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Thread: Iron relics brought back to life! Thanks to Buckleboys method

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  1. #1
    us
    Jul 2012
    Charlotte, North Carolina
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    Iron relics brought back to life! Thanks to Buckleboy's method

    Hello all & happy Friday! I've been meaning to post this for a while but have just been busy. I had some iron relics that really needed to be preserved & after researching, trial & error this is by far the best method. Please check out Buckleboy's post on this.

    1) Soak the relic in apple cider vinegar, (I used Tupperware) Take out & brush with a steel wire brush as needed to get the rust off. I used a cheap grill brush from Dollar General. Different sized relics will take different amounts of time. The colonial lock took almost 3 weeks. The smaller buckles may only take 2-3 days. Be patient! When the vinegar turns black its time to put in a fresh batch. Oh, & use gloves! The vinegar gets nasty when it turns black. When all of the rust is gone, rinse & dry.

    2) Brush (paint brush) the relic with Evaporust immediately after drying. You can purchase this at Autozone. This will stop & get rid of any flash rusting. You can start with this step & soak in Evaporust to start but it is expensive. This may be a good option for a lock with a brass keyhole cover as it will not mess up the patina of the brass, it will only affect the iron. It's also good for any valuable relics you don't want to take any chances on. This also works well on items such as a lock because it will get into the inside well. Electrolysis doesn't do a great job with that aspect.

    3) Brush the item with Crisco, yes Crisco. Then bake for an hour or so in the oven at 250 degrees. Take out, let it cool down some & then wipe off any excess Crisco. Be careful! Iron gets hot! This is basically sealing your iron relic & after a few days it will have the desirable black iron look.

    That's basically all there is to it! As you can see, the difference is night & day. The colonial lock turned out fantastic! It is one of my favorite relics now. I'm sure the more I do this the better I will get but these results are pretty impressive. Feel free to send me a message if you have any specific questions, I'll be glad to help. I know this isn't a find from today but its a lot different than the iron rusted blob I originally posted. I also think this is helpful to the tnet community as a whole.

    A special thanks to Buckleboy for being so helpful & posting some great cleaning tutorials. Buckleboy, feel free to chime in of you have anything additional to add that I may have missed.

    Thanks for looking & HH!
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    Last edited by mangum; Nov 22, 2013 at 12:09 PM.

  2. #2

    May 2012
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    Thank you very much for taking the time to post this.. I just happen to be working on an iron relic right now.

  3. #3
    us
    Grant Hansen

    May 2012
    New Jersey
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    Hey, those came out great!! I used ACV on a padlock and got great results too. Good stuff!

    I tested around with smaller buckles and horse tack and them into a tumbler... worked great too!

    Here's my lock...
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    And a before/after of a lynch pin using ACV
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    mangum likes this.

  4. #4

    May 2012
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    I might have some issues with this.
    It was a water find so its completely crusted with the sand that surround it that hardened like a thick shell.
    Have any if you had to deal with that before?
    I think a cock mechanism for a flintlock pistol is hiding in there

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    Last edited by GatorBoy; Nov 22, 2013 at 12:39 PM.

  5. #5
    us
    Jul 2012
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    Thanks Grant, those look good! It definitely works wonders. I've never thought of using a tumbler, I'll have to give it a shot.

    GatorBoy - I'm afraid I don't have any advice for you on that. I'm not familiar with water dug iron relics like that. Maybe someone will chime in who has experience with it.

  6. #6

    Feb 2013
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    I really love the vinegar idea. It's probably a lot easier than what I do. Here's my method. First, I have an old cooler filled with fresh water. I soak freshly dug items in the fresh water to remove the dirt for as long as needed (or until I can find time to mess with them!). Then I pull out a few items at a time and put them in a wide and fairly shallow tupperware plastic dish. I then add zinc Mason jar lids or any other zinc I can find and sprinkle the relics and the zinc with lye. Then I add enough boiling water to the mix to cover the relics. But be careful when you add the water because the lye gets pretty angry and the fumes are not something you'll want to breathe in. You'll notice that the zinc will start to bubble. That's good because it means that you've activated the process to remove the rust. I then cover the pan and check back every couple of days or so until the items have turned mostly black. It works really well and usually has even the most rusted pieces in good shape within a week or two. Then I rinse the pieces, dry them and coat them with low-luster polyurethane. I've used this method for over twenty-five years. The problem is that it's getting really hard to find lye these days and I don't dig as many zinc Mason jar tops as I used to. But vinegar is easy to find and cheap too. I can't wait to try. thanks for posting.
    mangum likes this.

  7. #7

    Oct 2013
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    An alternative to the crisco bath...I have an old pan that was unfit for food, and filled that bad boy with gulf wax. I take iron directly from vinegar to the wax and turn the heat on. As the wax melts it will eventually begin boiling off the relic, and it pulls all of the moisture and air out. All the little cavities are then filled in by the wax. The big advantage is speed, and it is not a biological preservative so it can never "go bad" like pork lard. Just my two wheaties, HH
    mangum likes this.

  8. #8
    Your lock turned out great Josh. There are a lot of different methods that can be successful with cleaning iron artifacts, and this is obviously one of them. I've tried several over the years and after a lot of experience I prefer electrolysis. After it comes out of the tank I use a brass brush to get any remaining rust off, then spray liberally with WD-40 to kill whatever orange tone that may be left. Then I wipe off well with a clean rag, rinse, and immerse in an alcohol bath for at least several hours to remove all the moisture. Then I let it soak in a can of polyurethane for a day, remove, let it completely dry, then repeat the process once or twice more. I'm very satisfied with the results. But as long as your method works for you I'd recommend sticking with it. Nice job! And by the way, I've found that electrolysis will also clean both the outside and inside of iron artifacts, but it may take a little longer.
    mangum likes this.

  9. #9
    us
    Jul 2012
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill D. (VA) View Post
    Your lock turned out great Josh. There are a lot of different methods that can be successful with cleaning iron artifacts, and this is obviously one of them. I've tried several over the years and after a lot of experience I prefer electrolysis. After it comes out of the tank I use a brass brush to get any remaining rust off, then spray liberally with WD-40 to kill whatever orange tone that may be left. Then I wipe off well with a clean rag, rinse, and immerse in an alcohol bath for at least several hours to remove all the moisture. Then I let it soak in a can of polyurethane for a day, remove, let it completely dry, then repeat the process once or twice more. I'm very satisfied with the results. But as long as your method works for you I'd recommend sticking with it. Nice job! And by the way, I've found that electrolysis will also clean both the outside and inside of iron artifacts, but it may take a little longer.
    Thanks Bill. No doubt you have your method down to a science & have great results. I don't really have the room or resources to do electrolysis now so this is what I went with. I will definitely save this for future reference though. A lot of good information here.

  10. #10
    ca
    Oct 2009
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    Great results with BBs method for the iron. The lock cleaned up nice!
    I like the method because of its simplicity and and for being kind of low tech. There's nothing wrong with the other methods mentioned , they all seem to bring similar results. I guess it's just what you're willing to try and experiment with.

    Good post!
    mangum likes this.
    ...if you think I'm a pain in the neck, it's lower, lower,little bit lower, too low, higher, there ya go.....

  11. #11
    us
    Oct 2013
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    Thanks for sharing. You've inspired me to try to get a couple of my finds shined up a bit.
    mangum likes this.
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  12. #12

    May 2012
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    I second that I actually have something in electrolysis right now
    mangum likes this.

  13. #13
    us
    Nov 2012
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    if you are using vinegar...do yourself a favor and get yourself some oxalic and/or citric acid (oxalic does more a surface clean...but is less destructive than citric....I mostly use it on tins..but does work well on iron) - I remember seeing someone (on youtube) firing up some boiling wax and putting things in there as the last step (boiling wax is hotter than water...so it boils out any remaining moisture and wax fills the cavities left behind) -
    BuckleBoy likes this.

  14. #14
    us
    Nov 2012
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    vinegar is just a way to pay way too much for citric acid (see also lemon juice concentrate) - you should be able to find it online - -oxalic is a different beast - I once dug a cast iron toy plane in a 1930s dump....totally brown and lumpy....instead of citric...I put it in oxalic ..and..under all that rust...there was still some red paint....obviously this wont be the case with colonial things....but...it does leave a nicer surface/patina.... citric really pits and leaves a dull grey....oxalic leaves a nice black/dark brown color....which looks good after being sprayed with WD-40 or whatever..
    BuckleBoy likes this.

  15. #15

    May 2012
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    Just figured I would post this photo I've decided to go with a method that I use for shipwreck artifacts.
    I'm soaking the entire item in a mixture of 1/3 muriatic acid and 2/3 water periodically removing and gently scraping away the material that has been loosened. Each time I do that I put it in a bath of sodium bicarbonate and water to neutralize the acid then repeat the process eventually giving it a long bath in the baking soda and water mixture

    Click image for larger version. 

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