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I Forge Iron

What is the best polish/rust protector/finish

John Martin

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Most finishes of the "wax/oil" variety are brushed onto the item at a heat warm enough to cause the stuff to melt and run into crevices and pores of the metal. The temp isn't critical but can be too hot and actually burn the finish stuff away before it does any coating. If wax smokes, I wait a little while until it melts and flows well without actually smoking. Some finishes (like Linseed oil, parrafin and bee's wax) can burn to a darker finish if applied to hotter metal. This can be used to advantage if you want a darker finish but can be a disadvantage if you want the "natural" patina of the metal to show thru.

I use a natural bristle brush (a 1" paint brush, or a chip brush, or a basting brush) because sometimes I try to start brushing stuff on before it has cooled enough to be effective. When this happens, the bristles burn and I don't want to have some melted nylon gunk to clean off of the piece before I can continue. The natural bristles will just shrivel up and will brush off easily.

As you experiment with different finishes, you will develop a feel for the proper temp that gives you the desired finish.

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You can reduce the melting temp of waxes by combining them with turpentine. If you soften it to the consistency of a soft paste wax you can wipe it on the piece and heat in the oven for specific and repeatable results.

polyrmerizing oils like linseed or olive (to name but two) benefit from the addition of Japan drier available at paint suppliers. Baking polymerizing oils in the oven speeds the process as well and can be used to produce nice colors from golden to black as desired.


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  • 1 month later...

To address the original question:
"What is the best polish/rust protector/finish"
I'd say it all depends on the application. For finish on interior railings, towel bars, knick-nacks, etc. the aforementioned wax finishes seem pretty good and buff up pretty nice. For something more durable, a high quality automotive clearcoat finish is nice (that's my prefered method) and can be found in rattle can quantities for small projects.

For rust protection/finish on outdoor pieces, I'd say stainless steel would be ideal, if a little expensive. Below this, a good heavy multi-component paint system is best. The best system (IMHO) is a zinc based epoxy primer, followed by an epoxy color coat followed by a clear top coat. (This system will run you over $150 from Sherwin Williams as they only sell in gallon quantities).

Below that, I prefer Valspar's oil based enamels (available at Tractor Supply amongst other places). It is also a multi-part system, although it is somewhat limited in premixed colors. The Valspar is also available in everything from rattle cans up through gallon cans.

With any of these it is important to remember to get the steel good and clean either through powered wire brushing, or sandblasting. And also remember that the best way to apply the paint finishes is by air. I have a simple HVLP spray gun that works pretty well for general applications, although I would not want to use it on a custom auto or anything too fancy. While I'm NOT a professional painter, I'm not TOO terrible with a spray gun. I still end up with a few spots that need wet sanded and touched up, but I am getting better. There is definitely a knack to spraying paint :)

My two pennies worth anyways.
-Aaron @ the SCF

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AND to add a point of safety to his point of safety;) :

The same goes for rags soaked with ANY type of oil or grease. Not sure if peanut oil will do it. But guess what? If you treat the peanut oil soaked rag the same as a rag soaked in 10W30, you'll get in the good habit of properly containing ALL oily rags (kinda like the "treat all steel as if it were hot steel" mentality).

-Aaron @ the SCF

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JohnB showed me a good one: sunflower oil. Wire brush the piece and gently heat to 'touch hot'. Apply a good but not excessive layer of oil with a rag, paper towel etx. You want enough to give a good coat but you don't want it dripping. Heat the piece again and watch out for a flare. The hotter the piece the darker the finish. Suppose you could probably use veggie oil, corn oil, peanut oil etc., but haven't tried it yet.

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For food use items I have been using cheapie spray cans of olive or canola oil from walmart. Convenient and the oil stays clean til you use it. Lots of good tips in this thread but one finish I often like to use is none. On things that will be stuck in the ground or hung where it won't drip on the house after a rain I like a natural rust finish.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Boeing's LPS3 and a little Japan Drier

LPS 3 Heavy-Duty Inhibitor is a specially formulated long term corrosion inhibitor which will protect metal parts stored indoors for up to two years.

When applied it forms a soft, transparent, waxy film which acts as an effective barrier sealing out moisture, air, acid, alkali fumes and other corrosive elements.

Flash Point: 100

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  • 2 months later...

I specialize in making hand hammered serving dishes and I get my patinas using successive coats of vegetable oil to create a food safe / moisture resistant finish.

The secret here is to paint the piece with oil in thin coats - not dip it. This is especially important with thin sheet stock as immersing it cools the metal too quickly for the oil to carbonize and it leaves it with a translucent soft coating.

Heat your piece in the forge to between 500 - 800 degrees - Use a natural fibre cloth (don't use polyester blends) dipped lightly in oil.

Bring your piece out of the forge and begin painting it on the surface (it will smoke big time - make sure you have lots o' ventilation and it'll flash at the higher temps so be careful!) but continue to paint it on in light coats until the metal starts to cool and accept it - the cloth will carbonize and add to the black color of the patina. Continue this until you get the result you're looking for - If need be, reinsert the piece in the forge until the existing oil starts to smoke - remove it and continue.

This technique works equally well with any oil. For my purposes I hand sand and buff the piece to get the hammered texture to show back (see attached pics) I then wash it down with rubbing alcohol to remove any residue. If it's going to be a food contact piece, I rub on a thin coat of vegetable oil - If not, I use a satin coat spray lacquer. No worries about the veggie or olive oil going rancid. The oil is thoroughly cooked (like cast iron cookware) and even a light coat of fresh oil is ok because unlike wood, the metal isn't absorbing a deep layer of oil that lies there and rots over time.

Soaking in Muriatic acid to remove scale and etch the surface really helps for creating a consistent patina.

Because I don't paint or powder coat my work, I always tell my clients that my pieces are moisture resistant - not water proof. It will rust if left to the elements - I instruct them how to clean up light rust with triple-aught steel wool that's been dipped in vegetable oil.

It's been a great technique for me - I've been using it for years and never had a return or complaint due to the finish on a piece failing.



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  • 4 weeks later...

Vanex Break-Through Clear Satin 50-0

almost everything we do gets a flood coat of that, its real strange too, at first its this milky lavander, then it clears up as it dries, will darken a patina, and you can tint it as well.

"normal" painting gets you a "frost" so it really is a flood coat, far heavier than you might normally do, just this side of dripping

variegated rust panels 3 - Blacksmith Photo Gallery
Geoffrey Newton Metalworks*

you must throughly passivate any acids you used for patinas, they will show up like neon

about the only thing that doesnt get coated with that is fireplaces (see my earlier post)

(*note I just work there)

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  • 5 months later...
  • 2 months later...

For clear finish I use Helmsman urethane, from a spray can. Oil based

For polished blades either mineral oil , (NON TOXIC!! FOOD SAFE!!) or camilia oil, don't know if its food safe.

I also like any Rustoleum paint for colors.

Butchers wax is good for things like plane soles or table saw tables, smooth machined cast iron

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