How to Make Cast Iron Look Good

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Cast iron items, covered in rust and scale, are discarded every day, to fill local landfills. Many of these items are works of 19th century art, and their loss is painful. Rusty, painted or otherwise unattractive cast iron can be made to look fresh and attractive with just a few tools, a little time and relatively little experience. This method is for restoring decorative cast iron. Do not use this process for cast iron cookware, because of the use of gun bluing and penetrating oil.

Things You'll Need

  • Coarse wire wheel for an electric drill
  • Electric drill
  • Chainsaw file
  • Medium mill bastard file
  • Clean cloths or rags
  • Acetone
  • Cold gun bluing solution
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Light or penetrating oil
  • Rubber gloves
  • Wraparound eye protection
  • Leather gloves
  • Ear protection
  • NIOSH-approved respirator
  • Use wire wheel to remove all rust, paint and other accumulated buildup off all surfaces of the cast iron, until the finish is completely clean. Small deposits of rust or paint will hamper finishing, and rust (red oxide) will continue to grow unless completely removed.

  • Use a chainsaw file and medium mill bastard file to remove any flash, casting marks or undesired flaws. You may also choose to use a Dremel tool with sanding drums. Wire wheel the filed and sanded areas again to make the finish even with any areas you did not file or sand.

  • Put on rubber gloves and eye protection. Use acetone and a clean rag to wipe metal filings and sanding dust from the cast iron. Wipe cold gun bluing solution evenly over all surfaces of the cast iron piece with a small, clean cloth. Allow blued cast iron piece to sit for several minutes; rinse with water and repeat if necessary.

  • Make a solution of baking soda and water, using 6 oz. of baking soda per gallon of water. Wash all surfaces of your cast iron thoroughly with the solution. Rinse well with clean water. Coat all surfaces thoroughly with light oil or penetrating oil and allow cast iron to soak for 1/2 hour, then coat again with oil and let soak for another 1/2 hour.

  • Dry off excess oil with a clean rag. Dispose of rags and containers contaminated with cold gun blue solution properly. Gun bluing and penetrating oil are flammable and create noxious, toxic fumes. Make sure to have adequate ventilation, working outdoors or with doors and windows open and a large fan running throughout the cleaning, oiling and soaking process.

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