Recently I started reading the Anarchist Tool Chest by Christopher Schwarz of Lost Art Press - as per the recommendation of my amazing friend Anne Briggs of Anne of All Trades. This reading not only has my wheels turning on investing in my becoming a better woodworker. I’m not talking about being cool and making cool things and having fun new tools, though. But rather, I’m inspired to dive into the essence of becoming a great woodworker (It’s kind of meta, I know, but bear with me.)
With that comes the need for not only skills, but tools. The book outlines some woodworking “necessities” and basically tells you what - in Chris’s opinion - you should have if you want to be a master of the trade.
As my gears began turning on this concept, I remembered that I had a box of old rusty tools back at my shop. This overwhelming urge to really clean up my trade and start fresh inspired me to get start with these old, basic tools. So I decided to take the time to clean off the tools from projects past.
Because most of us have some old rust-ridden tools of our own, I’m here to break down how to remove rust from tools - either the ones you’ve had stowed away for ages or the ones you pick up at a garage sale - and a hand-me-down drill from my grandfather.
Start by checking out the full video of how to remove rust from tools, or check out the step-by-step now:
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The first step in removing rust from old tools is to use whatever you have at your disposal to eliminate all of the dirt and grime from the surface -- AKA the nasty surface rust, dirt, and whatever else has found its way onto your tool. For this step, I like to use my compressor with an air gun, an old wire brush, and some rags for the quickest, simplest way to remove rust from tools.
Once the tool is clean of the surface dirt and grime, it’s time to begin tackling the mac-daddy rust. Start by disassembling the tool - keeping track of the parts in small dixie cups or plastic containers. Keep everything in a watertight container. I happened to have some small mixing cups laying around the shop, so I used those to separate out individual pieces while removing rust from tools I found.
The next step to remove rust from tools is to use a solution to soak the parts. Some people like to use straight vinegar, which I have done in the past. But I found using products like Evapo-Rust more efficient and powerful. Let the parts soak as long as you want - typically a minimum of one hour, but this could vary depending on how rusty your tools are. I love feeling like I’m multi-tasking, so removing rust from tools is a great thing to do while staining a new project or assembling a piece of furniture. I set my tools to soak for an extended period of time and come back to them when I’m ready. Easy-peasy.
After an hour or more, remove the tool parts from the Evapo-Rust bath. From there you’ll want to dry them off. I’ve found that the best way to do this is with a rag and my air gun once again. The air gun is perfect for those hard to reach places because you can go full-on Django and blast the solution of the surface with short bursts of air.
Next you’ll then want to use a wire wheel - either in your handheld drill or drill press - to clean off the surface of your tool. Make sure to use a soft wheel when removing rust from tools or it can damage the shape of the tool and create more work in the long term.
Once all of the rust is removed and you’ve had the wire wheel clean up all the metal parts, it’s time to buff and wax. If you plan on painting your parts, you’ll want to do that at this point, before you buff it out.
For this step, I used a buffing wheel in my drill press with some compound on it. This shines up the metal nicely, and also creates smoother surfaces for sliding and movement.
Using your preferred flattening and sharpening method, start sharpening your blades and cutters. If you’re looking to learn how to sharpen tools, I have a really intuitive video that breaks it down for you. Once all of your planes and irons are sharpened up, you’ll want to install them in your planes and get to cutting.
And voila! Rust-free, good-as-new, fresh-out-the-factory, sparkling tools -- can you tell how exciting this is for me?
If you liked this post on learning how to remove rust from tools, check out some of these great builds you’ll have to try out with your newly rust-free tools:
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Want to try this build out for yourself? Download the digital plan now for step-by-step instructions, measurements, and a detailed look at how to punch this project in the face.