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To vineger soak, or not ?

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Gator39, Jul 13, 2017.

  1. Gator39

    Gator39

    72
    May 13, 2017
    As a newbie to axe restoration, I have been told to vineger soak the rusty, crusty heads.

    I have done this with very good results.
    It makes the heads look new, removing the rust to bare metal and revealing the heat treatment lines, (or lack there of), left on the heads.

    But I have noticed more than once now, that a few guys here advocate not using vineger, instead to use a wire wheel, saying it leaves a nice patina.

    Other than the way it looks when finished, is there any other reason NOT to use the vineger method?

    To me, with my limited knowledge, it seems a lot less work, less mess, and if you don't leave it in too long so it doesn't pit the metal, leaves the head like new.
    This would then allow you to paint or even blue the head with better results.

    So, please guys share your knowledge and opinions for us newbies just getting into this fascinating hobby.
     
  2. junkenstien

    junkenstien

    782
    Feb 15, 2017
    pretty much looks,vinegar works magic on rusty old files
     
    cityofthesouth and Moonw like this.
  3. Moonw

    Moonw

    Nov 19, 2014
    Any acid will attack the healthy steel as well. As long as you don't overdo it and use a base to neutralize the acid before oiling (baking soda solution), you'll be a happy fellow.

    Otherwise, it's preference. I'd probably not be too happy with how the metal looks after a vinegar soak and I'd use a wirewheel anyway :). Another reason to ditch the vinegar and electrolisys except in more severe cases, and go straight to the wirewheel. (With protection for all the anatomical parts you hold dear :)! )

    Sometimes, the hardening line can be seen even after wirewheeling. Otherwise, I'd see why one would be interested to check how deep the hardened steel runs and use an acid.

    In the end: nothing wrong with it. Do as you wish.
     
  4. garry3

    garry3

    Sep 11, 2012
    Some heads clean up pretty nice in vinegar and then I hit them with a soft wire cup brush on an angle grinder and they turn back to a nice blue black color. But not all of them.
    I would never soak a Sager Chemical axe in vinegar. It will come out looking just like your Sager and True Temper that where soaked in vinegar but not turn back. If you don't mind no that look there is nothing wrong with it. Blueing might help, I have not tried it. I just stay away from vinegar with forge welded axes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
  5. garry3

    garry3

    Sep 11, 2012
    I got you confused with another poster. I was thinking your axes where the ones that camper special posted.
    Sorry about that Gator.
     
  6. Kevin Houtzager

    Kevin Houtzager

    908
    Jun 25, 2017
    X
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2019
    Miller '72 and Agent_H like this.
  7. Agent_H

    Agent_H Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    One of the reasons I like old tools is the the story they tell from their life/lives before they came into my possession. The metal and the wood. That story is partially contained in the color of age or patina or whatever you want to call it. It's a characteristic that newer things just don't have.

    I've soaked heads in vinegar but the ones I have done seem to kind of have a grey cast to them when done. That isn't everyone's experience I am gathering or maybe I didn't do it right/too long/not long enough. I certainly don't like the smell or lasting taste in my mouth that comes from messing around with the heads when they first come out. To me it has the same effect as chewing tinfoil, more or less. Never heard anyone mention that so that last part just might be something wrong with me.

    In my case, the wire wheel might break even with cleanup in the end if you factor in the disposal of your soaking tub/bucket and whatever medium you wipe the sludge off of them with. That is also taking into account you have the space to get dirty that comes from using the wire wheel.

    Gator, you might like it and you won't know until you do it once.

    *I have heard that "Script-Only" Black Ravens are notoriously allergic to vinegar ;)
     
  8. Peck Price

    Peck Price

    39
    Sep 28, 2013
    When the axe bug bit me, I soaked everything in vinegar. I actually find the contrast of the heat treat appealing. I don't use vinegar as much now but I still use it for extreme cases and if I suspect the poll may be hardened. The gentlemen above have given the best advice, "The axes are yours, do what makes you happy."
     
    rjdankert, garry3 and Agent_H like this.
  9. jake pogg

    jake pogg

    Dec 20, 2015
    I'll chime in here,for better or worse,with some very general data...

    Vinegar,is,of course,a mild Acid,which Speeds up a Certain,particular,oxidation.

    Fe even by itself,as an Element,can form a number of different oxides. Steel,an Alloy (of Fe,containing C and Mg by definition,but usually other elements as well),is even more complex.

    So this is what creates the Relativity of an entire issue,and all the different kinds of "rust","bluing","browning",et c.

    Lets remember that the very air we breathe is,however slightly,acidic.Human sweat,i.e. fingerprints,Very acidic,et c.

    So,it is impossible for steel to remain oxide-free,for more than some few seconds...It's a matter of choice then what Sort of oxides to retain,cultivate,and so on.

    Another point is that it's erroneous to refer to the visible Differential between body and the blade material of an axe as "temper line".
    In most cases-it is not the difference of Phase(as in Martensite vs Pearlite,or any other result of Heat Treatment,although,Some structural difference CAN be visible with the naked eye).

    Mostly,the difference we see is a Forge-weld,as in a different Alloy joined to the body of an axe.

    In the simplest way,if that line is curved in any degree,then you know that of course it is Not a result of HT,as the differentially-HT'd tool could only have been placed into the LEVEL surface of a quenchant,forming a straight line....

    It's actually a quite involved effect,metallurgically,the visible transformation...
     
    Kevin Houtzager and Agent_H like this.
  10. Gator39

    Gator39

    72
    May 13, 2017
    thanks all.
    The thread with the sager did prompt this thread gerry3, so you were kinda right!

    The ones I've done in vinegar I have rinsed well and rubbed with a scotch pad and the heat line comes right off.

    And i would vinegar dunk the black raven , although someone previous to me did wire wheel it and possibly lightly ground on it.
    A line of scratches that makes me think that.

    But I have done a DB hatchet that you could barely tell was a hatchet.
    Needs more elbow grease but is shaping up.

    Just wanted to make sure I wasn't doing any damage I didn't realize.
     
  11. Gator39

    Gator39

    72
    May 13, 2017
    thanks all.
    The thread with the sager did prompt this thread gerry3, so you were kinda right!

    The ones I've done in vinegar I have rinsed well and rubbed with a scotch pad and the heat line comes right off.

    And i would never vinegar dunk the black raven , although someone previous to me did wire wheel it and possibly lightly ground on it.
    A line of scratches that makes me think that.

    But I have done a DB hatchet that you could barely tell was a hatchet.
    Needs more elbow grease but is shaping up.

    Just wanted to make sure I wasn't doing any damage I didn't realize.
    And only very rusty ones are getting the vinegar.
     
    Agent_H likes this.
  12. halfaxe

    halfaxe

    Nov 29, 2012
    It's just a personal decision. Most of the time we are talking about a $20 axe head or less. I've done a few badly pitted heads in vinegar. It's easy but you lose the history. It looks artificial because when the axe was new the differential didn't show. A wire wheel preserves the patina. It looks better to me so that's what I do. As an axe buyer I'm not interested in buying any vinegar soaked heads.
     
    rjdankert, Square_peg and Agent_H like this.
  13. Gator39

    Gator39

    72
    May 13, 2017
    Sorry for the double post.

    I'm so electronically challenged I'm lucky I can turn my phone on.
     
  14. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    That's exactly how I feel, though probably more strongly about it.
    Soaking in vinegar makes me cringe, if you want a tool that looks new buy new.
    The beautiful patina you find hiding under the rust of an axe head can only be had from decades of age.
    IMHO soaking an axe head in vinegar would be like erasing your grandfather's memory.
     
    Square_peg likes this.
  15. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Alexander Weygers, in his 'The Complete Modern Blacksmith', talks of file sharpening by soaking them in battery acid (this works). But he cautions to soak the files in running water for an hour afterwards to get the remaining acid out of the steel.

    I like to clean my old axes with a brass wire cup brush on an angle grinder. I've been promoting this method for many years and quite a few folks have adopted it and prefer it. For very rusty tools I'll step up to a knotted steel wheel. I never use crimped steel wheels or cups because they have a tendency to throw wires. Any wire wheel or cup will throw wires if you bear down hard with it - so don't do that. Take your time and let the wire cup do it's job.

    As Moonw pointed out you'll want at least eye, ear and respiratory protection when using a wheel or cup. If you can't resist bearing down then add a heavy shirt or jacket to armour yourself against the inevitable flying wires (or jusy stop bearing down hard).
     
  16. Kevin Houtzager

    Kevin Houtzager

    908
    Jun 25, 2017
    X
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2019
  17. holo07

    holo07 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 21, 2008
    i am new to the fun of axe and hatchet game but the first few I did in vinegar I did not like, but the last 2 looked great. Does it depend on the type of steel that the head is made of?
     
  18. garry3

    garry3

    Sep 11, 2012
    Yes. Some will also come out darker if you keep your vinegar dirty. I keep mine in a bucket with a lid on it. When it gets to dirty I pore it off into another bucket to empty the sludge.
     
    Agent_H likes this.
  19. Agent_H

    Agent_H Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    Here is the general type of look I got most of the time:
    [​IMG]

    This is more a testament that I can mess anything up -

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  20. Gator39

    Gator39

    72
    May 13, 2017
    I think more than anything, you need to be careful how long it soaks.
    My Baptism with vinegar was trying to clean up cast iron cookware.
    If you leave it too long it permanently pits the metal.
    After about 15 to 24 hrs you want to inspect it real well and I wirebrush it by hand right in the vinegar to see where its at.
    When I do take it out, I rinse with water then spray it down wwith wd40.
    But then scotch pad it after awhile.
    But that is just how I do it.
     
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