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I Forge Iron

Vice Restoration w/ Electrolysis


AngryOnion

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Hi, so I bought a large bench vise and want to clean it up. I think electrolysis is the way to go, but I've never done it before. How big of a piece of scrap do I need in comparison to what I'm putting in the tank? I've seen videos of people using laundry crystals, is there any certain ratio to use, and is there a special kind to get? Thanks for the help.

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Probably 3 or 4 ea. 1/2" or larger rods or bars...scrap will work.  I used old rebar.  Angle iron, about any scrap you have.  Make them any length, just so that they are a few inches at least out of the electrolyte water.  Be sure to use the washing soda, not baking soda for the mix.

I would use about 1/4 cup to a gallon of water...there are all kinds of recipies out there of the ratios to use.  Some use only a few tablespoons per gallon.

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A good pressure washing before you start is suggested.  It removes any grease, oil, and junk so the solution can get to the metal.

DO NOT allow the electrodes to touch the subject being derusted.

Use a wire to connect all the parts being derusted together electrically.  Touch works but not as well as a good connection. 

Electrolysis is mostly directional, line of sight, so several electrodes are better than just one.  After a while you will want to remove the electrodes and the subject being derusted from the solution and wash and scrub off any debris. 

Derust in a well ventilated area.  

You can tell it is working by the small bubbles being produced and the crud that floats to the surface.

When finished, as soon as you pull the subject from the water, apply something to protect the metal from the air or you will get flash rust.

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I had never heard of this so I had to look it up and it’s a pretty interesting way to remove rust, I’ll have to try it myself sometime,

I did read a few places online that you should never add any salt because it could make chlorine gas!
I’m not sure why anyone would want to in the first place, I’d think that salt water would be counter productive to removing rust. But there were several warnings all the same which I thought was interesting. 

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One would add salt (sodium chloride) to water for the same reason one would add washing soda (sodium carbonate) or any other electrolyte: to increase its electrical conductivity (pure water does not conduct electricity).

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Salt is okay, you aren't going to be putting enough power through it to release gasses of any kind. The gas you need to watch out for and take precautions is the hydrogen.

Expanded metal makes excellent electrodes as it distributes the transfer over a large area.

Almost any impurity in the water will make an electroyte, sugar for instance washing soda is easy, cheap and safe. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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That certainty is a good looking vise. I have tried electrolysis a couple of times with decent results. Like others have already mentioned, washing soda works a treat as it is a cheap and safe way to ionize the water. As long as you have a big enough section of steel to use as your sacrificial bit it'll work great. I recommend doing it in a decently ventilated area, like Frosty mentioned the process does produce hydrogen. Better to be safe then sorry. How does the vise turn? Any goop on the threads?  

If that was my vise I would skip the electrolysis and give a good rubbin with a brush and coat it with some BLO. But of course its fun to try new methods. 

-Mark

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 There is a good thread on electrolysis in "Metallurgy" , titled, Trying out Electrolytic Paint Removal. Dated 11-12-2017. Maybe someone could put the link in this post.          Thanks           Life is Good          Dave

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  • 1 year later...

I am having great success with electrolysis and small parts.

I have a big rusty leg vice with frozen threads. Do I need to heat , free up ,and separate the parts first or is there a benefit to putting them in the electrolysis bath as a whole assembly?  Thanks

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Electrolysis is for removing the rust.

Spray the frozen parts with a 50/50 mixture of ATF automatic transmission fluid  and acetone or a good penetrating oil.  Be patient.  Try to move the parts every day or so and when they do move apply more penetrating fluid. Then move the parts only a little bit to work the penetrating fluid deeper into the joint.  Be patient.

Once free, remove all the crud you can as electrolysis removes rust, not crud.  A pressure washing may be in order.  

The cleaner the item, the better the electrolysis works.  Check the process and brush away any crud so you have good metal and good electrical connections so the electrolysis can work. 

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For solidly rusted items; I generally "try" them every weekend and apply penetrating solution again after every try.  Out here setting them where the sun can really heat them up and then cool off during the night helps the solution penetrate.  I generally don't get aggressive with items until several months of TLC have gone by with no results.

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