Preventing Iron/Steel Rust Caused by Wood - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 09-21-2017, 06:10 PM Thread Starter
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Preventing Iron/Steel Rust Caused by Wood

I have two instances of nice steel tools rusting when I put them in wood containers. Here they are:

1. I bought an unfinished softwood box to hold my Starrett combination square set. It is similar to this, from the same guy. Mine is not maple - it is very soft. The only finish is an etched decoration on the cover.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/6-Inch-Combi...item5684d4406d

2. I made an end cap for a 1/2 inch chisel from some hard maple scrap. I cut a 1/2 inch dado on one side, then glued a flat piece on top. The chisel slides in the hole created by the dado.

In both cases, the steel tools got rusty within weeks of being put in their wooden containers. The chisel had stayed rust free for years until I stored it, in exactly the same place in the same tool drawer, but with that maple cap attached. I made the cap only a few weeks ago.

I live in Southern California. Most of the time (especially in summer) the air is very dry.

It was easy to remove the rust from the combination square set - I used Scotchbrite pads with a little 3-in-1 oil. I haven't tried the chisel, but will probably put it on the sharpening stones to clean it up.

HERE ARE MY QUESTIONS:

1. Am I right in assuming that moisture in the wood caused the rusting?

2. Is there something I should be doing to prevent the rust?

3. Is proper finishing the answer? If so, what should I use? Can I coat the inside of the chisel cap with it?
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Last edited by Tool Agnostic; 09-21-2017 at 06:14 PM.
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post #2 of 10 Old 09-21-2017, 06:27 PM
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wet wood, or salt&acid from perspiration?

do you keep them waxed?
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post #3 of 10 Old 09-21-2017, 06:36 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TomCT2 View Post
wet wood, or salt&acid from perspiration?

do you keep them waxed?
I do not keep them waxed, but I am a novice woodworker. Should I wax them? Do I need to wax them after every use? Really?

Wet wood is my working hypothesis, but if so, what is the solution? The wood feels very dry, and we live in a pretty dry environment overall.

I doubt it is salt/acid from perspiration. I have had the chisel for years and it was rust free until I put it into the maple cap. The combination square is newer, but it started to rust as soon as I put it in the wood box. I can't say whether it would have rusted in the plain cardboard box it came in, because I bought the wood box at the same time.
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post #4 of 10 Old 09-21-2017, 07:11 PM
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Why do you doubt that it is perspiration causing the problem? If y ou are like most people you "sweat." If you do not clean the tools after use you probable leave some residue on them.

I doubt that it is the wood causing this. Clean and wax after each use. Waxing may not be necessary, but it cannot hurt.

George
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post #5 of 10 Old 09-21-2017, 07:19 PM
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I don't know. I've got similar holders on the side of a tool box for screwdrivers, chisels and such and I don't have a problem with rust. My tool box has a finish on it but it was sprayed and doubt if the finish goes very far down in the holders. About all I can suggest is pour an oil based polyurethane down in your holder and pour it out and let it dry. The boxes you might finish before applying the foam and felt.
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post #6 of 10 Old 09-21-2017, 07:22 PM
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In the case of the chisel case, I'd suspect moisture from the glue used to assemble the case. The other ones may be due to lack of ventilation once inside the fitted cases. I've heard of tools rusting inside ziplock plastic bags. I save the silica gel packs that come with electronic/electric items and use them in any hand tool cases. Power tools that I keep in their plastic tote cases get a silica gel pack. No rust in my basement shop. I have a set of craftsman butt chisels that are kept in their vinyl pouch. No rust, but it does have openings where it folds over to close. I keep my Stanley butt chisels in a plastic partitioned box that is closed. It does have a gel pack in it. I do have an old, cheap framing square that will rust if it isn't waxed every year or so. They make rust preventative paper for lining tool drawers. That might help you. There are people who can cause steel to rust just from touching the metal. I've heard stories of people leaving their hand prints on cast iron saw tables. They were called "rusters" by the old timers.
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post #7 of 10 Old 09-21-2017, 09:25 PM
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My guess is the boxes create just enough of a sealed environment once closed the little bit of moisture locked in is condensing on the cool metal as the outside temperature rises and drops throughout the day/night causing the tools to form a little rust. Mr. Frye's solution should work.
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post #8 of 10 Old 09-22-2017, 10:45 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeC View Post
Why do you doubt that it is perspiration causing the problem? If y ou are like most people you "sweat." If you do not clean the tools after use you probable leave some residue on them.

I doubt that it is the wood causing this. Clean and wax after each use. Waxing may not be necessary, but it cannot hurt.

George
I doubt the perspiration because I have had that chisel for years without any sign of rust, until I made that cover. Still, you may be right. I have spent more time touching the chisel lately - both sharpening and use.

I still think that the problem is moisture in the containers. I like Jim Frye's suggestion about the moisture in the glue. The rust on the chisel matches up with the glue line on the cap. I was very proud of that cap. It was my first project that used a dado blade on my new table saw. Maybe I didn't let the glue cure enough before putting it away with the chisel inside.

Obviously glue isn't the whole answer; it does not explain the combination square set. There is moisture coming from elsewhere - it may be condensation due to the different thermal properties of wood and metal, or it may be leaching from the moisture in the wood itself. Either way, that's not good.

I ordered some Renaissance Wax for my tools. I'll give that a try when it comes in. I will also put some kind of finish on the outside and inside of the cap. I will also look around for appropriate finishes.

I just got a beautiful set of used Crown chisels from a retiring woodworker. They did not come with protective caps. I want to solve this rust problem before I put those nice chisels in caps of their own. Perhaps I will build a tray instead, but the rust issue remains. You can bet that I will apply wax to the chisels as soon as they are cleaned up and sharpened. In fact, you can bet that I will apply protective wax to all my hand tools as soon as it arrives. :-)
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post #9 of 10 Old 09-22-2017, 11:10 AM
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the pix of the cap looks like pine, not maple, to me.

that the rust is so concentrated on the edge (the bottom edge as well? I see slight marks....) indicates to me the moisture was concentrate right along the edge - as in the glue line or as in sweat that got wiped on the edge.

if it's a loose fit in the sleeve, both edges would not have contact and rust. do you see any rust stains on the wood inside the sleeve?

I would expect moisture / condensation trapped in the box to result in a fine mist rust pattern over entire surfaces vs. the 'scraped on sweat' rust pattern along the one/both edge(s)

you can wax them - that's good for +/- a year depending on use, how they're held, etc. I wax all my cast iron table/plane finishes for example - once a year an alcohol wipe/cleaning followed by a wax&buff.

another approach is a thin wipe of oil - some use WD40 type stuff, I prefer a sewing machine oil - I keep a barely oil-damp rag handy for that purpose.

for stuff that gets put away and infrequently used, methinks the oil wipe is better - it's a lot less hassle than "wax on, buff down" etc. any approach that is not easy and convenient to do regularly, does not get done - so one gets to pick one's own poison.

again depending on the task, when you take them out, it may be beneficial to do a quick wipe so no oil residue winds up on your work pc.
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post #10 of 10 Old 09-22-2017, 11:37 AM
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I use Olive Oil on all my tools and metal surfaces when storing or just need to keep lubricated like my Lathe Ways. Rub it in with a bit of #0000 steal wool and wipe off. I have 0 issues with rust, even on tools that have sat in my garage for years. I also use it to wipe down my firearms. I have a 20 gauge Shotgun That has been in storage since I was a teen (I won't say how long ago - but a loooooong time) I recently remembered it and thought - CRAP! it must be full if rust by now. Took it out and it was clean as a whistle.

Objects age faster when not in use. So tools you tend to ignore rust, while tools you use most often (and are least protected) do not.

As for where the moisture came from is hard to say - I would tend to agree possibly the glue as mentioned. However, unfinished pine will attract moisture as well. At least the chisel box looks like pine, the other could be maple. If you use pine, treat it with Danish oil or some other type of finish and wait for it to dry before storing your tool.

Last edited by Jassper; 09-22-2017 at 02:20 PM.
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