Help setting up electrolysis

#22
I use the electrolytic rust removal technique all the time-actually just finished up a wood burning stove resto a few weeks ago that turned out killer. Looking at your setup, I have the following tips for you:

1. Wire brush that rebar-it has an oily coating over some dull grey stuff that you need to wire brush off to make a good contact. I just use an angle grinder with wire brush-you will need to clean them up periodically too, once the "sacrificial anodes" get rusted up too much and the process slows down.

2. You don't need to use that spendy copper wire, rebar aka bailing wire works fine and is soooo much cheaper. Use a big coil of it around each rebar piece, for maximum contact.

3. As already mentioned, use battery charger(s) hooked up to batteries and the batteries hooked up to your project. The battery acts like kinda a buffer and prevents the charger from shutting off. ALSO, I have found that old school needle gauge chargers (with NO auto shut-off) work far better than newer ones. You can find them at garage sales or swap meets for dirt cheap.

4. Rebar as anodes work great but my favorite are pieces of "extruded mesh" because of it copious amounts of surface area. It's also easy to clean up between sessions, with the angle grinder brush I mentioned. Another great anode is an old Briggs & Stratton flywheel-they fit perfect in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket (I used flywheels I don't need with fins broken off). I mounted a thick wire to it, in one of the screw holes, and set it at the bottom. Remember, you want as many angles around the object covered as possible, so it gets all the surfaces. Also, ONLY USE FERROUS METAL FOR ANODES! (i.e. iron or steel with no coating). Stainless steel leaches off chromium, if used as an anode, and is very very nasty and toxic. Don't make your own backyard EPA superfund site!!

5. Periodically examine the piece you are cleaning and wire brush that black slime off them to speed up the process. You will know when to have to clean anodes or the item, when the bubble-n-swirl of the electrolysis diminishes (and by the gauge on the battery charger)

6. Wire brush off any black slime, dry, and lightly oil the item to prevent flash rust.

7. SAFETY NOTICE: This process gives off highly combustible Hydrogen gas, be VERY CAREFUL of makes sparks if moving stuff around in the tank and don't do this process in a confined space.


Hope these tips help! Here are pictures of my latest electrolysis setup and project. I hope to yet build an even BIGGER tank setup for doing entire mini-bike frames! (p.s. ignore the mixed up wire colors below, negative ALWAYS goes to the item you want to save and positive to the "sacrificial anode(s)", which will rust up fast-don't mix them up!)






 
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#23
By the way, that wood burning stove was rusty to the point of loose scale before I started!! I used up NO elbow grease in cleaning it up, other than wiping it down with a bit of oil afterwards. :thumbsup:

Also, another handy anode are those big cast iron window sash weights-they last and last and have a nice big loop in the top, to hook the wire to.
 
#27
Thanks for the tips. How long did the whole process take? My biggest problem is that I get anxious and just can't sit and wait.
There are many variables depending on how bad the rust is, how powerful your charger(s) are (I used 3 chargers with 3 batteries, on that wood stove!), how many connections, how many anodes, etc. etc.

On that stove with 3 chargers + 3 batteries, I used one large sheet of steel on on side of the tank plus several heavy sash weight anodes suspended inside of the stove (hanging from that board in the picture) and I ran it all day, like 8 hours total maybe? I had to move the stove around to different positions, but that was it.

On a HEAVILY rusted crescent wrench (like so bad not only could you not read the brand or anything nor would anything move) I used a 5 gallon bucket with an extruded mesh anode all around the perimeter and the aforementioned old flywheel on the bottom (near total coverage-it has to be a "direct line" from the area to be cleaned to the anode). I let it run overnight and part of the next day. Once I wire brushed the black slime off, everything moved fine and I could read all the labeling on the wrench!

I would say usually a few hours minimum with most anything-it's not fast but at least it does all the work for you. You should see near immediate eddes and bubbling in the solution, once the battery charger is on though, and you will get a rusty colored foam gathering at the top within the hour. I think your setup just isn't making good enough connection and/or something with the battery charger (i.e. auto shutting off, especially because there is no battery).

I just set it all up and go do something else out in the shop, checking on the tank every so often but letting it do its thing for hours. It's kinda the "a watched pot never boils" kinda thing..haha...... Also, you really can't leave it in too long to harm the part, for the most part-the anodes will just eventually rust up so much that the process will stop until you clean them again. You can tell by the battery gauge-it might start at 6 amps but gradually go down to near nothing, over a few hours. This technique will only remove the rust though, NO good metal, what makes it so awesome. :thumbsup:
 
#29
There are many variables depending on how bad the rust is, how powerful your charger(s) are (I used 3 chargers with 3 batteries, on that wood stove!), how many connections, how many anodes, etc. etc.

On that stove with 3 chargers + 3 batteries, I used one large sheet of steel on on side of the tank plus several heavy sash weight anodes suspended inside of the stove (hanging from that board in the picture) and I ran it all day, like 8 hours total maybe? I had to move the stove around to different positions, but that was it.

On a HEAVILY rusted crescent wrench (like so bad not only could you not read the brand or anything nor would anything move) I used a 5 gallon bucket with an extruded mesh anode all around the perimeter and the aforementioned old flywheel on the bottom (near total coverage-it has to be a "direct line" from the area to be cleaned to the anode). I let it run overnight and part of the next day. Once I wire brushed the black slime off, everything moved fine and I could read all the labeling on the wrench!

I would say usually a few hours minimum with most anything-it's not fast but at least it does all the work for you. You should see near immediate eddes and bubbling in the solution, once the battery charger is on though, and you will get a rusty colored foam gathering at the top within the hour. I think your setup just isn't making good enough connection and/or something with the battery charger (i.e. auto shutting off, especially because there is no battery).

I just set it all up and go do something else out in the shop, checking on the tank every so often but letting it do its thing for hours. It's kinda the "a watched pot never boils" kinda thing..haha...... Also, you really can't leave it in too long to harm the part, for the most part-the anodes will just eventually rust up so much that the process will stop until you clean them again. You can tell by the battery gauge-it might start at 6 amps but gradually go down to near nothing, over a few hours. This technique will only remove the rust though, NO good metal, what makes it so awesome. [emoji106]
You see now I get all of the micro bubbles but I don't get the rusty color layer on the water. I did remove the metals and scrubbed off some of the loose rust but i still have a lot left.
 
#30
How long did you let it go for? How many amps is your charger? Did you find a battery to use with it?

The battery REALLY helps the charger not shut down or produce lower output from the "smart" internals misinterpreting what's going on. Like I said, older chargers really seem to work best-a modern one I was using burned out pretty fast. My '70s and '80s "dumb" chargers keep on going. I even rig up old desk computer fans to them to keep them cool as they work hard on bigger objects, like that wood stove.
 
#31
How long did you let it go for? How many amps is your charger? Did you find a battery to use with it?

The battery REALLY helps the charger not shut down or produce lower output from the "smart" internals misinterpreting what's going on. Like I said, older chargers really seem to work best-a modern one I was using burned out pretty fast. My '70s and '80s "dumb" chargers keep on going. I even rig up old desk computer fans to them to keep them cool as they work hard on bigger objects, like that wood stove.
Well i was afraid of keeping it on over night so i turned it off and turned it back on around 3 this afternoon, which is when my son got home. In total it was probably around 8 - 9 hrs but it wasnt constant. I don't have a battery connected, just the charger itself.
 
#33
Looks like a good enough charger, I think you probably just need to try and get a car battery to use as a buffer, maybe? Might want to use a multimeter too, to check that your charger is providing steady output and check for continuity throughout your wiring setup.

Also not sure if you have enough or solid enough connections on your anodes-I actually made up a bunch of extra leads from alligator clips and heavy wire for cheap. I mean, look at my mad scientist setup! :laugh:
 
#34
Glad to see the batteries in the mix to put out a constant steady 12 volts Pam, your stove turned out great. I rarely do electrolysis for rust because I'm not patient but when I do I use my Pyramid regulated power supply that has variable voltage from 6 to 16 volts and has a circuit breaker. It provides steady power and eliminates a lot of wires and jumper cables.
 
#35
Oh yeah, the batteries are key, I have found. Some chargers-even old style ones-will start cycling on/off/on repeatedly without them.

I actually just picked up several different regulated power supplies from a local defunct electronics repair shop (among a ton of other equipment like isolated power supplies, and oscilloscopes, we bought). There are several smaller units, like 3-5A. However, there is also a huge Astron RS-50A DC power supply I am thinking about trying out. This thing is H-E-A-V-Y and covered in heat sinks. It would do electrolysis on a full mini frame, no prob, I'm thinking!

RS50A.jpg

I'm thinking a setup pretty much like this:

mad-science.jpg
 
#36
As for my anodes they're 4 5/8 rebard connected by 12 gauge copper insulated wire. Should i change my anodes and wires? I'm trying to keep it as cheap as possible.

If I have to get a battery then i should might as well get a regulated power supply like Outlaw Ace.

Ace, what model do you have? Walmart has a PSK15KX 10A/13.8V for $68. Think that is good enough?
 
#38
I think your main problem is just lack of contact-look at the picture of the piece you are trying to clean up, that thick wire looks to be barely touching in just a couple spots. Same thing with your anodes. I wind bailing wire around the anodes many times and I made sure there are multiple clips making good, redundant contact to everything. The thin and pliable bailing wire is easy to wrap snug right up all around the rebar for maximum contact. Check them out with a multi-meter, to check for good continuity and consistent charger output.

Also, again note that a battery in the circuit really helps the system out. If you don't have any battery laying around or know of anyone with one, maybe get a "refurbished" one cheap from some recycling place or something? You don't really need a regulated power supply, I have used all sorts of different battery chargers over the years and only had issues with one cheap "smart" Walmart charger.

Each rebar is connected with copper and this is the negative
 
#39
Thanks for the input. I'll look for thinner wires, probably go to 18 or 20 gauge to hook them to alligator clips. I'll see if i can pass by a junk yard to get a cheap used battery. Does the size of the battery matter? Also is copper and galvanized steel wire ok to use?
 
#40
Bigger the better on the battery, just more capacity-I used three V8 car batteries on my setup.

You can use those types of wires but not sure what might leach off of them, once the process gets going? I do know you definitely want to avoid stainless steel wire or anodes.
Plain, uncoated steel is best, you can get a whole huge roll of bailing/re-bar wire for like $5 at Home Despot, and it's handy for many things. It's so cheap, once it gets rusted up, you can just clip it and toss it. It's also soft enough to be able to wind it tight around your anodes, item to be de-rusted, etc. for maximum electrical contact.

Where the alligator clips connect to this wire, I always make a few loops in the end, so the clip has plenty of contact with it too (look at the anode wires hanging from the board and at the far left of the tank, in my setup picture).

Harbor Freight has a good deal on bulk package of alligator clips, by the way, as well as already assembled light jumper leads (like the small yellow and green ones in my picture of the tank).
 

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