Surely mild steel shot isn't all THAT bad?

I’ve been told that I should stick with stainless shot because the
mild steel shot is just too hard to maintain. But it would be SO
convenient to be able to separate my batch with a magnet, and the
stainless shot is ba-aa-arely magnetic. I could get a really strong
magnet, or I could get mild steel shot.

Is the rust issue so insurmountable? I always dry my batch of jump
rings & shot completely in a cool oven, so the shot wouldn’t be
sitting around for days being damp. And if I do get a bit of rust on
the shot, will it contaminate my sterling jump rings beyond easy

And you needn’t suggest running a wire through the coils to keep the
jump rings grouped up. I make enough jump rings that this (very
clever) trick isn’t practical for me.

Help me Orchid! You’re my only hope!

-Spider (going a little bit loopy after an extremely productive day)


With proper care you can use steel shot for decades without any
trouble, keep it clean and if you don’t use it everyday use a storage
solution that you rinse with and dry before you store in a sealed
plastic container. I had steel shot stored this way for 6 years and
it was as good as new when it was opened. Rio and many others sell
the chemicals needed.

Stainless is nice because you can use some relatively strong
de-scalers and it takes no maintenance other than cleaning.

James McMurray

I've been told that I should stick with stainless shot because the
mild steel shot is just too hard to maintain. 

I spread the shot and items thinly on an old towel and it requires
little time to dry off, then using a board 4" by 8" covered with self
adhesive magnetic strips draw the shot away and wipe the adheared
shot into a bowl with my hand. Very few items are drawn up but are
easily seen on the black surface of the magnetic strips. The whole
process takes roughly 3 or 4 minutes and i never have problems with
rusty shot.


Hi, Spider,

Is the rust issue so insurmountable? 

I guess this isn’t the popular notion, but we used regular steel
shot for many years where I teach, without drying it. There was
never any problem except when the solution was allowed to get too
low. As long as the shot was covered with (soapy) water, no rust.

On the other hand, I tried that magnet trick just once. What a
fiasco! It really didn’t work. I ended up sorting by hand, for what
seemed like hours. No matter how many jump rings you make, I really
think it’s gotta be more efficient to string them!

If you try it, let me know how it goes,


Spider, I feel that steel shot has been given an unfair, bad rap. It
is not that difficult to maintain. Actually, it can be even easier
than stainless! As long as the shot is kept under water, it will not

Your extremely productive day will turn into a not so productive day
from having to maintain that cheap shot. Listen to what people are
telling you.

It isn’t hard to get steel shot a lot of it is used for shot blasting
steel and for barrel finishing industrial parts (tumbling). Here is a

lots of info there- 50 pounds is the usual minimum quantity. You
should be able to fin d it relatively nearby.

Steel is corrosion free in an alkaline solution. Keep it wet and
basic with some washing soda under water. It won’t rust then. don’t
dry it out or store in just tap water. don’t put in any normal acid.


I've been told that I should stick with stainless shot because the
mild steel shot is just too hard to maintain. -snip- Is the rust
issue so insurmountable?" 

The trick with steel shot is to keep it under solution all the time.
Forget about drying it. Mine has not been dry in 15 years. I think
it also helps if you use it regularly, say at least every 2 weeks,
since running it cleans it. I have some cleaning solution, but it
has not been used for several years. If it gets rusty from
mishandling, cleaning it up is a hassle. But if you always keep it
covered with the right solution, that will not happen. I use the 950
compound from Rio.

I also keep the same solution for 3 or 4 cycles, changing it when it
starts to look a little dirty. If your parts are very little this
might not work out so well, since it is a lot easier to sort out the
work when the shot is well rinsed.

Good luck,
Stephen Walker

Hi Spider,

I believe Kramer Industries ( )
has the answer to your problem. The solution is not to dry the shot
but rather to store it submerged in the proper material. Their Kramco
510 is for storage of mild steel shot for up to 3 months. For longer
term storage, I submerge it in a lightweight motor oil which is
inexpensive and available at any auto supply store. To put the shot
back in service after its hiatus in motor oil it must first be
cleaned several times in your normal tumbling solution. Hope this
helps. See you in Tucson.

Ray Grossman


I have been running mild steel shot for years. Keep it dry, which it
sounds like you are. I dry mine in the oven like you described.

If you get mild rust, run the mildly rusted shot with your finest
grit ceramic abrasive to clean it off.

Then run it alone to condition it, and it should be OK. I’ve had to
do this once in the last ten years.

If it gets heavily rusted throw it away. It’s much cheaper than
stainless so replacement cost is not such an issue.

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext.228

Hello Spider,

Carbon shot is fine, it’s just more time consuming to maintain. Lost
of manufactures will use it because of the ability to separate it
magnetically. Just remember if you let it get past a certain point
rust will etch the shot and it will no longer burnish but scratch.
Rinse well after each cycle, then clean using a steel shot cleaner,
and then place in a steel shot storage solution till you’re ready to
go again.

Rio Grande Technical Support.

Thank you all for the wonderful flood of helpful replies!

Since keeping the shot submerged all the time isn’t practical for my
situation, I’m going to try for the get-it-bone-dry-between-uses
approach. I’ll be using the shot weekly, so I’m thinking I ought to
be able to keep ahead of micro-rusting due to ambient humidity.

A couple of your posts made it sound like this will probably work
just fine. Has anyone tried it this way and had it NOT work?

-Spider (not wanting to repeat any known mistakes)

Hello Noel,

I agree with you that using ordinary steel shot is not all that bad
(see my previous posting). However, stringing them on copper wire for
tumbling can be a pain although it certainly beats hand separating
them from steel shot after tumbling. A quicker way to string them is
to cut your jump rings on a wooden dowel with a small hole drilled
about 1/4" deep into one end. After they are all cut, place one end
of your copper wire into the hole and tilt the dowel so that the
rings will all slide down onto the wire.

Ray Grossman

There is a compound on the market that is sold by ABI in Carson,
California. It is affectionately called “Doc’s Dust” by those who
use it. You can purchase it by calling ABI at 310-769-0600 and
asking for my compatriot, Chuck Bennett.

It is a powder that can be used in all tumbling…from rotary to
vibratory to magnetic applications. The steel…will NEVER rust or
discolor when using it. You can leave it in the solution, or pour
off the water and leave it and it will keep the shot shinier than
when you bought it.

And the products done in the tumbling are brighter and better than
any other compound I have ever used in 30 years of finishing.

Try it and see for yourselves…

Marc “Doc” Robinson
ABI Asia, Ltd.

Marc “Doc” Robinson
ABI Precious Metals Asia, Ltd.
86 Soi Lat Phrao 42 Lat Phrao Road
Samsennok, Huai Khwang
Bangkok, Thailand 10310

I have used the same steel shot for over 10 years with no problems
and I don’t keep it under water. When I won’t be using it for awhile
I wash it very well and then put it in a frying pan and heat it to
dry it out. I am careful not to change the temper of the steel and
put in a bit of olive oil to help keep it from rusting.


All, I just can’t believe there is so much diversity regarding which
shot to use.

First off…most of us want to same some money right? Well, 5 Lbs
of mild steel shot goes for around $38 whilst stainless goes for
about $110!

I have been using the mild steel for years and can’t remember one
time that it ‘gooked’ up my work. I see many responses say, " Keep it
covered with the soapy solution" and that is the final word on that.
I don’t always use the shot in my machine at home, prefering to use
the one at the studio, but upon opening it after a month or two…it
always still looks as shiny as when new. However, should it become
rusty…simply take it out and rinse it in clean water, put it in
a plastic bowl and pour in a can of Coke Cola! Wala…in less than 5
minutes its as clean as it can be. I do that sometimes just for good
measure when I change the solution. I wouldn’t drink the Coke
afterwards though!!!

So…if you run your machine 10 hours a day every day and want to
use the finest with no concern for price, get the stainless. If you
use it a few hours a few times a week, say the bucks and get the

Cheers from Don at The Charles Bells Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2

Hi Spider,

If you use a regular magnet to remove the shot & not one of the new
ones with an on/off switch, put the magnet in a heavy duty plastic
bag before you pick up the shot. The plastic bag makes it easier &
quicker to get the shot off the magnet.