Fig. A: Cut mesh gutter leaf guards to fit inside the
bucket. Fig. B: Position 6 leaf guard sections around the
interior of the bucket. Fig. C: Place 4 steel or carbon
rod “anodes” around the assembled mesh cylinder, and
5gal plastic bucket with lid
Sodium carbonate, aka washing soda or soda ash
Used for fabric dyeing and adjusting pH, it’s
available from craft, aquarium, and home
improvement stores. I paid $6 for a 2lb jar
of Balance Pak 200 at a pool supply shop.
Mild steel rods or carbon welding rods, 12"×¼"
diameter ( 4) for the anodes. Carbon rods last
much longer. Do not use stainless, chrome, or galvanized steel, which will leach out toxic chromate.
Plastic mesh gutter leaf guards, about 40" long ( 3)
¼"× 16" threaded steel rod
¼" female/female threaded rod butt joint
¼" ceiling hook
12V DC battery charger, or other DC power source
If your charger’s ammeter doesn’t go up or its
hum doesn’t increase when you dip your part
into the bath, you may need an older, “dumber”
charger without a safety interlock, that won’t
test whether it’s connected to a battery.
Steel wire, 10'
Plastic zip ties, one package ( 30–50)
Tin solder (optional) for soft-clamp anode connection
TOOLS: Tinsnips, wire cutters, drill with ¼" bit,
150 Make: Volume 17
connect all 4 anodes with a wire. Fig. D: Use zip ties
to connect the anodes to the mesh. Fig. E: Drill a hole
in the center of the lid and insert the threaded rod.
Fig. F: Drill lots of ventilation holes for gases to escape.
Build an Electrolytic
This is a surprisingly simple way to remove heavy
rust using DC electricity, a tank of sodium carbonate
solution, and some sacrificial anode rods. After several hours of bubbling, the rust loosens or falls away.
I’ve used it on mechanisms so corroded that
you couldn’t even make out their outlines, and
after treatment the individual parts were easily
disassembled with hand tools. You can even run
electrolytic conversion on painted rusty surfaces,
although it takes longer. (See Resources on page
152 for an explanation of the chemistry involved.)
With other homebrew electrolytic tanks I’ve seen,
the objects just hang from a board in a 5-gallon
bucket. I like my setup better because it uses plastic
mesh to prevent short circuits between the anodes
and the object being treated, and it all packs away
neatly in the bucket.
1. Install the mesh ring.
Cut the ends off each gutter shield to make 6 pieces
that just fit inside the bucket (Figure A). Use zip
ties to connect the pieces together into a ring that