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How to remove rust from steel blades

Firstly, we must claim that every single blade must be cleaned by an expert, above all when it’s an antique and valuable piece. That’s why amateurs shouldn’t improvise doing this task. Sometimes a rusty sword is a positive aspect, given that it can make look the weapon more beautiful and valuable.

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This item is not about restoration but preservation. We are not going to talk about how to preserve ancient swords from excavations and sinkings, not even golden blades swords, or nickel plated swords, or steel blades from Damascus or oriental blades from Japan.

Readers must decide how to preserve their swords, choosing the most convenient method. But we must be aware of the first step, a proper clean. The rust’ s removement which could be red or black must be objectively evaluated because it could be a sign of item’s age what show us its real price.

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Chemical means (acids) may destroy rust, even the toughest one, but they also affect the metal’s blade making disappear some parts of it. That’s why we should use soft acids,  such as acetic or citric acid, which allow us to control the results.

Others acids, like phosphoric and nitric might be incredibly  damaging for blades. Whatever the acid we decide to use, the blade surface will look dark and matt with some little tiny holes what will force us to polish the blade. If there’ s an inscription or engraved in the blade they will undoubtedly be less visible.

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An acid cleaning must take place in short period of time, after having experimented on a simple piece of iron.  Later, we must wash the blade keeping into plastic bags the blade to avoid it’s affected by acid steams. Although we recommed to dismantle the sword previously.

Chemical cleaning methods are not always convenient, even electrolysis, because we should also dismantle the sword.

Mechanical means consist in a putting a device over the blade’s surface, to create an abrasive friction. It’s a method which may take place by electrical tools or manually, we must take into account that manually work is the most suitable.

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Abrasive cleaning uses a material tougher than the rust to erase it, but obviously softer than steel for not damaging it. However, it’s still a very delicate method because of the blade’ s abrasions may appear if we are not extremely careful.

The most adivsable method is the wool steel of this type “00” ó “000” with a light mineral oil, never dry; they can be oils like “3 in 1” or “WD*40”, which can be used to clean pieces but not for preserving them from future rust.

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Other sort of cleaning oil, cheaper and able to preserve blades from future rust, is the pure mineral oil. We must rub the blade with it using an oily piece of wool softly and in a longitudinal sense, from the handle to the point. We must pay attention to engraved or nickel-plated parts of the blade for not destroying them.

Later, we rub again the blade with an oily rag, rust usually will disappear but in some parts whit older rust or simply full holes may not. That’ s why we should use a wool rag witht an abarasive metal cleaner instead of oil.

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Either oil or metal cleaning products, we are talking about manual methods which require patience but are incredibly effective. If we decide to use machines, the proicess will be faster but this is not a matter of speed. Final touch is made with a rag and clean oil to take away any residue.

We must take into account the humidity and check regularly the sword every six months, approximately, to detect on time any sign of rust.

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Steel is basically an alloy or combination of iron and carbon (around 0,05% until less than a 2%). Sometimes other alloy elements like Nickel and Chromium are added.

Pure iron is one of the elements of steel, given that we can’t find it in nature. It chemically reactions with oxygen in the aire to turn into rust.

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Different kinds of steel arre classified according to the alloy elements and their effects on steel.

CARBON OILS: More than the 90% of pieces of steel are of this kind. They contain several quantities of carbon and less of 1,65% of Manganese, less of 0,60% of Silicon and 0,60% of Copper.

ALLOY STEELS: Those are the ones that contain an specific quantity of Vanadium, Molybdenum and other elements, besides it shows bigger quantities of Manganese, Silicon and Copper that normal Carbon Steels.

STAINLESS STEEL : They contain Chromium, Nickel and other elements of alloy, which maintain them bright, tough and resistant to rust despite the humidity.