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Old November 10, 2011, 02:07 PM   #1
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Removing rust without excessive finish damage?

I just got a chance to look at some guns my dad has neglected. The have varying degrees of rust from light specs to some that surely have considerable pitting. I'm going to clean the bores for now but what about the outer surface and interior of the receivers? I don't want to do ANY damage that I can avoid. I've read that 0000 steel wool with oil is good, then I read that the oil is bad because it keeps the rust there and that steel wool is too aggressive. What about brass or copper wool? What about special pads like THIS ONE? What about using electrolysis? It seems pretty easy, just a battery charger and some basic materials.

The guns are 2 Westernfield lever action 30-30s, one Winchester Model 94, 1891 Argentine Mauser, Universal M1 carbine, a couple shotguns and some 22LRs. It's a shame he let them sit for so long and they went through a flood...
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Old November 10, 2011, 02:12 PM   #2
Don P
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February 23, 2008, 10:48 PM #1

Join Date: February 12, 2001
Location: DFW Area
Posts: 14,735 Removing rust on blued surfaces--do NOT use oil!!!


Use 0000 steel wool DRY.

The removed rust is an abrasive, if you put oil on the metal surface or on the steel wool, the removed rust is retained and rubbed on the surface which can damage the finish.

If you use the steel wool DRY, shake it out frequently and keep the surface of the gun dusted off the removed rust doesn't get rubbed around on the finish, minimizing the damage to the remaining finish.

You can oil the metal surfaces AFTER the rust has been removed but you want them to be as dry as possible while you're actually using the steel wool.

I'm posting this because I see a lot of people recommending the use of oil and steel wool to remove rust and I know from experience that is much harder on the finish. I used to have a friend with a gun shop and I would go over all the used guns each week to keep them oiled and rust free. Since they were out in the customer area, not behind the counter, they had been handled and some would build up light surface rust. I would oil them if they weren't rusty and remove the surface rust if they were rusted. It was easy to see the difference between using the steel wool with oil and without.

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Old November 10, 2011, 10:53 PM   #3
James K
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FWIW, I do NOT recommend steel wool, either oiled or dry. The best I have found is bronze (brass) wool or copper wool, sold as pot cleaners in your local super market. Steel wool WILL scratch fine bluing, no matter what anyone says (they haven't looked at the surface under magnification). Steel wool may be necessary, but use it only if necessary - try the brass or copper first.

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Old November 10, 2011, 11:07 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Don P
To lend a helping hand, at the top of the page there is a search button, just click on it type in rust removal and here is what I found
Thank you, I did search before posting and found that exact post. So far that is the only post I have found recommending keeping things dry, just looking for some other opinions. I also wanted to know if that cleaning pad or brass wool/pot scrubbers might be a better thing to use than 0000 wool.
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Old November 10, 2011, 11:30 PM   #5
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Hello, bigj480. If you can find some copper or brass sheet..about 1/32" to 1/16" thick..about 1/2" wide or so. file end flat with sharp edges & flood area with very light oil or Hoppes..use in a scraping motion..this will take off rough rust above surface..there more than likely is going to be pitting..and nothing will get rid of that except polishing down past bottom of pits.
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Old November 11, 2011, 03:09 AM   #6
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I do the same thing as Ideal Tool suggests except with a 1982 or earlier copper penny. A bit of oil and scrape, scrape, scrape. Steel wool is tool harsh and will remove the finish. Copper is softer than steel and will leave a light yellow patina that will come off in time.

You asked about copper scouring pads. Well, as they are less rigid they will take longer than a penny or a piece of scrap brass. I use pieces of copper scouring pads to clean the bore of lead build-up.

BTW, I would avoid steel wool, even 0000 steel wool.
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Old November 11, 2011, 04:30 AM   #7
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Gentle rubbing with 0000 steel wool and oil.
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Old November 11, 2011, 04:34 PM   #8
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Thank you all for the replies, especially those who posted in both threads. I think I'll do the 0000 steel wool and Kroil, I'm not worried about microscopic scratches and , unfortunately, some of them are bad enough that they really need to be re-blued anyway.
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Old November 19, 2011, 01:24 AM   #9
bonesy malone
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all good ideas...but without knowing the damage and depth of the rust pits start off with a blue "non scratching" scotch're gonna have to re-blue if there is rust anyways...get as much of the rust off as u can then if needed move to a more abrasive material if the pits aren't too deep...keep in mind u don't want to take metal off past spec. limits...some areas are more giving then others...good luck!
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Old November 23, 2011, 12:16 PM   #10
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The dark red Scotchbrite works well for heavy rust but will remove bluing.

If blued I would gently go over them with Flitz polish first. You may be surprised at how well it cleans them up.
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Old November 24, 2011, 12:59 PM   #11
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Brownells offers stainless steel wool so one does not need to concern oneself with carbon-steel embedding.
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Old November 24, 2011, 01:01 PM   #12
Lee McNelly
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rust specks

pencil eraser
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Old November 26, 2011, 07:41 PM   #13
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no brainer

1 part feed grade molasses and 9 parts water. Soak for 3 days. clean and lube.
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Old November 26, 2011, 08:22 PM   #14
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The molasses will remove all the rust including the bluing. Bluing is a form of rust, so that mix will remove all the rust.
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