Electrolysis to remove rust

So my cane mill is around 105 years old.  It has rust slightly younger than that, but that’s not saying much.  Pretty much all un-restored mills have old rust to some degree.  Some folks like the rust look and it technically will not harm you if it is otherwise clean.  I don’t like the look though and the mills weren’t rusty when they were new so it’s not like I am changing its original state.

Electrolysis to remove rust
Before electrolysis…the whole thing is pretty rusty
Electrolysis to remove rust
After electrolysis…hardly any rust left!

So, I was searching around for the best way to remove rust from old iron and there were tons of people using electrolysis.  I had heard of electrolysis for hair removal (which is becoming increasingly more interesting as I age and my ears have started to sprout).  Anyhow, it is a well known technique for rust removal too (Here is a great bit of info on it).  I put my rusty  iron into a plastic tub filled with water and laundry soda.  I hooked up my battery charger and hee-haw if it didn’t start bubbling!

Electrolysis to remove rust
The electrolysis chamber. Those bars are all electrified! Be careful if you do this!

Cut the power on and wait a few hours and poof…science happens!  Search around for more details on your own because, of course, this could kill you if you do it wrong (Just look at my de-rusting tank…those bars are electrified when it’s running).  Abigail and I enjoyed our little experiment and I am here to report that it works pretty well.  I will still touch it up with a sand blaster (or maybe a soda blaster) but I think it is going to turn into a really nice piece!

My cane mill/sorghum stuff

6 thoughts on “Electrolysis to remove rust

  1. I get enough iron in other foods without adding it to my molasses. I would have removed the rust too.

  2. Very interesting! May have to try that on some of our rusty tools – looks less chemically intensive than using something like Lime Away.

  3. What. I would have watched that damn bucket all day. Science is neat.
    And just to balance out the boots, I’ll leave you this: neck hairs. I know what you mean about the aging & sprouting. Eh.

  4. Kate – Yeah, sprouting sucks…better than rusting though I guess!

    d.a. – there are some things that can make it not so nice pollution wise like using stainless steel as your anode and other stuff, but mostly, it is not a big deal which I like

    Ed – Space? That’s what living rooms are for!

    Gary – you should…it’s cool just to watch!

  5. The rust won’t hurt you. Just keep the bearings greased as instructed on the mill. For keeping over non-use seasons, just pour some food-grade mineral oil over it, which will flow off before next season.

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