Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Minor Setback

Gentle Readers,

Thank you for your continued support, readership, and general interest in this site.  It was my deepest ambition this week to show the 3rd and final Packing Box in its completed state.  However, things happen.

It became very cold here suddenly, as can happen this time of year.  On Tuesday morning, I fired up the woodstove in the shop and started to work, planing the lid and bottom boards of the box.  The stove started to smell really horrible, and that is when I remembered that the paint I used recommended a few fires to "cure" it, which I kept procrastinating and eventually completely forgot.  So Tuesday and yesterday, I made fires but otherwise stayed out of the shop.  Today was warm enough that I thought I would do some work with no fire, but start the 3rd and hopefully final "curing" fire as I finished for the day.

It turns out, whatever terrible particles are in the fumes from the "curing" cause horrible corrosion to metal.  Today nearly every steel surface in my shop was covered in a thin, chalky film of rust.  My planes, saws, dividers, all of it.  The most painful were the tools I have not even used yet. The day was spent with steel wool, green scrubbies, and a mild-to-middlin sense of dread and despair.

I've gotten most of the tools cleaned up, not "good as new" (they never will be again) but rust-free.  The steel wool of course scratches and dulls them, so my new saws no longer look like mirrors, my chisels and planes will need to be sharpened again, and so on.  However, I think I can see that other than cosmetically, no real damage was done.  It is a valuable lesson though, and a very good example of why a tool chest is superior storage.  Many of my tools had a rust shadow; a crisp line where the smoke did not hit them.  They will retain this line for a very long time, maybe forever, to serve as a reminder.

I have most of them now heavily wiped with oil and packed in boxes in corrosion-resistant paper.  I'll probably be using plastic storage boxes until I can build a proper toolchest.

Hopefully more work on the Packing Boxes will come soon.

Another lesson learned,

Your Apprentice


  1. Oh god! That sounds horrible. I would be pretty upset if that happened to my tools. Especially the new ones that have yet to be used. I too have a nearly brand new plane out in the garage... I'd hate to think of it rusting when it was still brand new. My sympathies.

  2. Lot of Badgers here tonight. Thanks for the sympathies.

    I've managed to get 95% of them cleaned up. Odd thing is that some of them cleaned up almost like new (Ray Iles chisels) and others remained a stubborn dark grey, maybe as much from my scrubbing as from the incident itself. I had some water in the area, which I tested its pH, it was 8.9!! Whatever the caustic agent is, it seems it was extremely basic, and I assume that causes rust to go crazy.

    All my tools are now oiled and stored, and I will take pains this does not happen again. A very sobering experience and rude awakening to the dangers of rust in the shop. I've been battling it for years since I live in a coastal rainforest, but usually its a matter of weeks or month, never seen it overnight like this.

    1. i know this post is almost a year old but I wanted to hopefully help explain what happened in your shop. As counter intuitive as it may sound any heat source with an open flame causes a chemical reaction, of which the by products are hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon, as the hydrogen and oxygen re-combine in your shop you get water forming in the air increasing the level of humidity. From there i am sure you know the rest of the process.
      Just found your blog, really enjoying it by the way.

  3. I would not let it bother you in the least. As long as there is no pitting then they will be fine. In fact, I like the patina that comes from light oxidation that has been cleaned with steel those old browned gun barrels. I much prefer the look of my old vintage saw blades than that of a shiny new saw.

  4. Dude... That sucks! cleaning up rust is a constant battle. I have found that wax is your friend. I keep a couple sticks of the saw blade lubricant stick wax around the shop. I slick the bottom of my planes with it and rub a coat on all my hand saw blades. I don't think it helps lubricate a cut, but it does keep the rust off.

  5. Derek - Thanks for the comment (and btw I enjoy your blog and read it often). Wax certainly helps, I feel like I proved that to myself with this incident. My sash saw rusted right along the teeth (where the wax had rubbed off in use) but the main surface of the blade was clean, especially in the zigzag pattern I had waxed. The soles of my planes were all good, since they rest on the till, and as I mentioned there was a "shadow" effect where the areas the smoke did not reach did not rust. I do, however, feel that the wax does help with cuts. As I plane, I rewax every dozen or so strokes, if I remember. When it starts to get frustrating, I rewax, and it usually helps a good bit. When it really gets frustrating, I need to resharpen or readjust, but really I feel the waxing helps a great deal so I do it every time I think of it. I have even set out a special paraffin can on my bench so that I always know where my block is.

    As to the rust damage, it is still ok. I've now cleaned every "damaged" tool except for a handful of measuring calipers from my grandpa's metalworking tools, and I will get to those soon. I have everything moved out of the shop tonight, all sprayed with oil and wrapped in corrosion-resistant paper and packed in boxes. I've shut the sliding glass door to the shop area, and have a fire going as we speak. I am hoping it is the final "curing" fire. I left a couple sacrificial tools in there to see what the effects are. If they are fine 2 days from now, I will consider the danger over and be ready to have a warm shop for the season, and an important lesson learned.

    I am also taking photos of the stove and the tool damage to contact the paint manufacturer. I do not expect any compensation, but I have minor, indeed almost insignificant, hope that they might consider adding some warnings to their label. Maybe this kind of thing is common knowledge to most woodstove owners, but it did not occur to me that the fumes would potentially ruin my tools. My beautiful Wenzloff and Son tenon saw will never be the same, and Schwarz's "mirror trick" for aligning cuts is no longer possible.

    I'm fine with having difficulties jump out at me, but dear universe, please don't kill my tools, thanks!

  6. Today I got my free travel magazine in the mail that comes with being a AAA member. There was an article on visiting Yachats, OR... Which I had never heard of until I found your blog, just a few weeks ago. Strange coincidence.

  7. Grumpy- Glad you are aware of Yachats now! Its a fantastic community and vacation destination. Be sure to give me a shout if you are ever considering passing through.


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