Interesting Woodworking Link

Monday, October 15, 2007

Episode #13 - Stanley Bench Plane Restoration Part I

Part I - Electrolytic Rust Removal

Step #1 – Cleaning & Rust Removal

A trusty friend in need of some TLC!

Download PDF Electrolytic Rust Removal Instruction Sheet

I have been inspired by a number of resources to start using my hand planes and start on the slippery slope of a hand plane collection. Not the least of whom has been Wayne, hand plane guru. Of course, I have also explored a number of websites including Phil on the other side of the pond and Matt from Matt’s Basement Workshop and Patrick's Blood and Gore.

Most importantly I have come to realize I need these planes to achieve a higher degree of fit and finish. Plus I like the quite sounds of hand tools and the feel of a thin shaving of wood peeling out of the plane mouth. So the focus of this entry will be an old, but not so valuable, Stanley bench plane that has lived in my carpenter’s box for perhaps 25 years. I used and abused this plane for coarse fitting work on decks and fences. I also used it to hand plane a bunch of clear vertical grain construction redwood for a bed that I made for my wife and I almost 25 years ago.

I am hoping I can revive this fellow to take a place on my bench for future work building furniture and cabinets. Along with my small Stanley block plane, these will be the nucleus of my plane collection.

Today I disassembled the plane and started to experiment with electrolytic rust removal on the plane iron and chip breaker. I plan on replacing these with a Hock set (thanks to Wayne for this link!) in the near future. The reason I am spending time cleaning these is because I am going to use them in a multi-sized dowel-cutting jig. Also, I want to see how well this process works before dunking my plane body in the bucket!

The cool thing about this project is that I already had everything in the shop!

Use a brass brush and a 3M grey abrasive pad for final cleaning. Some residual stubborn stains were removed with a bath in glycolic acid. I used Kaboom Shower, Tub & Tile Cleaner.

After the acid bath I rinsed the parts in fresh water and ran them in the electrolytic solution for 15 minutes to neutralize the acid followed by a second rinse in plain water.
After completing the de-rusting and cleaning process all parts were treated immediately with BoeShield T-9 to prevent rusting. WD-40 would be a good alternative to BoeShield T-9.

Refurbished plane iron and chipper
The plane body is next!

Rusted cap screw

Cleaned cap screw after electrolytic
rust removal and gentle buffing
with a brass brush


  • 5 gal plastic bucket
  • rebar pins for anode grid
  • copper wire
  • wire nuts
  • large alligator clips
  • Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (sodium carbonate)
  • 6/12 volt battery charger
  • brass brush
  • 3M grey abrasive pad
  • WD-40
  • BoeShield T-9
  • Drill holes near edge for twisted wire loops
  • Secure rebar with twisted wire
  • Connect rebar anode grid with copper wire & wire nuts

Twisted wire and wire nut securing rebar
to wall of 5-gal plastic bucket

View inside bucket of rebar
secured to wall with twisted wire

View of rebar anode & copper cathode wires

The BLACK (negative) lead is connected to the part being cleaned
The RED (positive) lead is connected to the rebar anode grid

View of the plane iron & chipper
hanging in electrolyte solution
suspended by copper wire

Close-up of rusted plane iron ready to be cleaned

  • Before starting, review the Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDS) for the recommended products
  • Use common sense – if it doesn’t feel right don’t do it!
  • The gases generated are oxygen & hydrogen
  • Do this process in a well-ventilated area away from sparks or open flame
  • Wear gloves and safety goggles / glasses
  • The electrolyte solution is mildly alkaline and could irritate your skin and eyes
  • Wash any sprayed electrolytic solution off your skin with plenty of fresh water
  • Despite some recommendations, DO NOT use stainless steel for the electrodes as the results produce a toxic solution containing hexavalent chromate. Hexavalent chromate is a poisonous and hazardous material that requires special handling and disposal.
  • Click here for a good discussion of why NOT to use stainless steel


Jim Karr said...

I've used this method to clean things. One thing is, I just used plain tap water, it will work as well. So you can, in a pinch skip the baking soda, but should work better with it.

Second, the link to the PDF you supplied is for storage of the vacuum press bag, so you might want to check that. :)

David Pruett said...

Jim -

Thanks for the heads up on the link . . . I will fix it ASAP.


Tom said...

I like the results on the old plane.

How long do you leave it bubbling? Overnight seems a bit long and risky.

David Pruett said...

Tom -

Great question. Basically, you leave it in until the rust is gone and the metal is clean. This is a function of the power of your battery charger and the degree of rust.

usframe said...

This is an interesting concept. One which I shall investigate further.
Jerry (usframe)

David Pruett said...

Jerry -

Wow! Very cool to see you leave a comment on the woodworking side of things . . .

Thank you. Looking forward to how your plane rehab(s) work out!

Doug Blacke said...

I really enjoyed this technique, and will build a set-up & try it. I live near the ocean and have a lot of salt in the air.
I wanted to say that using WD40 ANYWHERE in a wood shop is a risky idea - it contains silicone and once that contaminates your project it will repel all finishing materials, leaving a defect known as fish-eye. Boeshield or camilia oil work great.