Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Removing rust from tools with electrolysis

  I have now done a bunch of tools.  After I put them through this process I clean them with a wire brush mounted in my drill press.  If more is needed I use a light sand paper.  If I can't clean them right away I spray them with WD-40 and let them sit till I get around to cleaning them.  The tools look great.

   Basically electrolysis removes rust by running a current through the tool which is in water.  The tool has a negative charge and there is rebar around the bucket which draws the rust out.  Search for electrolysis and rust removal for more information or wait for my update.  


volt/ohm meter 

drill and a drill bit that will make a hole big enough for your zip ties. 

knife and or wire strippers. 

saw to cut PVC. 

List of materials used: 

1) 7 pieces of 12" rebar  $9

2) pile of zip ties $3

3) two 5 gallon buckets %6

4)24" piece of 1/2 pvc pipe.  I used this because I had it lying around but you can
using anything that is not conductive to go across the top.  ~$4

5) electrical wire.  I started with small wire but used 12/2 NM-B indoor residential wire towards the end.  If I do this again I will use this for everything.  It's about $10 for 15'.  $11

6) power supply or battery charger 12V 1-2Amp  $10 or more.

7) electrical tape

8) steel wool

9) washing soda

10) protective spray to stop rust in the future.

WARNINGS:   You are responsible for your own safety. There is enough amperage running through this to kill you.  The gas that is given off by the reaction can be explosive so you should be outside or in a well ventilated area.

How TO:

1)   Measure the circumference of the first bucket.  It came out to about 36" for me so I marked every three inchs around the bucket.  I then drilled four holes in the side to put zip ties through to hold the rebar.  Don't lock down the zip ties at this point.

Bucket almost done just need to wire the rebar together.  

2)  Remove the insulation from the wire.  I used wire strippers for the first three inches.  To do the rest I just pinched the wire between a knife and my bench.  I pulled the wire through stripping one side.  The residential wire has three wires in it so  you can do a 3' section and have plenty for the project. 

3)  Take each piece of rebar and wrap the wire around it and make a pig tail coming off of it.  wire them together to make a loop and one lead going out of the bucket.  You can see the red(positive) connector to this piece in the picture below.   I did wrap this in electrical tape which was  a waste since it started coming off when I put water in. 

3) Line up the pvc pipe over your bucket and mark it where the sides of the bucket hit it and the center.  Then cut three notches in the pipe using a saw.  The two on the side will keep it in place.  The middle one is to allow the negative wire to hang down. 

4) Run a wire through the end of the pipe and through the center hole.  I doubled up the wire so I would have more connection options for the tool.  

5) Use electrical tape on the end of the pvc pipe to keep the wire in place and cover any wire you don't need to connect to your power supply. This is your negative terminal.

6) Tighten up your zip ties and trim them. 

7) Drill a few holes in the bucket to allow water to come in.  

8) Fill the second bucket about 3/4 of the way with water then slowly push the first bucket in.  Most people didn't do it this way but I like that you can take the setup out of the second bucket to fill or dump. 

9) add in a few table spoons of washing soda(not baking soda)

10) Hang a tool from the PVC wire making a good connection.  Put it in the water and make sure it doesn't touch the rebar!

11) Use a ohm meter to check for a short by putting your leads on the positive and negative wire.  On my meter it shows one when there is a short.

12) Connect the negative terminal of you power supply to the pvc pipe and the positive to the rebar wire.

13) Power on the power supply.  If you see bubbles coming off the tool it is working.  I highly suggest you use a volt meter to check you polarity.  Connecting the rebar to the negative and the tool to the positive will ruin the tool.   My power supply was outputting about 10 volts and 1 amp.  Again this is enough to kill you so watch what you are doing. 

14)  Monitor the setup.  Depending on how bad the tool is you could be running this for a few hours to over night.  Keep in mind the gas coming out of the bucket can be explosive. 

15) Turn off the power and disconnect it. 

16) remove the tool and clean with steel wool.

After a run:

1) If the tool needs it you can put it back in

2)  The water will be brown but you can use it over and over again.  It is safe to dump in the drain.

3) put some kind of protective spray on the tool.  I have read that the tool can flash rust if you don't clean it and protect it. 

This is the first run with a pair of pliers.  You can see the outline of the tool.  It's not out of the water the reaction gives off a gas as it works.  

Before picture of a wrench 

  After shot of the wrench.  I put a rust protector spray on after cleaning it with steel wool.  I'm going to get some polish and see how it comes out   Already it's amazing how clean it is.  

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