Electrolytic Rust Removal – How Handy!

Many (most?) of the games I have in storage have rust issues. IIRC they were stored in a barn before I got to them.

My frustration has been largely toward cleaning these rusted pieces. My usual method has been to strip the pieces completely down to the metal using a combination of chemical strippers and a wire wheel. It’s tiring, long, potentially dangerous, and I really just don’t enjoy the tedium.

Over the years I’ve read about removing, and even reversing, rust with an electrolytic process. I won’t go into too many details here, but this Instructable is what finally convinced me to try it. Well, that and an empty house devoid of family, I don’t want the kids playing with this!

I didn’t have a car battery charger, so I used a wall wart (power adapter) instead. Clipped off the end and soldered in a pair of alligator clips. I couldn’t find washing soda, so I used lye in it’s place. Yes, I know it’s caustic, but I’m using very little dissolved in a lot of water. When I do find washing soda, I’ll get some. Until then…

The first piece I tested it on was the marquee bracket to Donkey Kong. It was in horrible shape, not just from being mangled by a previous owner, but by the layers of rust. I’d already begun trying to wire wheel it off, but due to the way it’s designed it kept getting ripped out of my hands when the wheel would grab the screw mounts. I finally had enough and put it aside until this.

Within seconds bubbles rose to the surface, and I witnessed rust falling off it. Within a short time I was able to take a wire brush and just brush off the remaining rust, leaving me with a clean bracket!

Next came the control panel to the Centipede Mini. A much bigger piece, next time I’ll know I need MORE POWER. 🙂 I have to get a car battery charger. The wall wart was getting particularly hot on this piece. But it did its job, the rust was removed – as well as 90% of the paint! The only places I couldn’t get clean are where the adhesive to the old CPO were being stubborn, and I’ll have to go over those areas thoroughly.

So far the only thing I haven’t been able to clean properly have been the control panel bolts on my Donkey Kong – and that’s because they’re still in the control panel. I can’t submerge the wood, it’ll be destroyed. I tried surrounding the bolt with a cloth soaked in the electrolyte, but it’s just not good enough. I’d buy replacement bolts in a heartbeat – if I could find them! MikesArcade.Com used to have them, but they’re out. M3 bolts @ 25MM are apparently not common, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

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