Sunday, May 24, 2015

Take Care of Metal Tools

The biggest bane of having my workshop downstairs in our defunct garage, is the damp.  The back walls are exposed bedrock that weeps water for weeks after heavy rains so no amount of anti-humidity products or mechanisms are viable.

The roughest effect is the rust on my budget steel tools.  Budget because my hobby exists on a minimalist income since I am not full time professional.  Not only does it make the tool look awful, but soft steel becomes pitted with bumps and divots as the steel is oxidised into rust.  But these tools can exist happily with a bit of care.

Anti-Rust Protection

Steel tools exposed to damp air will rust, it is inevitable.  It does not matter if it is a very expensive hammer to a cheap as chips dapping block.  And there is a cheap solution!  Protect these items with a thin coating of machine oil and store in a small, air tight container.

After using, use a machine oil pre filled lint free rag to rub a new thin coating onto the item and store back in its container.

If you will use item (say an anvil doming block) to hammer a project before soldering, the oil coating will need to be removed or it will affect how the solder flows.  Remove with methyl spirits in a clean rag.  Then reapply the thin coating of machine oil before storing the block.

It may be an extra, slightly messy step when working on the fly but this extra bit of care will prolong the life of budget tools!  And hopefully in the near future your own income will allow the purchase of top range tools that are a bit more hardy.

Rust Removal

Disaster strikes when the drawer is opened and that dapping tool is coated in a rough surface of red rust.  All is not lost though if the rust is a thin coating and the required smooth surface not pitted.

First off: use eye protection!

Tools required: Sand paper in various grits and elbow grease (or a flexible shaft and rubber/sand disks to speed the process up)

25mm Hasbras Disks Course to Fine
Compare size of 25 mm and 19 mm wheels
I used the 25 mm Hasbras polishing wheels (see my blog post from Jan 19 2013 for more details) which are very course grit to assist.  I went straight to the fine blue wheel which is akin to 400 grit sand paper as this would leave a soft brushed surface that will not transfer any texture to the surface of projects.  The hand held component of the Dremel flexible shaft firmly fixed into a vice grip allowed me hands free access to the spinning disk.

I carefully manoeuvred each steel object (in this case, my entire dapping tool set) from every angle possible against the spinning disk brush and it slowly brushed off the rust.  On the curved part of the dapping punch I kept the rusty item spinning and the disk removed rust keeping the nice curved lines.  Fortunately the curved ball parts of my dapping punches were not pitted, but the shafts did have a bit more pitting.  I just kept working on each spot until all signs of red rust were gone and I had polished, shiny steel left.

Less than 5000 RPMs!
One thing I forgot was to keep the RPMs down on the flexible shaft tool, as these rubber wheels cannot handle too much force before the teeth flicking off.  Fortunately I remembered and the blue wheel only lost a couple of the teeth, unlike a previous one in my 19 mm Hasbras disk set.

After rust is removed, wash hands, brush off item carefully to remove dust and use a rag to put on a light coating of machine oil all over the item.  Store newly polished steel tool in a small air tight container to prevent further rusting.

Anvil/Doming Block Divots

Of course, the first thing to mention is to NOT hit your soft steel anvil/doming block with other hardened steel tools to prevent divots in the first place.  If working with a hammer, take careful aim and ensure that hammer edges are not missing the project metal straight onto the doming block.  If using punches of any kind, use a soft brass mallet, rubber mallet or heavy wooden mallet to strike the punch so that the mallet takes the damage and NOT the anvil/doming block.  Support the doming block with a rubber mat between the block and desk to take some of the force.  And hit more gently and more often, work softly with more control.  All of these efforts will keep your anvil/doming block from becoming marred in the first place.

I cannot give a step by step on this portion as I handed my very dented block over my capable husband at this stage given the sanding belt tool is his, and much bigger than I am used to working with.  He held the block flat faced and firmly against the rougher grit sanding belt and just ground away until all divots were gone.  This does expose new, raw steel which is eager to rust so again, coat with a light coating of machine oil with a lint free rag and store in air tight container.

The same concept works for all hand held tools like wire cutters, pliers and more.

Good luck and stay rust free!

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