Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Rust Returns

Since draft-proofing the up-and-over garage door in December, not only does it appear to have improved the working conditions of my workshop in winter but, I’m facing a constant battle with the dreaded rust, with all the cold weather we’ve had lately. To some, this may not sound unusual. In which case, I should point out that, in the five-years that I’ve [almost!] been able to call this garage ‘my own‘, I have never known a situation quite as bad as this.

Sure, a little bit of rusting is to be expected, at this time of year and in our climate. Most often, it’s where I’ve left tools on the bench overnight where water (heavy rain or melting ice) seeps through the corrugated roof and drips on to the most unfortunate of places. This time, however; like MDF dust, it is literally getting everywhere!

It's even found it's way on to the thicknessing bed, below my planer!

All that hard work spent on restoring this old mortiser has been undone!

At first, I was looking to point the blame at the rust removal products from Shield Technology, I had used previously to restore my old cast iron mortiser, purchased on eBay (see my old blog). ProtecTool Wax is essentially a surface coating; good for reducing friction but not renown for durability. I hadn’t re-coated any of these surfaces for several months, prior to the most recent cold snap and, on certain days, I have been able to remove a clothful of water from each surface! Yes, I could have given each machine at least another coat in preparation for winter…

Is this a call for more aluminium in our machines?!?

But, I was baffled when I discovered that my hands planes – which are locked away inside an old filing cabinet, every night – also had a thick coating of the brown stuff! These were re-coated only one-month earlier.

Note how they are only rusted on one side; the one facing up as they lay inside my tool/filing cabinet...

As this all coincided with the installation of all that foam on the back of my main door then, I’ve concluded (with the advice of UKW’s resident-architect Mike Garnham), that a lack of ventilation is largely to blame here (though, that’s not to say the snow and icy conditions haven’t played some part…). Prevent the draughts from creeping in around the door has weakened the supply of fresh air – please, don’t ask me to explain the process of Oxidisation; I could barely stay awake during Science lessons at school!! [I’m sure Wikipedia will have an answer, otherwise…]

At some point, I will need to looking at installing a couple of air vents, which should hopefully resolve this issue. Mike suggested one vent at each end to begin with, as my ‘shop is long and narrow. Also, one ‘high’ and one ‘low’; which is understandable. I’m tempted to push this job back [with all the others!] until I’ve at least installed the new joists, which could affect the clear flow of air either vent (…plus, I haven’t yet figured out how to cut those great big holes in concrete blocks approx. 120mm thick!). Roof insulation is also on my mind. Nick Gibbs (editor of British Woodworking magazine – new issue due out this week!!) paid me a visit recently and suggested 75mm thick Kingspan sheets. It may work out more expensive than the expanding foam but, I’d be much happier with this solution and, in practice, it actually seems easier than simply hoping the foam will stick to the asbestos sheets as it dries…!! With that, I’d need to fill the gaps around the eaves and stops the leaks where the roofing sheets [barely!] overlap.

Even the workbench hasn't escaped - this is the second time I've had to trim the width of this back plate, to prevent it binding on the vice runners!

You can also see how my 'bench top has swollen by more than 2mm. Last summer, it shrunk by a similar amount.

In the mean time, every cast iron surface is now protected by a machine cover – I knew there was a reason I bought them, several years ago! Let this be a warning to you all… Insulation is a great way to keep the warmth in and cold out but, do not neglect the ventilation in your workshop! Prevention may well seem like the key but, I reckon you could save yourself a lot of work in advance by letting a small amount of fresh air in, every once in a while. I been even a heated workshop with no room for ventilation would suffer from rust, at some point.

I ran out of machine covers so, I've had to improvise with a sheet of hardboard on the bobbin sander!

If you’ve had any experiences like this lately, I’d be interested to hear about it. It really is tool cold for my to make decent furniture at the moment so, I’m trying to organise things in my workshop before the Spring – I should have some updates for you on this within the next week.

As always, thanks for reading.

One response to “Rust Returns

  1. Andy 09/02/2010 at 12:20

    Olly I could cry for you!
    All that effort spent warming things up causing these problems. I’ve read Mike’s solution to this in the past and agree totally. Ventilation is what you need, either forced with a fan or passive with just vents. You can always close them off when you’re working in there with the heating on.

    Mike would be pleased to see you aren’t thinking about a dehumidifier

    To cut a hole in the concrete:
    a) Core Drill or
    b) Stitch drill and chisel
    Alternatively could you fit the vents in doors/windows?

    Best of luck with it.

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