The vise's small parts (and a few other things) in Evapo-Rust

Removing Rust and Paint from the Vise

I wasn’t happy with how much rust remained after the vinegar treatment, so I decided to give the vise a treatment with Evapo-Rust – my favorite rust remover.

I also decided that so little paint was left, I’d strip the remaining paint off, either with paint stripper or a wire wheel, depending on whether the paint had lead in it.

I decided to start by cleaning the parts of this vise the way I clean clock parts:

  1. Clean the parts with mild dish detergent, water, and a toothbrush. As an experiment I also used a brass brush, which was a bad idea: it removed a lot of lead-untested paint.
  2. Dry the parts with paper towels.
  3. Wipe the parts with paper towels, pouring isopropyl alcohol on them.
  4. Dry the parts again with paper towels.

I know water is a not the best because it can promote rust, but I don’t like working with highly flammable and toxic Mineral Spirits.

Preparing to wash vise parts (and a few others) in detergent
Preparing to wash vise parts (and a few others) in detergent

By the way, I tried using ScotchBrite heavy duty scouring pads for the really dirty vise parts. I cut the pads into parts that would fit into the nooks and crannies of the parts. It worked well.

Removing the rust

After cleaning and drying, I soaked the parts in Evapo-Rust. I also threw in a couple other rusty things I had lying around.

The vise's small parts (and a few other things) in Evapo-Rust
The vise’s small parts (and a few other things) in Evapo-Rust

I left the parts in Evapo-Rust for a couple days while the rust simply melted off.

I then did the dish detergent and toothbrush cleaning and drying again, to remove the bits of residue.

I’m so impressed with this stuff: look at the difference before and after the Evapo-Rust:

The rusty lead screw a moment after immersion in Evapo-Rust
The rusty lead screw a moment after immersion
After two days in Evapo-Rust, then cleaning with dish detergent
After two days in Evapo-Rust, then cleaning with dish detergent

As you can see in the second photo, the rust is completely gone!

You can also see why you want to keep your tools clean and free of rust: years of rust had eaten pits into the steel.

The jaw parts of the vise were too large to fit in the aluminum trays I had, so after a hunt around the house I found the perfect thing: the liner of my office trash can.

I soaked the fixed end of the vise for a couple days, then did the same for the movable end.

Soaking a larger part in my office trash can liner.
Soaking a larger part in my office trash can liner.

While I was waiting for the rust to disappear, I happened to re-read the directions on the Evapo-Rust site: soak for an hour, rinse in water, repeat until no more rust comes off. So I didn’t have to soak parts for days after all.

It took about 5 soak-an-hour-then-rinse cycles until almost nothing came off.

The first water rinse of the fixed jaw of the vise
The first water rinse of the fixed jaw of the vise
At the 5th rinsing, almost no rust remained
At the 5th rinsing, almost no rust remained
The de-rusted and cleaned fixed jaw
The de-rusted and cleaned fixed jaw

After seeing the cleaned fixed jaw, I decided the brass brush was a bad idea: it removed a lot of the remaining paint. Paint that I might have wanted to keep, and might have contained lead! You can see that the movable jaw – which I didn’t scrape with a brass brush – has much more of its original paint.

The soaked and cleaned movable jaw
The de-rusted and cleaned movable jaw

Removing the paint

Now that the parts were clean and dry, I tested the paint for lead using a 3M Instant Lead Test kit. I should have done this at the start, but only recently re-read the instructions for the lead test kit: clean the area to be tested, then scratch the paint with a knife to expose un-weathered paint.

Ready to test the paint for lead
Ready to test the clean paint for lead
Scratching the paint to expose un-weathered paint
Scratching the paint to expose un-weathered paint
The tip of the test swab is not red, so there's no lead
The tip of the test swab is not red, so there’s no lead

Now that I knew the paint was not lead-based, I used a few wire wheels and a hand drill to take off almost all of the paint. Had the paint been lead-based, I would have used paint stripper instead, to avoid throwing lead dust everywhere.

Scraping the paint off with a wire wheel
Scraping the paint off with a wire wheel

Once I scraped the paint off, I sprayed all the parts with WD-40 to prevent rust.

The vise, with the rust and paint removed
The vise, with the rust and paint removed

As a reminder, here’s what the vise looked like when I bought it at the garage sale:

The vise when I bought it
The vise when I bought it

Now that the vise is clean, I can start on the repairs to the vise… but that’s another post.

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