water to
dump on plants. I have sanded down drawer edges on my bench and waxed
them but so far this summer, I haven’t needed to do this.

Marilyn Smith

Hi Carrie, I never oil any of my tools but take care to keep them
very dry, remember rust can be caused by sweat (very common) and
moisture (of course). Particularly if you work in a small area with
the pickle pot on and the ultrasonic going all day. Also air
temperature is a major factor what I mean is they can get dew on them
if the temperature drops low at night and warms up quickly by day. To
avoid this keep them in your drawers and have some silica packets in
their also. I suggest you take all the oil off your tools, especially
the hand tools, it makes for a mess. If they are pitted from rust you
got to sand it off with sand sticks, that’s a nightmare, I recently
spilled some flux on my steel bench block (it has taken for ever to
get it polished again). The amount of time and energy I put in to
dressing it, it would have been cheaper to throw it out and buy a new
one. The only reason I didn’t is that I received it when I was a
young apprentice hehehe. So to summarize, keep em CLEAN, keep em DRY
and take that oil off. Except for my drawplates (if you have any),
its the only thing I keep oil on, oh except for my sharpening stone.
Oh and my taps and dies.

Ed Dawson.
Maine Master Models.

to avoid this [rust] keep them in your drawers  

carrie - short of this drastic measure you might try some wd-40
sprayed into some of the various sized “hefty one zip” bags. wd-40 is
not a lubricant but an oxygen inhibitor (people, i don’t need to be
impressed by your knowledge or ability to look up convoluted
so let’s just leave it at this simple explanation, okay?)
so it isn’t as greasy as other sprays. - pop the tools into the bags
at the end of the work - much less wear & tear & rust on your drawers.
good luck -


Picked up this gem from a tool refurbishing place that swore by it: a
product called “Corrosion X”. I used it to keep my tools from
corroding while I was out of the country for 6 months, and it worked
like a dream, even here in the salty coastal environment that I live
in. Unfortunately, I don’t know where to find it outside of the
electronic supply store that I bought it from in Albany, CA, but a
product name search on the web should bring it up for you. A bit on
the pricey side, but very effective. Hope it helps. Usual
disclaimers: I am not affiliated with this company, yadda, yadda.


G’day Carrie Otterson;

    Hi everyone, I am having a problem with pervasive rust.  We
live in a very humid area (in the summer) 

Firstly get a large, simple cupboard with the inside, back, sides,
and door well sealed with paint or varnish and fitted with perforated
thin board separated from the cupboard back by about a couple of
centimetres so you can use the special hooks available for hanging
tools from hardware stores. Even nails work! With fibre board, use a
water based sealant first, then finish with polyurethane. Urethane
straight onto MDF takes ages to dry. The cupboard can be made from
medium density fibre board and the hinged (not sliding) door should be
fitted with catches so it closes without gaps. This cupboard will help
keep moisture off the tools. Some tools with wooden handles could
have small screw eyes put into the end of the handle; and hooks
screwed into the cupboard back/sides; all my long handled wood turning
tools live in a cupboard like this in the garage which has a 'tin’

  1. Buy a bottle of rust remover from a paint shop or hardware store.
    This is designed especially for it’s purpose; it does contain
    phosphoric acid as does Coca Cola, but it is designed for the job and
    isn’t expensive. Use it according to the bottle instructions, and wash
    well then dry afterwards on an absorbent cloth. (Use Coca if you
    REALLY have to)

  2. Get a linen buff to use with Tripoli polish and polish every tool
    to a bright finish. The brighter the finish, the less likely it will
    be to get rusty. It only takes a few minutes and you can polish all
    your tools when you have a silly half hour on the last day of every
    month. Besides, it will make you even more proud to have them. There
    is a ‘thing of beauty’ feeling about properly maintained and polished
    tools. I must confess that I do this to all my jewellery tools. Only
    I don’t have to use rust remover; what’s there polishes off easily.
    Polishing on a spinning buff isn’t likely to spoil them: it will
    enhance them.

  3. Get a light mineral oil. (definitely NOT a vegetable oil; they
    oxidize in the air to form a sticky deposit.) Keep it in a small
    shallow bowl, preferably the type with a plastic cover, together with
    a piece of soft cloth soaked in the oil. Wipe the tools all over with
    the oily rag after rust removal and as soon as you are done with them,
    then replace them in the tool ‘hidey hole.’

  4. When you go to use the tool, wipe it with a piece of tissue - a
    roll of of soft toilet paper is good, useful and cheap for the

  5. Finally keep all edged tools razor sharp, then you will respect
    them too much to cut yourself.

I used to give a demonstration talk to my Boy Scout Troop on how to
buy and look after pocket knives, and how to sharpen them to a razor
edge. I had thirty in the Troop and none ever cut themselves. Every
boy of ten plus, wants a pocket knife; sheath knives were definitely
frowned upon. Flick knives are illegal! Buy first quality tools,
maintain them well, and you can pass them on to your grandchildren
when you have at last to go to the old people’s home (So the
grandchildren will promptly ruin them. Unless you taught YOUR
children.) – Cheers now,

John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ

Hello All and Carrie especially. The rusting tools solutions are all
great - but what goes before all that has to be Ventilation. Soggy
air settles if not stirred up. A dehumidifier is important but best
only if drained directly outside so you won’t have to fuss with
carrying the heavy water container out, sloshing in your shoes or
somewhere as you go. Best for you in a solar situation is
ventilation. You need moving air. You need an exhaust fan in your
work space anyway to pull away the fumes from pickle, soldering, those
closed and sealed acids, etc. Shouldn’t be working without one. We
want you to live long and prosper. All the best,


G’day; further to my previous suggestions on avoiding rust on tools.
Some folk advocate the use of packets of silica gel. This is all
very well and good but only one person, Kelvin Mok, advocated that the
gel be frequently heated. The point is that there has been a fashion
for certain companies - particularly some in Japan and Korea - to put
tiny packets of silica gel in with their goods. (Labelled "Do not
eat[!!]) But the aforesaid goods are in cardboard containers, were
packed some while previously, and the whole business is a nonsense.
Remember that silica gel isn’t a magic talisman to ward off the evil
moisture enemy! It can only become saturated and then stop absorbing
more - usually in quite a short time; a a day or two at most.

Use silica gel by all means; check around to find and buy the gel
which has indicator incorporated. When being manufactured, the
liquid which eventually forms the gel, has a solution of cobalt
chloride added. So when the gel is dried off, one is left with little
pieces about the size of coffee sugar crystals which are bright blue,
and look similar to copper sulphate crystals. When these absorb
water, they begin to turn pink, and when saturated are an unmistakable
pink. The water is most easily driven off by spreading on a plate in
a microwave oven, set to a low mark (3 - 4?) and given around 10 - 15
minutes whirl. They must be stored in a moisture proof jar until
used. It can be regenerated many times. Kelvin Mok suggested one of
those large plastic bins with a tight fitting top. You would put the
gel in a thin cotton or nylon tie top bag in the box. But there is
certainly no point in putting gel in a non moisture proof box.

One further point; if your wrist watch gets an unfortunate shower,
it will dry completely if left overnight with the back open and
wrapped in a single layer of tissue to avoid dust, in an air tight
vessel (AGEE jar?) with silica gel. But you have to get on to it fast
before too much water penetrates the so called ‘water resistant’ case.
– Cheers now,

John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ

You can always scatter Castor beans in the drawers, that should keep
them rust free. And it’s all natural.


Hi all I was told by my uncle, he was a mechanic that moth balls are
very good for moisture absorbing in your tool box. He said he found
out about it in one of his popular mechanics magazines.I put them in
my box and it seems to work for me. I drop 2 or 3 balls in each drawer.


Greetings Carrie Just a small thought, we too live in a humid climate,
Tropical North Queensland AUSTRALIA. 95% humidity plus sometimes. Last
year I swear I saw a fish swimming past my studio window :wink:

The way we fight the rust problem is two fold. For working surfaces
such as rolling mills, bangle mandrels punches and drawplates ect we
grease them lightly with a rag and vasaline ( petroleum white jelly).
This staves off the need to oil regularly. We found light oils seem
not to last for long enough. The second thing we do with pliers and
ring mandrels (yes I know these are working surfaces too) is to “gun
blue” them. This is a product available at gun shops to protect gun
barrels against rusting. The instructions for use are on the
container. Be very careful using this product as it is an acid. Always
use gloves and eye protection is advisable as well. Don’t let this
turn you off using it as it is a good product and does the job well.
After gun bluing the pliers we then light oil or lightly vasaline
them. This seems to work well and cuts down on the need to regularly
care for the tools ie no more end of week tool clean up. If you are
going to gun blue new tools it sometimes won’t take on tools until
they have been used or rusted just a little.

Regards William in Cool and Sunny Nth Queensland (it is a lovely place in

In my experience WD40 is the best solution, give your tools a spray
with this, It should keep the rust at bay. You can also get moisture
absorbing silica granules, they are very effective. Another
possibility is the Sulphuric acid solution. I am sure John Burgess can
explain this in detail.


    In my experience WD40 is the best solution, give your tools a
spray with this, It should keep the rust at bay. You can also get
moisture absorbing silica granules, they are very effective. Another
possibility is the Sulphuric acid solution. I am sure John Burgess
can explain this in detail. 

You rang, milord? G’day; I agree with Richard Whitehouse that WD40
is useful as an anti rusting film on steel. I have already had my say
on silica gel: excellent if fresh and in a fully closed environment -
which a drawer or cupboard isn’t.

Sulphuric acid? NO NO NO! Concentrated sulphuric acid is a very
powerful remover of water indeed which is why it gets so hot upon
dilution. So powerful in fact that it will quickly remove water from
any organic substance holding it. Such as flesh! Pour pure sulphuric
acid into a solution of sugar and it will quickly start to hiss and
boil; clouds of steam will generate and the entire vessel will
suddenly become overfilled with black porous carbon because the acid
has removed the hydrogen/oxygen molecules from the sugar.

I try to keep off chemical formulae and jargon but this is an
occasion where the results become obvious; Sugar may be written as
C12 H22 O11 Which simply means that in sugar, for every 12 atoms of
carbon it has 11 molecules of water - H20 and that is why the stuff
gets very hot and leaves you with a mass of carbon. So, flesh isn’t
sugar? No, but it has many similarities and sulphuric acid goes for
the water combined in the molecules making up flesh. You don’t want to
know about the resultant burns.

OK, so scientists use pure sulphuric acid as a drying agent for
drying chemicals. But they use it in vessels designed for the job,
and furthermore are trained to know it’s properties and how to handle
it. Diluted acid will not have a drying action.

My advice to anyone untrained in the handling of hazardous chemicals,
is DON’T!! If you do need dilute sulphuric acid, buy it as such from
a pharmacist or from a garage as battery acid. Keep well away from the
concentrated stuff.

I do use 10% of sulphuric acid as a jewellery pickle, and even dilute
my own. BUT! I have had a lifetime of working in laboratories. –
Cheers now,

John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ

Hi Gang, Check the Micro-Mark early winter 2001 catalog, page 73, left
hand column top. It lists silca gel in 2" x 4" x 1/2" tins at $8.50
each or $7.50 eas, 2 or more. The description says 1 tin protects up
to 3 cubic feet. The tins can be reused by drying in a 300 deg oven
for 3 hours. The new (dehydrated) crystals are blue in color. When
they’ve done their job & absorbed moisture, they turn pink. When the
crystals in the tin have turned pink, put them in the oven until they
turn blue agin. This blue to pink to blue cycle can be repeated

Now all you have to do is get a more or less air tight tool box, toss
in a tin or 2 & your tools.

All the usual disclamers, not even a customer.

Hi all, looking for ideas to keep my tools from rusting. I have a
set up in my garage and on the cold days and nights the moisture
gets to my tools, while I keep my rollers well greased and oiled
would I also be better off keeping them covered with a plastic bag
or an old towel? Also any ideas on how to keep files etc from the
moist air, can’t oil those! Thanks in anticipation

Throw some silica gel packets inside a box with a lid and put
whatever you want to keep clear in with them. Put the lid on. If the
silica stops working heat it gently to dry it out and reuse it.