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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Brisbane, Australia

    Default De-rusting, cleaning and polishing small nuts (such as saw nuts and bolts) technique

    Dear all

    I can't be the first person who thought of this but I thought worth posting as I'd done this a number of times until the lightbulb went.

    When you are cleaning up or restoring an old handsaw, a little task is the saw nuts and bolts. Personally I disbelieve in doing anything like grinding them back like a piece of jewellery, but one does want to clean them up and have a little pride.

    I went through a few ideas that didn't work well in some respects. Hand polishing is difficult and time-consuming (because of having to grip them tightly with finger strength). A while back I used to drag out the bench grinder and put them in vice grips but it is still time consuming to turn slowly in "rotisserie" mode, frequently checking. Once you have spent minutes trying to move it around to get every bit you are questioning your priorities.

    I've also tried a dremel but you then need to grip somehow, and moving it all around... that's even worse than doing by hand.

    Today the lightbulb - oddly that I remember from a video about bandsaw tuning was to put them in a cordless drill, and spin while buffing.

    Take one badly corroded/dirty nut:


    Just tighten in a keyless chuck drill and set it at slow speed:


    And run at a slow speed, against a buffing wheel. The rotation of the screw means you only need to move side to side slightly. This is just a cheap stitched wheel with Josco green compound. Any polishing compound should do at this speed. It is very easy because the drill gives you a great grip. There is no chance of the nut going flying.


    And in really about 2 minutes, your whole set:


    They are better than they look in that photo. The imperfections are imperfections in the metal. I am not making jewellery so I am not grinding back to get out.

    The distinct advantages, if you have a cheap bench grinder (and everyone has a cordless drill) are:

    - Once you hit the wheel, the high-speed polishing will zip off any dirt/gunk, corrosion, rust. You go straight from crap to perfectly polished in one operation.

    - You are guaranteed consistency radially - your only chance of inconsistent polishing is missing a spot left to right. This would be hard to achieve if you tried!

    - Really safe and no chance of nuts going flying with the grip on the drill. Better than vice grips.

    - Your hands stay clean, as you're nowhere near the wheel. Your hands aren't in polishing clothes, steel wool, touching any cleaning/polishing liquids. You don't waste a pair of cheap latex gloves (any other type of gloves is a no-no with a bench grinder for safety reasons).

    - If you use a bench grinder for the "Unicorn" method you've already got this handy. If you don't - you should anyway! A cheap bench grinder, stitched wheel and compound can all be assembled for ~$200 at RRP.

    - No consumables really (clothes, steel wool, polishing liquids etc) or cleanup. The stitched wheels seem to last forever with compound.

    Just thought I'd share. I almost feel like taking apart all my saws to re-do the nuts now!


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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Dandenong Ranges


    Hi CG. Good idea. I find that I get good results with a brass wire wheel on my grinder, even the medallion comes up nicely. And it is very exciting when they catch on the wheel!

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006


    Good trick with the screw in the drill.

    I've used that method to shape brass arrow heads for a relative who wanted blunted/rounded bullet type arrow heads made out of brass for his longbow. The idea was to reduce the penetration distance into straw targets so the arrows can be more easily removed. He also needed many dozens of these so I cut 20 mm slugs from 1/2" brass rod, held the slug in a drill and applied the brass to a belt sander. An 8mm socket was drilled in at the other end of the slug into which the arrow shaft was inserted.

    One problem with holding screws on the thread with a a drill is that it can damage the threads in the drill chuck.
    Here are a couple of holding options that have worked for me.

    If I have a few to clean up and also have the relevant thread taps my preferred method is to cut a short piece of round stock and tap the end into which the screw can be threaded. For threads/stock that are too large to fit in a drill I hold them in a lathe and put a fine wire wheel in a drill.

    If I don't have the right tap I wrap the threaded section of the screw with some thin suede leather. It's not as firm a grip as a threaded hole but it usually OK.

    I also sometimes like to polish/clean the threads which is much trickier.
    If the screw is long and I have the taps I tap a thin piece of sheet steel stock so that only a short section of the threads are covered and clean up the exposed section - them move the sheet steel stock to the clean section of the screw thread and clean the other.

    Sometimes I use the narrow jawed vice grips with a thin leather protective layer between the vice grip jaws and the screw thread.

    It depends how marked the screws are but I have a range of cleaning gear.
    For stuff that is too far gone to go directly to a buffing wheel and not far enough for the har wire wheel on my grinder my two favourites are Scotchbrite wheels and this super fine soft wire wheel.
    These wheels use 0.06mm thin SS wires and are used by a jewellers used for soft metals.
    I used it on a variable speed lathe as shown below because at 2000 rpm I can hold my fingers on it the wires for about 10s without any problems..
    Not cheap but they should last indefinitely.

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