Chris Schwarz's Blog

Evapo-Rust a Friend to Vintage Tools

I love “before” and “after” photos of things.

This week I picked up a nice 3/16” side-bead plane from Josh Clark (aka Hyperkitten). The tool is a gem. The boxing is perfect. The sole is straight. The wedge fits great and the iron’s profile is the right shape and is – gasp – sharp.

But there was a big bloom of rust on the beveled side of the blade that was thick – thick enough to interfere with the iron bedding. And the non-business end of the iron also had some rust.

When I clean up vintage tools I go for functional and stable. I don’t try to restore them to like-new condition. I like patina. It’s like getting some distinguished gray hair in your beard (which is the line I use on my spouse and kids).

So I don’t own the wire wheel that is issued to every English antique dealer when they graduate from antique college.

Today I decided to give Evapo-Rust a try, which is the latest craze among hand-tool nerds. The stuff is quite safe compared to some other de-rusting solutions I’ve used that have removed a couple layers of my skin.

You can read all about the product at the Evapo-Rust web site. I bought my gallon jug for $20 at Harbor Freight.

This morning I dropped the iron into some Evapo-Rust. I took it out at lunch and knocked off some of the scale that had come loose using a straight razor. After six hours in the solution, here is what it looks like.

There is still a little rust at the end where you adjust the iron so it’s back into the drink for you.

We’ll see how it looks in the morning.

— Christopher Schwarz

Handplane Nerdiness, Explored & Embraced
If you like planes, old or new, you probably will get a kick out of my book “Handplane Essentials,” a 312-page book (read: brain dump) on these tools. The book is printed in the United States and was praised thusly by David Charlesworth: “I greatly enjoyed your ‘Handplane Essentials,’ particularly your punchy style and refusal to accept traditional lore without close scrutiny and experimentation.”

That note made my day. The book is available in our store with free domestic shipping.

19 thoughts on “Evapo-Rust a Friend to Vintage Tools

  1. woodworkweb

    I’ve also been using Evapo-Rust for a while and it works great. But, I found that like many rust removing solutions, you need to make sure you buff off the residue and keep the surface well oiled, or the rust comes back quicker than ever.

  2. icmguy

    All these methods are good and work for their particular instances. However, I haven’t seen any mention of white vinegar. I’ve used this to remove rust on a fair amount of original plane blades and to re-condition my files that I use to sharpen my axes and saws. It does leave a gray coating on the object you’ve immersed, but is easily removable if that’s important to you. Best of all it’s cheap and enviromentally friendly. For a heavily pitted object a 24 hour soak usually does the job. Experimentation is the way to go here(The vinegar is a mild acid)!Pre-cleaning does help shorten the time needed by the way, removing loose scale/rust is certainly a help. I learned this trick from my Dad and Grandfather among a lot of others, like chalking a file before using it. Hope this helps some of you.

      1. icmguy

        Sorry for the late response,very busy at work. Chalking a file is nothing more than; (your kids will hate you for this)taking a piece of chalk and rubbing it across the file before you start using it. This is for metal filing mainly, I tried it with wood and had ambiguous results. My grandfather and father showed me this trick when I was filing metal and got frustrated with all the swarf sticking to my file. The chalk lets it release so I can continue moving along without having to use a card too often. Great when you’re doing an infill plane or filing lots of saw teeth.
        Hope this helps.

  3. ZombieDad

    Meh, I’m with Pkorman1 et al. Besides the cost, I was never thrilled with the gray cast the Evapo Rust leaves on my tools, not to mention it’s habit of pitting softer steels. I’ve done everything from bike frames to table saws using electrolysis and washing soda and it does a fantastic job at removing rust (and helps remove paint as well!)

  4. David Keller

    Chris – If you’d prefer the safety of Evaporust, but would prefer something more effective, faster, and considerably cheaper (as well as being completely non-toxic, non-corrosive, disposable down the drain and easier to store (it’s a powder)), give citric acid a try. You can get it at home brewery supply places. About a teaspoon per quart of warm water is a good starting point, but the concentration can be adjusted up or down depending on how fast you want it to work and how much rusty stuff you have.

    Citric acid, no matter how concentrated a solution is made from it, cannot hurt your skin – its pH is too high. That doesn’t mean I’d experiment by making a paste of it and leaving it on my skin for hours, though.

    One bonus here is that it is extremely effective at rapidly removing that ugly zinc coating on inexpensive steel hardware from the home improvement store – no heat or zinc vapor poisoning required.

  5. Pkorman1

    I’ve used evapo-rust and it’s pretty good but too expensive. For my restorations I use an electrochemical method. My equipment consists of an empty spackle bucket, washing soda, a 3 foot piece of rebar and my automotive battery charger. I sort of like the science project look of it. I had everything but the rebar and the washing soda. Lots of info on the web about it.

  6. JV Sullivan

    I have used about 12 gallons of evapo-rust over the last four or five years. It is very good stuff. A couple of observations, though:

    1) The grey residue is apparently carbon left behind when the rust is converted. It is a pain to wash off. If you want a shine, you’ll have to use fine sandpaper. However, for most purposes, the grey is just fine.

    2) If you leave something in a tub of it for too long — many days, say, you may wind up with black gunk all over your object. It is then a pain to clean. This is the voice of painful experience.

  7. JohnH

    Jay,
    When you remove the piece from the Evapo Rust, wash it off with water before the Evapo Rust dries. You can use a coarse brush or even a terry cloth rag to get into crevices. That will knock a lot of the dark gray residue off. Use a medium of fine SandFlex block to lightly remove the rest of the residue.

    I’ve also found that PVC of various size with caps glued to one end work great to soak blades, plane bodies saws etc. Because Evapo Rust is so expensive, by using the PVC tubes (cut to various sizes) you cut down on the amount of solution you need to accomplish the task.

    You can also buy a 5 gallon plastic container of EvapoRust from Nebraskan Hotrod on line for $70.

  8. Jay

    Would anyone know of a way to get rid of or at least lessen the ugly gray color that Evaporust leaves behind on some metals? It does a great job of removing rust, and I’ve had excellent results with it on old bits and blades, but I made the mistake of using it on a rusty-but-nice old parallel iron from an infill plane and it came out looking like a big chunk of unpolished aluminum. Kinda scared me off using it on anything I care about.

    1. Niels

      I use a wire brush in my flexshaft . Add a little gojo (pumice hand cleaner) it shines it up very nicely. A hand brush will also work just fine. You have to make sure to put a anti-corrosive (oil) on right afterward or you’ll get flash rusting.

  9. stjones

    I’ve een using it for years. A variety of tubs and containers will prove very helpful. The right 30″ plastic planter box is perfect for saw plates. A 24″ one will hold a #8. Under-bed storage boxes work too. On my way to Harbor Freight for a refill.

  10. Niels

    Welcome to the yellowish-green revolution!

    I love the stuff. I swear by it after trying all of the other stinky and caustic pseudo-alternatives. Also it won’t touch japanning or nickel plating which is a double-bonus!

    Best thing in rust-town since Unicorn Poo or Tiger’s Blood.
    Well, until they perfect the process of safely distilling Charlie Sheen.

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