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I Forge Iron

scale removing with vinegar

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Hey out there,

I don't know where I got the tipp to remove the scale by sticking the pieces in a pot with white vinegar for a while.


I tried it and it works. Thw most of the scale disappeared and the rest can easily be removed by wirebrushing. Very usefull on complicated works.

However I got problems with quick comming up of rust. Even after brushing.


After the acid bath in the vinegar I lay the parts into a tub with clean water, then brush it and after a few minutes I got rusty surfaces.


What did I wrong:blink:

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Yes, and you need to do what Austin0987 suggested...........as soon as possible after getting the metal dry.  If the pieces I've put in acid and washed in baking soda are small enough, I'll even put them in Denatured Alcohol to "chase" the water away.  Then blow the Alcohol off and get oil on the parts asap.  Frustrating to go to all that trouble getting the rust or scale off only to have it re-rust in a matter of minutes. :wacko:

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The baking soda is the way 


you can also make a base solution by dissolving it in water then just soak the workpiece. 


If you let that light powdery rust take over for a week or so then proceed with a paste wax finish you will end up with a really nice brown finish 


think instant antique look 




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Acids such as vinegar  ( an acetic acid in water solution),  accelerates rusting.

During rusting, Iron is attacked by water and is oxidized. 

I wish to  avoid getting into a discussion of the electrolytic chemistry involved.  Acid accelerates the waterous oxidation of iron.  (rusting).

Acetic acid will remove scale,  (oxidized iron.)

But after using the vinegar bath,  the part should be immediately rinsed off and then treated with a basic chemical-water solution  in order to neutralize the vinegar. (such as baking soda, washing soda, lye water etc.).  As Mr. DeEuler has suggested above

Then the part should be rinsed off again, and thoroughly dried,  and coated with a substance that protects the iron from further rusting due to water or water vapor in the air.

The coating must be done immediately,  after drying, because rusting starts right away.  (you can see the reaction happening).

(e.g. grease, ((e.g. Cosmoline )),  paint, metal  (e.g.  zinc, or aluminum etc.), phosphoric acid  etc.  etc.

To summarize,  vinegar accelerates iron rusting.


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I had a blacksmithing buddy more experienced than me get all excited how i managed a brown finish since he had trouble doing it any way other than the slow way. Cleaning weathering then finishing 


Slag, thankyou but it is miss. She or her lol

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Hi to all of you,


let me thank you for all these helpfully tips. Yes the backingsoda works fine. I got some white vinegar 10% from a foodstore here, let the pieces some hours soak and then place it in the backingsoda solution. No Rust!!!

After wiping off the BS-solution I went to my big wheel wire brush and remove the loose rest of the scale. So I got very silvery and shiny, surfaces. I noticed, that the pieces will rust(on air) after a while if I didn´t wire brushed them. The other pieces, wich I brushed to silver :) did not rust until now (3-4 days).


I experimented a little with oxidation/no oxidation. So I got some nice coloring by putting the pieces back in the acid after!!! I wire brushed the things to this silvery shine. Only for short and with no wiping off the liquid. Let it air dry and look what happens...





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  • 5 months later...

I've been struggling with getting good scale removal with vinegar.  I'm using a high carbon steel wire, tempering it with a slow heat and cool, bending it to my will and then re-hardening with a torch.  The pieces (intricate sculptures) are small so I've been using a mixture of vinegar and salt in a mason jar on a cup warmer to pickle.  Even when I leave them in the solution for an hour, the scale won't come off evenly.  I recently purchased some Sparex #1 but was disappointed to see on the can that for high carbon steel, you have to use it with electrolysis, and I'm hesitant to use a dangerous chemical.  After the vinegar bath, I rinse, then neutralize in baking soda, rinse again.  Then I usually soak them in Liver of Silver to darken them because I like that patina better.  Once patinated, I seal them with Renaissance Wax.

Are you using regular cooking vinegar or the stronger cleaning vinegar?  Is your vinegar in a crock pot or other container? Do you always have to finish the scale removal by had with a wire brush?  Some parts of my sculptures are too tight to get into. 

Has anyone tried Sparex #1? Any other suggestions?

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Welcome aboard... I always suggest reading this to get the best out of the forum. It's full of tips like editing your profile and how to keep the moderators happy. READ THIS FIRST

 As far as the strength of vinegar I use the strongest cleaning vinegar and soak till all the scale is gone usually overnight or longer. The container is matched to the size of the work small stuff in old Tupperware.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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