2008 - Volume #32, Issue #2, Page #39[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Simple Systems For Removing Rust With Electricity
"I created a fixture to hang and change out items," explains the Northridge, Calif., gas engine collector. "I have something in the tank year round."
Mathews first learned about the easy, inexpensive way to remove rust on the internet nine years ago. Start with a nonconductive container such as a plastic 5-gal. bucket. Add water and one cup of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda detergent booster. The part to be cleaned is suspended in the water with the negative lead clip from a battery charger attached to it. The charger's positive lead clip is attached to a piece of metal above the water. When plugged in, electrolysis pulls rust away from the metal object.
"It's like reverse plating," Mathews says, noting that by reversing the battery charger leads, new parts can be made to look old.
As a mechanical engineer, Mathews modified the setup to establish a good connection and make the process more efficient.
"I made a grid of rebar rods to suspend parts from," he explains. "The key is to not let the part touch the rods."
He attaches the battery charger clips to the rods. Insulators connecting the rods separate the positive and negative currents.
The rods become covered with the rust and grime pulled from the parts and need to be cleaned off occasionally to get them back to bare metal. On larger jobs, they may need to be cleaned during the process. Still, they last a long time and parts of the setup can be changed as needed.
"I've bolted 10 to 15 parts together for a big batch," Mathews says. It takes a week or two for the parts to get clean. Using a garbage can, he suspended a 1913 Root and Vandervoort cylinder head in the solution for a month, occasionally pulling it out and brushing it off. The valves, which were completely rusted in place, pulled out easily and the engine was rust-free. A small charger works, he says, but he recommends a battery charger up to 20 amps for most jobs.
"This doesn't hurt the metal," Mathews says, noting that some processes remove the metal or make it brittle. "Electrolysis takes off nothing but the corrosion."
However, he cautions, electrolysis only works on all steel or cast iron items, not non-ferrous materials that contain copper, zinc and other materials. He adds that the process emits hydrogen gas so it should be set up outdoors or in a very well ventilated area.
The solution can be used up to year; just keep adding water. When changing the liquid, throw the iron rich, phosphate solution on brown spots of the lawn for fertilizer, Mathews suggests.
Besides rust, Mathews has removed paint, dirt and hard-to-remove grease from old parts.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Craig Mathews, 18207 Acre St., Northridge, Calif. 91325 (ph 818 252-3394; firstname.lastname@example.org).
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