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I Forge Iron

Need formula to bring out metal stamped letters


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Hi there
I have an old camper from the late 1970's. I located the VIN number on the trailor tongue, but due to years of weathering on it, the number is very light and almost not readable. Is there anything that I can put on it to make it easier to read or bring out the numbers better. Many thanks to all.


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Much care must be taken while doing it, but yes...to raise worn numbers stamped into metal use strong acid, be prepared to neutralize the acid as soon as the numbers show or you'll lose everything. The acid will eat away the less dense material leaving the denser compressed areas of the numbers.

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  • 10 years later...

I collect wood planes and usually on the top of the iron there is a stamped logo with the manufacturer name and maybe a patent number. I have a few however that I can’t make anything out of them. A couple of them are very old and are worth much more to sell or keep and I have kept them all to this point. I have searched in vain for a product to do this with. Any ideas will be appreciated. 

Thank you kindly. 

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How much are you willing to do to clean them up to be readable? Electrolysis will return rust ions to iron and their original position. It sounds like magic but you can check it out by searching restoring sunken treasure. 

If you just want to know age, maker, etc. perhaps memorialize it with photos try a Magna-Flux service, maybe strike up a friendship with a forensic scientist, know where the local Cop bar is?

Frosty The Lucky.

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Welcome aboard from 7500' in SE Wyoming.  Glad to have you.

If you put your general location in your profile we can give you better answers,  A surprising number of answers are geography dependent.  This is a world wide forum and we don't know if you are in Arizona, Lapland, or Tasmania.

I understand that forensic folk will treat a firearm which has had it's serial number filed or ground off with acid to bring out the numbers.  However, I would experiment with a piece of steel before I did it on a plane.  I would stamp some letters and/or numbers or even some chisel marks into a piece of steel, file it smooth and then see if acid would bring the marks out.  

However, illegible marks, like yours, may be the result of a light strike when they were first applied at the factory.  In that case, I suspect that acid wouldn't help much because the metal under the letters wasn't distorted the way it would be if the illegibility was the result of wear on letters that were originally hard struck.

Others on the forum may have additional suggestions.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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Welcome from the Ozark mountains.

I have had some luck with recovering numbers & letters that have been filed or ground off by polishing the area with 0000 steel wool or a Scotch-brite pad then rubbing a cut lemon over the area. Seems the combination of the juice and peel ( citric acid) works better than just the juice alone.

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