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Cleaning up rusty bolts

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Good stuff there. I really like the metal blackening idea from 71_resurrection. While looking over that link I found this one in the reviews for that product:



I also like the cardboard painting option.


Best is new bagged bolts from Don, but for some stupid reason I like keeping my originals....



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  • 3 years later...
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Hey guys. It's been awhile from me on this topic, but I am nearing a complete rebuild, and I have a new recommended option for cleaning up bolts. it takes a day or two and involves the rock tumbler, but I have found a simpler easier method.


Before I was recommending use of grit and water in a rock tumbler. The method worked well, but I found use of the grit to be "kind of a pain". I had to spend time rinsing.... and trying to "save the grit for another use" etc. I felt like it was a necessary thing to get the small spaces clean, but I have found something easier and likely better.


Dawn dishwashing soap.


I guess I finally got sick enough of having to clean the grit etc, that at some point I just decided to throw a couple handful of rusty bolts and clips in the tumbler half full with water and a ~teaspoon of dawn dishwashing liquid. This works GREAT. It shocked me how fantastic the bolts came out. They'll get 90% clean in 24hrs in the tumbler, but if you can wait another day, they get noticeably better. The nuts bolts almost come out with a polished look.. Shiny metal, and a beautiful finish.


Turns out that the bolts, nuts and clips tumbling against one another is plenty to clean crevices and tight spaces. The Dawn soap is surprisingly good against any kind of grease, and the bolt on bolt action is sufficient to remove not just grease, but paint as well. I have had some "gold color" bolts and washers, and after 2 days this finish (probably electroplating) is removed as well.


It has surprised me how well this simple method works... but it does take time and you have to have a good tumbler. I found my tumbler or amazon for about $75. I would estimate that it does a full rotation of the bin about once every 2 seconds or so.


When the bolts come out i rinse them thoroughly in fresh water (the water coming out of the tumbler bin is black as tar usually), and I immediately place them on a heat tolerant surface, and get them really hot using my heat gun. This removes all water molecules from the surface, and prevents the items from rusting immediately - as they would otherwise do. I put them in a labeled ziplock baggy after that, and they stay in good shape for many weeks (even in a humid environment)


Pic attached of some body bolts and nut-plates (you know how rusty and nasty these get right?):




I need to find a simple chemical dip to put them in after this to get a fake "black oxide" or other surface passivation coating that doesn't take any effort.


Hope you guys - that move slowly like I do - can take advantage of this simple tip to clean old bolts. 95% of them are in amazing shape and don't need to be replaced.


Jay Estes

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Look great. The stuff is what is used on critters dunked via oil spill.

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You can do your own phosphate/oil treatment, just google it and you'll find the phosphoric acid powder online along with instructions. If you have a way to heat the oil to a temperature higher than the boiling point of water, the resistance to corrosion will be better/longer due to the heat forcing out any moisture in the surface of the metal and replacing with oil. A gun owner that lives in Key Largo taught me this....said it was the only way he could preserve the finish on his guns without constant attention (oiling).


As for the rust removal, I've been cleaning all sorts of items in my molasses vat. You can view the thread I did on this here:




I've also used evaporust. This stuff works like molasses on steriods and offers short term protection from surface rust. I ended up cleaning a bunch of stuff from my ranchero projects and dropped it off at the plater to get yellow zinc chromate plating. they came out really nice.

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I still go with molasses 9 parts water 1 part molasses. Slow as molasses if really rusty a couple weeks. But it is safe and very cheap. Five gallons of feed grade molasses is less than $20.00 at the feed store. Makes 50 gallons. You need to get all the oil and tar off and paint will not come off in molasses.

I got a full kit of the bolts for the 72 vert and most do not look like the originals. It was AMK so don't think you will get exactly what was on the car if you buy one. Makers marks different and lengths and yes they were in labeled bags so I knew where they went. We have a local plating place here that if I bring in the clean fasteners he will do a whole car for the price of a good lunch or dinner. I do the phosphate for hinges and latches and some of the fasteners have that finish. some have zinc with clear chromate, some zinc with yellow dicromate, some with zinc with black. Just depends on if you are after looks or trophies. You can do all the coatings yourself if you want to contend with the chemicals. Heck my all original Mach 1 had points taken off for incorrect fasteners and it has never been apart. That was another reason I did not go back.

When a man is in the woods and talks and no women are there is he still wrong??:P


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