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Patina On Bench Planes Rust Preventative?


Nick Allen
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Hello all,

 

      Lately I've taken to lapping my bench planes and getting them real flat and smooth. But I've noticed that once I have my nice shiny plane sole, unless I paste wax it, rust starts to form within a matter of days. Granted I live in a relatively humid part of the country (Pittsburgh), so it didn't come as any surprise to me. I have noticed that any of my tools that have that old patina on them, especially bench planes, they never rust. I'm not talking about the sole, because I know that there can be no patina on the sole. Every other non painted part of the iron is non-essential in terms of the operational aspects of it, so is there any harm in just leaving the patina on the plane? Does anyone else do this? Is anyone against this? If so then why?

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I've been using this to clean / remove rust from my finer tools:

http://www.leevalley.com/en/Wood/page.aspx?p=67014&cat=1,43415,43439&ap=1

 

and for long term storage:  http://boeshield.com/about/

 

The Boeshield I was getting from Lee Valley too, but it doesn't appear in their recent catalog.

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I've had that exact same problem with some of my own bench planes. After lapping the sole to a seemingly rust free condition, rust would inevitably "bloom" again, typically from the same specific spots. What I learned is that rust is an electro-chemical process that's still going on in the pores beneath the metal's surface, and it has to be chemically stopped by applying a rust remover. This is going on even though you can't see any rust after the lapping process. I use a spray on liquid rust remover containing phosphoric acid. There are many brands, all essentially the same. It will discolor the metal, but you can just lightly lap it again and I think you'll find, as I did, that your problem is solved. Patina isn't a problem. In fact I think it's somewhat protective.

Paste wax might be a less than ideal lubricant because it can contain things that could interfere with gluing and/or finishing later on. Instead, Waxilit, or one of the spray on products for machine tops like "Topcoat" might be a better choice.

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I use thinned boiled linseed oil (25-50% oil, the rest naphta or white spirit) both to preventing rust and preserving patina on tools. Put it on and leave it to dry for a day. Then polish the metal to remove excess oil and leave it to dry for another day. Another polish and it is fine to go.

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The patina differs from the rust, optically and chemically. Patina is very thin rather stable layer of oxides (gray, blue, black and between), but the rust consists from hydroxides and tends to destroy the iron further. I do not think that the patina is bad thing, just because it is protective and (really very) thin. Knifemakers purposely treats the carbon steel blades with acetic acid, mustard, Coca Cola and I do not what else, causing the development of patina, because of its protective properties. I do not think too that the oil is good for treatment of plane soles, because of thickness of oil layer.

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I use thinned boiled linseed oil (25-50% oil, the rest naphta or white spirit) both to preventing rust and preserving patina on tools. Put it on and leave it to dry for a day. Then polish the metal to remove excess oil and leave it to dry for another day. Another polish and it is fine to go.

 

Seconded!

 

Only I use a 50/50 mix of linseed oil and oil of turpentine (bought at an artist store). Rub it in vigourously, leave for 5 - 10 minutes and wipe away using a paper towel. Stuff I treated almost 40 years ago still looks just fine.

 

cheers edi

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I wonder about bluing steel or iron tools like they do gun barrels. 

 

I'm thinking about tools made in the workshop, as much to make them look nice as anything else. I don't have problems with rust on plane soles.

 

Perhaps some of the gun enthusiasts here could offer an opinion on the best processes to use.

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I wonder about bluing steel or iron tools like they do gun barrels. 

 

I'm thinking about tools made in the workshop, as much to make them look nice as anything else. I don't have problems with rust on plane soles.

 

Perhaps some of the gun enthusiasts here could offer an opinion on the best processes to use.

 

Hi Conor - decades back I used to do the blueing for one of our local gunsmiths. The process I used was an extremely caustic solution that was carried out at a temperature of about 125 C. On completion what you ended up with was a blued surface that was completely oil free. After cooling and several rinses you immediately oiled, very generously, the article and left it alone for a day or so before wiping it down with a paper towel. Omit the oil flooding step and surface rust was guaranteed.

 

Sorry - just re-read your post and realised I didn't answer your question.

 

Blueing is like any other process - if you have the equipment it's a piece of cake. Over the weekend I'll dig out my notes and take a pic of a revolver cylinder that I made and blued. Better still - I have an air rifle that a friend wants me to re-blue. I'll try get into the garage, set up the tank, take pics and do a write up.

 

Watch this space.

 

cheers edi

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I had some limited experience with cold bluing, and I found that it's not very durable and the metal stinks forever afterwards.

 

Oiling with mineral oil or silicons isn't very practical as it contaminates the wood. Wax seems to be ok if it's removed before using to prevent contamination.

 

Interestingly, the only rusting problem I have is with cast iron planes and my cast iron jointer beds. None of my chisels, gouges, knives, etc ever show any signs of rust.

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If your tools don't rust from sitting out for a day, then you must either:

A) Live in a relatively dry part of the world, or

B) Have a climate-controlled workshop.

 

My chisels and gouges rust so fast that you wouldn't believe it due to the high humidity around my parts. Leave 'em on the bench for a little over a day or so and they're coated in red-orange oxidation.

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If your tools don't rust from sitting out for a day, then you must either:

A) Live in a relatively dry part of the world, or

B) Have a climate-controlled workshop.

 

My chisels and gouges rust so fast that you wouldn't believe it due to the high humidity around my parts. Leave 'em on the bench for a little over a day or so and they're coated in red-orange oxidation.

My rusting issues all but disappeared (with the exception of parts which have high exposure to perspiration) when I started keeping my shop below 60% humidity. I think this is something someone in the trade needs to do anyway though, for safe keeping of instruments in their custody, and because instruments assembled under medium humidity conditions have a lower risk of problems if they are later exposed to one extreme or the other later.

Even some factory-type guitar manufacturers tightly control the humidity in their production facilities to keep it close to 50%.

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I don't have rust problems with tools either. My workshop space is in my home, which I heat when necessary of course, but I don't take any steps to control humidity. I know that people around here that keep their tools in unheated, detached garages do have rust problems. For years I've stored an overstock collection of vintage hand planes on a shelf in a closet in my bathroom where I take my daily shower, and even those have shown no tendency to rust. Because I sharpen with water stones, I always follow up a sharpening with careful drying, of course, and then a light application of camellia oil, which is the traditional rust preventative of Japanese tool users. I live on the San Francisco Peninsula, where the humidity never gets extremely high. I guess I'm lucky in that sense.

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If the tools get condensation on them they will rust quickly. In an outside shed, the conditions are ripe for moisture condensing on metal as air temperatures rise, say, after sunrise. In shops where temperature swings are not great, this is less problematic.  Conor's suggestion to wiping them down with oil is good advice. I have a spray bottle of Japanese camellia oil made for protecting metal. Works like a charm. I also keep a dehumidifier running during the humid summers. My basement shop never exceeds 55% humidity.

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Even some factory-type guitar manufacturers tightly control the humidity in their production facilities to keep it close to 50%.

regarding humidity i can tell you first hand the combination of a humid shop and plaster dust is disastrous for your tools. We recently had some work done in the house and no matter how hard we tried to contain the dust it got everywhere. When it settles on steel and absorbs moisture, rust forms 

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Here on the Canadian prairie the relative humidity is on the average, quite low. The rust problems I've been experiencing is primarily during winter in my outdoor woodshop. Because It's heated by wood, I only build a fire when I need to work out there. As soon as the room temperature rises from sub-zero temperatures, I get instant condensation on cast iron of handplanes, my power jointer, tablesaw, etc. Perhaps it only forms on the heavy castings because of the thermal mass.

 

My bandsaw doesn't seem to be affected much, I think because it's closer to the wood heater and warms up faster.

 

I was looking at the plane socks that Lee Valley sells, but I'm not sure they would help in this instance.

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Lay/store your planes on a piece of aluminum  foil.  Cathodic protection.  Cheap and simple.  Keeping them dry works very well.

 

There are other ways of doing this such as the old Parkerizing process which is expensive and a nuisance--this is called a conversion coating--but parkerizing really works. 

 

Boiling in caustic will remove the grease, paint and create a dark oxide film that will be attractive but not very corrosion resistant.  Bluing as in gun bluing is attractive but also almost worthless.  Both will require an oil/wax coating to stop corrosion in a damp environment.

 

The old patina is not very corrosion resistant, either.  Note all the old planes on ebay that are heavily pitted. 

 

Mike D

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OH, OH, MR KOTTER! Can I go now? 

 

Deep storage made simple:

 

If you clean the rust off your planes, pat them dry with paper towel and blow dry them with a hair drier to get all the water molecules to evaporate. Get a cheap clear plastic storage bin from a discount store. And get the Gel Pacs for shipping packing that draw moisture from the air. Line the container with a hand towel or paper towels and put half a dozen of the Gel Pac thingies under the towel. Store your planes in that box, but blow dry them to evaporate the moisture. 

 

If that if that is not enough, or if you are a 'tool figiteer',  patina them with linseed oil and heat. 

 

Here is basic way to patinate metal. This treatment will preserve any patina already on the metal and provide some oxidation protection under normal shop conditions.  

 

(Strip the body down of the iron and parts. Flatten sole, or touch it up, removes rust. Check sides to see if they are square to sole. If not then fix it with a metal file and wet and dry paper.

 

Sole and sides are square already? Then dress with fine wet/dry paper to remove rust. Wipe dry with paper towel and use hair blow drier to dry for sure all the little nooks and crannies.)

 

Paper towel, linseed oil. Rub a light coat of linseed oil on the plane body and then wipe it off. Use a hand held butane torch in low flame to heat the plane body, slowly. Cook the linseed oil on the metal body until it is not oily, this takes a few seconds to 30 seconds - ish. You can repeat the linseed oil and heat if need be. 

 

Don't use the torch at high heat it will distort the plane, a judicious small amount of heat with turn the linseed oil into a dry "varnish" on the metal. Try it in on scrap first to see how it works. 

 

Linseed oil when 'cooked into' metal provides dry coating/patina that can last for a long, long time. Turns the metal dark, but handling will encourage the patina to change color and develop. Chemicals in your sweat will interact with the patina. 

 

If you use too much heat the metal will change shape, that is not the objective, obviously. 

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