Rust Never Sleeps

Neil Young coined this slogan and while I don’t think he was a Heinkel owner,  the phrase certainly applies. Any unrestored 50 year old car had rust issues.  One of the attendees at HeikelFest told me about his experience using electricity to de-rust gun parts.The technique is known as electrolysis, and I was intrigued. I’ve tried a lot of rust removal techniques; sandblasting, sanding, de-rusting solutions like Evapo-Rust, and encapsulations like naval jelly and POR-15. Electrolysis was appealing because it was fast and used power tools, both of which, if you’ve read my blog, you know I like very much.
I did some research and I found several excellent articles on this technique (judging from the sound of things gun owners have more rust issues than car owners). I found a great story that explained it:  Most of what I did simply follows the directions in the article.
I decided to try this outside since I didn’t know if it would create odors. The picture below shows all of the parts:
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Test Electrolysis

From left to right:

  1. The Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (1 tablespoon per gallon)
  2. A plastic pot that holds enough water to totally immerse the object to be re-rusted
  3. A piece of steel or iron (don’t use stainless steel or aluminium) to act as an anode
  4. A battery charger that will provide the juice
  5. The item to be de-rusted

In my case it took about a gallon of water to cover the item. I marked it on the side of the container for future reference.

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
One gallon almost drowns the baby on this Tidy Cat container

Next submerge the item into the solution:

Heinkel Cars and Scooters
Negative is connected to the part you want to de-rust

The key thing here is to have an anode with a large surface area. I used an old metal pie plate. Some people suggest using a cut up cookie sheet. The anode will eventually decompose, so don’t submerge the battery charge connector in the water.

Once you turn on the charger you’ll see bubbles and you’ll know it’s working. After an hour or so you’ll have something that looks like this:

Heinkel Cars and Kabines
Rust floating to the top

After about 2 hours I took the part out of the solution. It looked like this:

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
The test part out of solution

I dried it off and then used a dremel abrasive buff for about 30 seconds: Here ‘s the result:

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
After some cleanup- success!

This was pretty impressive, so next I tried to de-rust a real Heinkel part, in this case the intake manifold support. This piece is in pretty typical condition of the things I want to de-rust:

Heinkel Cars, Scooters, Kabines, and Cabin Scooters
Rusty Heinkel Manifold Support

Three hours in the same solution and it came out like this:

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
De-Rusted Heinkel Manifold Part
All of the rust was gone, though the surface was not as smooth as the earlier piece. I painted it with hammered paint and looked fine.
Compared to other techniques, Electrolysis was clean and easy. I found another use for Tidy Cat containers and my 30 year old battery charger (I’m glad I didn’t throw it away). However, it does take time and you can only re-rust one piece at a time, so you’ll need to plan ahead.

I’m encouraged enough that I’m going to try some other pieces. I’m going large and rusty for my next subject!

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Rusty Rims- will electrolysis work?
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