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Bulk cleaning and especially rust removal from bolts, screws, and other small hardware

 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:

Judith Browning wrote:I grew up believing that cocacola would clean the rust off of plowshares...I don't ever remember seeing it in action and have wondered more recently if it was just a 'lie' planted by my dad to keep me from drinking soda? ...and it worked as I've always associated that drink with rust removal.



Yes, it still works. Coke (And other sodas) have carbonic acid (to make the bubbles) and/or phosphoric acid (to add a tangy/sour taste to it.) Coke has both, so it's more effective than some of the other sodas. So soda fits Dan's category of  #3 Chemical methods, it would be classed as a food grade acid.



My grandfather was a body-and-fender man and ran an automotive paint store.  So I grew up hearing about how much trouble I was gonna be in, if I ever spilled Coke (or any brown soda, not that we ever had enough to spill) on one of our vehicles.  Because it would mar, if not outright strip, the paint, due to the phosphoric acid content.  Warning always delivered with a parental remark about how it probably didn't do any wonders for your teeth or your guts, either.
 
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so i ran into this while looking for methods to remove the husks from walnuts.
I have not done this so, i am adding it as an option for you. I believe it would go in option 3

If you scroll down to the bottom of this link it shows him removing rust from a chain using walnut husk juice. Maybe the juice is less toxic than some other methods

Removing Rust Using Walnut Husk Juice and Cement Mixer


Hopefully this is helpful.
 
Dan Boone
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Travis Johnson wrote:Electrolysis is your best option out of all of them for bulk cleaning. That really works well...

You could also try putting the rusted parts in a solution of acetone and transmission fluid. I have always used this to break bolts free...a homemade WD-40 but works a lot better. Let it soak for a day or two, and then just wipe the parts free of rust when you pull them out of the jug you are using, and then place them into the proper sorted bin.



Thanks, Travis.  I really appreciate this feedback.  I am looking forward to putting together an electrolysis experiment.  

I'm also pleased to learn about the acetone/transmission fluid mixture, and I'll try it maybe on a small scale. But I'm not sure how enthusiastic I would be in the long run about disposing of gallons of the stuff by any of the practical methods available to me.  

Travis Johnson wrote:Incidentally I think you are doing the right thing. For years I thought my grandparents were silly for sorting this kind of stuff and keeping it, I mean the store is just down the road right? But as I have gotten older I have found myself doing the same thing. It is amazing how often I grab the stuff that my Grandparents separated and kept. A roofing repair job just needs a few roofing shingle nails. Sometimes I need five screws 3/4 of an inch long and no longer. And my bathroom door is a barn style door that slides effortlessly on a barn door track that we had on our old tractor shed...from the 1940's! All that stuff has costs to replace new, especially when you calculate the time and money just to get to the store.



It goes without saying, I think, that it's tough to spend hours and hours on a project like this without some of the idle brain time going to contemplation of the ethics, benefits, and costs.  Which is a fancy way of saying that the "is this useful or am I just doing an elaborate hoarder shuffle?" question is always playing in my brain at some variable volume, and I do wrestle with it.  Or as Grady put it:

But I have to keep asking myself, "when would I choose this used fastener over a new one?" And as one predisposed to hoarding, I have to keep reminding myself that the empty space is more valuable than this stuff.



Like any good permaculture question, of course, the answer is "It depends."  It's all a question of balancing resources and shortages, time and cost, opportunities and liabilities.  The answer differs even from item to item.  I paid two dollars for wooden bin full of detritus from a cabinetry shop.  It turned out to have about thousands and thousands of brand new shiny Phillips-head wood screws in it, plus assorted hinges, latches, castors, and other valuable cabinetry goodies.  But it also had several thousand ancient straight-slot wood screws in it.  The sorting was a job.  On my left hand is a bucket of obsolete screws I probably won't ever use, because zipping things together with a Phillips bit in an electric screw gun is so much easier.  On my right hand is shiny new screws worth at least one, and possibly a few, day's wages.  I wouldn't have done the work to get the straight-slot screw collection, but now I have them (and they are a lot more diverse in sizes than the newer ones) I'll probably keep them, because it's worth slowing down and using a screwdriver by hand (or a straight bit in an electric, very carefully) on two screws if the alternative is an hour spent going to the store and back.  

It's not just time and money that get saved when a store visit is avoided.  Again, it all depends on circumstances.  The guy whose shop I am in has some social issues.  He strongly likes to remain on his property.  If a store is too big or crowded, he may have difficulty there; it's not unheard of for him to abandon a shopping cart and walk out because he wasn't dealing well.  He would definitely use two obsolete fasteners instead of going to the store to buy nice ones that his screw gun can grip.  

Plus, we are quite distant from the store.  The local hardware stores are very minimal, and ten minutes away, one-way.  It's a half-hour to "go get a bolt" no matter how hard you push it.  It's a full two hours (round trip) to dash into a fully-stocked home center like Lowes or Home Depot.  

And finally, at the heart of the "hoarding versus thrifty saving" discussion is that notion of "the value of empty space."  There's also a phrase "land rich but cash poor."  I live on 40 acres; the shop I'm working in is on 80.  Our incomes are low and variable.  Cash is always tight today and might not exist tomorrow.  Good accessible storage is of course always at a premium, but there's an extent to which it's not hoarding if it's organized, labeled, containerized, and protected from the weather.  The security of keeping valuable goods that one might need, but won't be able to afford, in future?  It's real.  I have long felt that people who advise getting rid of valuable tangible goods unless you need them soon must be coming from a place of economic luxury, or at least economic confidence that their tomorrow will be as good as their today.  For most of us, it won't!

In any case, the internal debate has become moot in my particular circumstances.  I've only been working on this collection seriously for the last month or two, and it's already getting raided daily by one or both of us.  That's a lot of store visit time and gasoline saved!

 
 
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I went out and took a picture of how my Lambing Barn conversion is going.

I kept (3) pens, boarded over the top, and put my tool boxes up there. Then underneath lined the pens with shelves so that I can have covered storage cabinets. It works well. There is a ton of storage space for my tools and materials.

I agonized on whether it was worthwhile to use nice wide pine boards for this project, but they came from a tree that was insect damaged and dying, so I cut it into lumber before it was all rot, so it used what could have been wasted wood. And there is something to be said for organization, even a tool shop.

Lambing-Barn-to-Shop-Conversion.jpg
Lambing Barn to Shop Conversion
Lambing Barn to Shop Conversion
 
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To remove old paint (which is part of cleaning many items), I use a crock pot with a couple table spoons of original TSP in it. The newer TSP is different chemically and doesn't seem to work as well. Stronger solution works faster. The heat is a necessary ingredient. Cook the batch from a couple hours to a couple days - old oil paint can be _very_ tough, as can  milk paint. Brush off (dishwashing/vegetable brush works well), rinse. I guess you could just shake a bunch of fasteners in a big coffee can filled with rinse water; haven't done fasteners wholesale myself.

At this point either put in vinegar to de-rust or blow dry and paint or spritz with light oil.

- When steel is clean it can rust w/in minutes, depending on the grade of metal and the fineness of the finish. So dry everything immediately and coat with something so your clean stuff doesn't rust in your hand while you're admiring it.

- There can be a problem with de-rusting if the item retains an oil film.

- The chemical can be reused; dredge the old paint out of the bottom of the pot and cook more items.

My system is adequate. For de-rusting, electrolysis would be better. Tanks of a size to contain the item(s) covered with chemical but without wasting the chemical can require ingenuity.

Storage with wooden or other "soft" interior surface seems to reduce rusting of oiled tools and parts; maybe because the container surface absorbs some of the oil where there is contact; maybe because the container material reduces condensation and humidity within.

One reason to value old stuff is because the metallurgy of the fasteners can be better than what's commonly available now.

Slotted head fasteners are potentially easier to remove (as a rule) from a work piece than phillips head (easier than the other drive head configs, too). Paint can be scraped from the slot more easily to allow the driver to fit. Slotted heads can also _potentially_ be tightened more safely that phillips. But that all depends on a flat screwdriver that fits the fastener properly. I learned bench grinders as a kid by fixing flat screw drivers. Slotted heads are mostly slow and annoying to install compared with other drive types, but I would _soooo_ much rather find slotted fasteners when I had to take something apart w/out messing it up.


Cheers,
Rufus
 
Dan Boone
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Rufus, thanks for all those tips and suggestions!  But thanks especially for your remarks about slotted-head fasteners.  I am not skilled at carpentry or cabinetry; I struggle with these fasteners every time I encounter them.  But I think I may not have been paying enough attention to how well my screwdriver fits in the fastener.  There's a family-run hardware store in my past so I'm a lot better at identifying fasteners than I am at actually using them!
 
Rufus Laggren
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Dan

> screwdriver fit

The flat screwdriver can and should fit perfectly into the slot. The bottom of the tip s/b perfectly flat long ways and narrow ways, both - to the point that the edges are almost sharp. This maximizes the depth to which the side of the flat tip bears on the sides of the slot _and_ it makes it easier to feel when the driver is sitting square in the slot. A driver that "rocks" is much harder to get properly aligned than one that "clicks" or "knocks". The wide sides of the flat tip s/b perfectly parallel, or even a tiny bit "bell bottomed" toward the bottom to reduce any tendency of the screw driver to "cam out" of the slot like the phillips tips like to do. The tip s/b wide enough to fill the slot all the way long ways and s/b almost tight in the slot narrow ways.

Most flat screw drivers, whether new or not, don't actually fit a slot. I like to get the cans of old screwdrivers at garage sales. $2 for 10 screw drivers is about par. Then I have raw material to make tools that do the job I need.

When fighting old painted screws, you want a flat driver that's a bit too small for the slot but that has the perfectly flat bottom with sharp edges, with a long handle. Then you need a small hammer and utility knife. Use the knife to scratch around the circumference of the fastener head to break the paint bond. Then, one of the best ways to attack a painted slotted fastener is to use the driver "sideways". Position the driver mostly upright but rock it slightly (in the plane of the flats) to an angle which places one corner of the sharp blade where you want it to go; then user the hammer to tap the side of the blade near the tip and drive that sharp corner down and into the painted slot and push the paint out the other end of the slot. Do it again from the other side. You want to end up with a totally clean slot. This is a lot more controlled than using the driver like a chisel. The chisel approach can also be useful but you're more likely to over do it and make a great gouge where you don't want to.

The same tools and approach will help with any of the fastener types, but it won't clean them as easy. For the other types you need a very skinny flat driver, a couple of dentist's picks, and old  ice pick sharpened to a dangerous point and a lot more luck. But it's still worth spending a couple minutes trying to clean the fastener before going at it with an impact driver (and the proper sized bit).


Cheers,
Rufus
 
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let us know what works best. interesting and useful topic, ive got all sorts of late model rust that could stand being removed. one thing ive found useful to solidify rusted object is a liquid rust converter, the kind you would use when restoring an old tractor with rust in gas tank. I've yet to find a way to remove rust on bulk scale like the problem you ask about. I've tried vinegar on rusted monkey wrench but was less than impressed with the results. checking the progress daily I ended up leaving it in the solution for about a month and its not much better than when I started.
 
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