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Electrolysis PageA-13 Infill Hand Plane

Batery Charger and Bucket

One Method for Cleaning Rust

Electrolysis is a electrochemical method of cleaning rust for metal.. What you need is Washing Soda and Electricity (Battery Charger) to break down the rust on the metal.. Its kind of like reverse matal platting.. If you where using sliver or gold as a electrode and reversed the wires you would be adding metal to the rust instead of removing the rust..
I am not sure of the exact process of plating but you just what to remove rust here...


What You Need:

First I'll start with what you need .. Battery Charger 6 Amps is OK, Arm Hammer Washing Soda also called Washing Soda this might be a little tricky to find in some places I here.. Try WalMart and in most stores I find it in it is across the isle from the powdered soaps so no one confuses it for soda I am guessing.. You need a plastic container and some steel bars or sheet metal, I use a old cracked plane for an electrode..


  • Container of some sort - a Plastic bucket works really well. More on this later.
  • Battery charger - big is better, but even a small one able to kick out 6 to 10 amps should do.
  • Electrodes of some sort. Concrete reinforcing rod works well (re-bar) or Stainless Steel Scrap Stock cut into lengths about 4" taller than your bucket.
  • Arm and Hammer LAUNDRY soda, also called washing soda.
  • Wire/cable.
  • Water.
  • Extra Alligator Clips and 12 Ga. Wire for making Jumpers

Washing Soda


Many people have said they can't fine Washing Soda.
It also goes by the name Arm & Hammer SO CLEAN!




So Clean


Sodium Carbonate (washing soda is also used to increase the PH of water in swimming pools. PH up or sometimes called PH + can be found at swimming pool centers, hardware stores carrying pool supplies or Walmart. Walmart in Vermont carries the HTH brand.




How To:

Assuming you are using a plastic, or non-conductive bucket, mix a solution of 5 gallons water to 1/3 to 1/2 cup laundry soda. Mix well so all soda is dissolved.

Clean the electrodes so they aren't too rusty I use a Wire Wheel on a Buffer or a Wire Brush will Work - especially at the top ends - they need to make good electrical contact. I take mine to a wire wheel on my grinder and give them just a real quick going over. Place electrodes in bucket, around sides, so clean, rust free ends stick up above bucket. Use wire, clamps, Hose Clamps or some means to hold them in place, so that they cannot move freely, or fall into center of bucket. They must NOT EVER touch part to be cleaned, which will be suspended in center of bucket. I use small clamps. Whatever you use, it shouldn't be copper, and will get a bit messy if it gets into your cleaning solution.
Tie the electrodes together with wire, or cables. I use copper wire twisted around the top ends, and have used old jumper cables. All electrodes need to be tied together "electrically".

Suspend part to be cleaned into bucket so it hangs in the middle, not touching bottom, and not touching electrodes. I place a piece of 2x4 across top of bucket (see photo above) and clamp the jumpers on the 2x4 so that the jumpers hang the part being cleaned, and suspends the part into solution below.

WARNING:I have read a on a few pages and have been contacted than Stainless Steel is bad to use as a electrode!

BucketAttaching battery charger leads:

Place NEGATIVE LEAD To the Part being Cleaned (this is most critical!!!) . Somehow, you need your Negative, or BLACK Charger Lead needs to connect to the part being cleaned.
Attach POSITIVE / RED lead of charger to Re-Bar / Scrap Steel or Cast Iron, right now I am using cracked plane bodies in the bucket and use a cheap spring clamp to hold them in place to the side of the bucket. I did use three electrodes spaced around the bucket with plane hanging in the center but now use one old cracked or broken plane as scrap iron and one plane to clean on the other side works just as well..
Just remember to clean scrap iron when bubbles stop forming
.I am using my buffer and wire wheel to clean off crude and rust leaft behind..

Make sure electrodes and part to be cleaned are not touching, turn on charger. You should within seconds see a lot of tiny bubbles rising from the part suspended in the mixture. Do not do this inside, or in a closed area - those bubbles are the component parts of water - H2O - Hydrogen and Oxygen. Remember the Hindenberg?

Rust Floating On Top


See how the rust and bubbles are attracted to the electrodes? You will need to clean them from time to time - they will get very covered with gunk, and in fact, after many uses, will have eroded down and need to be replaced. You can pour the waste solution on the lawn and it won't hurt it. Do watch out for ornamental shrubs which may not like iron rich soil, however.



Tiny Bubbles Coming Off Work




Click on image to see larger picture and you can see tiny bubles coming off the piece to be cleaned.. This is how you can tell your set-up is working..











Off Site Resources:
Electrolysis - A Superior Cleaning Process
The Electrolytic Rust Removal FAQ

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