Friday, January 14, 2011

Words From the Blacksmith's Wife, Cleaning Steel Pieces

Be sure to check out The Prairie Homestead, an awesome blog with great posts and a wealth of wonderful information. Be sure to participate in their Barn Hop where Homesteading blogs from all over share their posts!

If Zach has a few pieces to clean he'll get out the wire wheel and clean them that way. But for these large orders that he's been getting, like 200 at a time, we have a few labor savers up our sleeve. It usually ends up being my job, "non forge work" pat, pat. Translation, "Here's something stupid simple you can do and not screw up honey." pat, pat.
Anyway, a freshly forged steel item has a build up of scale, which is basically rust but doesn't always look like traditional red corroded rust, (think the lower door panel of a 1980 Gremlin who's driven on salt covered Michigan roads.) Instead, it's this black flaky stuff that sticks to the steel and is a pain to get off. Underneath the scale is the pretty shiny steel, that's what we're after.
One way to get the scale off is to soak the bottle openers in vinegar. The scary bucket full of mucky yellow goo, is really just a bucket of vinegar, that we've used over and over until the rust has turned it this lovely "Swamp Thing" color. Mmmm high iron, vinegar curry soup. The vinegar actually eats the scale off the metal, like fighting fire with fire, the acid forces the metal to rust, thus the rust eats away the extra rust faster than it eats the shiny metal underneath. Make sense? No, it doesn't to me either. I just do what I'm told. He He!
(Ok, side note: Zach just informed me upon reading this that, that's not exactly how the vinegar works, but I'm going to go with my explanation, as I don't really understand either one.)
I take the tongs (hand forged by the Blacksmith) and swish through the Swamp Thing bucket picking out a bottle opener whenever I bump into one. You don't want to get this stuff on your hands it will make them stick through SEVERAL hand washings.








Then I take them inside and rinse them with very hot water. The hot water evaporates faster, thus helping to eliminate the whole water and metal thing.










Then I take them out to the vibrator/tumbler, which is filled with random metal objects that essentially bangs against the other metal and shines it, like a rock tumbler. This is our little tumbler, Zach also has a giant tumbler made from a 200 lb propane tank that he uses to tumble larger items.







I like the tumbler. It's noisy, yet hypnotizing. I made this video so you could see the noisy-hypnotizing effect.

See, I told you so.  It has to run for a really long time, like hours, but it saves on grinder time, and the grinder is the devil. (see this post to see how I feel about the grinder)
It's also usually my job to go tumbler picking, which means I get to sift through all the metal pieces and find the bottle openers. I like this too. The metal chunks are all smooth and touchable because they've been tumbling and all the sharp parts are worn down and have a coating of this black powder stuff that makes them sort of creamy. Your hands are a mess afterward, but it's satisfying to find the items through all the bits.

3 comments:

April said...

Very interesting post, yes that tumbler is mesmerizing, neat looking can openers! Visiting from the Barn Hop! :)

Jennifer Sartell said...

Thanks April! I LOVE the Barn Hop!

Fiverr Work said...

The vinegar actually eats the scale off the metal, like fighting fire with fire, the acid forces the metal to rust, thus the rust eats away the extra rust faster than it eats the shiny metal underneath. Make sense? No, it doesn't to me either. Iron door

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