Restoring Carving Tools #2: Dealing With Rust

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Druid posted 09-11-2017 01:27 AM 2846 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: New Life For Abused Carving Tools Part 2 of Restoring Carving Tools series no next part

OK, this post deals with files rather than carving tools, but it looks like it could easily be tried on any tools.

I recently unpacked some tools that had been stored away for quite a while. Among these, there were 2 old flat files that had become somewhat dull and clogged prior to being packed, and were now showing further damage from rust. One thought that I had was to replace these with nice new ones, BUT . . . somewhere, I had heard of a simple, cost effective method of “reconditioning” files. The claim actually said that this method could “resharpen” the files. Well, here was my opportunity to put this to the test.
The method is absolutely simple. Soak the files in standard white vinegar. So I tried it.
Here is a photo of the first file before soaking . . .

I must admit that I became busy with another project, and forgot about the file for 2 days. When I took it out of the vinegar bath, it was coated with a layer of black sludge. A quick wash with water and a brush (do this where black dirty water will not cause a problem), and here is a photo of the result . . .

and here is a side by side of the 2 files after the first one had been done . . .

Believe it or not, the cleaned file feels like it’s as sharp as a brand new one.
This worked so well that I’m going to be watching for rusty carving tools that would be worth using this method on.
I’ll be interested in hearing how this works (or doesn’t) for other LJ members.
Have a great day.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

13 comments so far

View lew's profile


13331 posts in 4804 days

#1 posted 09-11-2017 01:48 AM

I definitely have some files that look similar to what you started with. Going to have to try it to see if it can bring them back to life.

It might be worth saving old files because I’ve read that files made today are not of the quality of older ones.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Cliff 's profile


1893 posts in 2773 days

#2 posted 09-11-2017 01:50 AM

John. That is a great idea.


-- Cliff Australia : Snoring is good. It blows away all the Sawdust.

View John's profile


2043 posts in 2319 days

#3 posted 09-11-2017 02:10 AM

You should try filing a piece of steel with the other file before and after cleaning John. I’d be interested in hearing how that goes. It did clean it up nicely.

-- John, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

View TheFridge's profile


10863 posts in 2535 days

#4 posted 09-11-2017 03:58 AM

I’m not sure of the duration but I have have of resharpening a file with an acid. I think I saw it in an article on . You can only do it so many times but it works.

Yes generally the older files had better quality steel.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Druid's profile


2205 posts in 3844 days

#5 posted 09-11-2017 06:12 AM

Thanks for the comments.
John: Good suggestion. I’ll try the before/after filing comparison when I do the next file, then I’ll let you know the results.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View Dutchy's profile (online now)


4058 posts in 3217 days

#6 posted 09-11-2017 07:02 AM

View Bill Berklich's profile

Bill Berklich

1179 posts in 1437 days

#7 posted 09-11-2017 10:43 AM

I’ll have to give this at try – I have a bin of “barn files” laying around that maybe I could return to service.

-- Bill - Rochester MI

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26045 posts in 4154 days

#8 posted 09-11-2017 02:00 PM

I learned about using apple cider vinegar for removing rust and now always have a bottle on hand. That stuff will keep working until it turns to gel!! It does not take grease off. You have to wash that off first. Castro Super Clean is the tool for that!!

Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View bushmaster's profile


4124 posts in 3331 days

#9 posted 09-11-2017 02:16 PM

Thanks will keep this gem in mind and use.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View WayneC's profile


14359 posts in 5146 days

#10 posted 09-11-2017 06:22 PM

Thanks. Something to file away. Pun not intended.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View kiefer's profile


5812 posts in 3716 days

#11 posted 09-11-2017 06:45 PM

I have heard of this before and been meaning to try it so now with your good blog giving me incentive as it looks convincing .The pictures certainly help.


-- Kiefer

View Druid's profile


2205 posts in 3844 days

#12 posted 09-16-2017 07:36 AM

As a followup to the suggestion made by John, Sunshine Coast, BC, here are my unscientific test results.
File number 2, before the vinegar soak, can be seen in the 3rd photo above (it’s the rusty one). Before treatment, I filed a reference notch into the side of a concrete nail (harder steel than typical) using 5 strokes with the file.
This photo shows what the file looked like when I removed it from the vinegar . . .

. . . after washing . . . (the marking shows the area of the file that I used for the notch)

Finally, I filed a second notch to the right of the original (also 5 strokes), and I feel that I did get a deeper, smoother result as compared to the first notch.

As usual, comments are welcome.

Have a great day. :)

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View John's profile


2043 posts in 2319 days

#13 posted 09-17-2017 09:03 PM

Thanks for the additional information John! When I see a big old rusty file I think “scraper”.

-- John, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics