Category Archives: Tools

Where to Find a New Gasket For a Harbor Freight 2-1/2 Gallon Paint Tank (Item 66839) – TCP Global Has Them On Amazon!

Folks, I’ve used Harbor Freight 2.5 gallon paint pots (HF Item 66839) for years to pressure cast grips. I read fear-mongering stories on the Internet where folks are scared of them blowing up. You know what? They’re safe as long as you stay within their pressure rating and I know what I’m talking about. I’ve used my tanks through thousands of duty cycles at 60 PSI with no major problems.

There is a headache though – the cheap gaskets the tanks come with either don’t last or are a bear to seal. It used to be you had to make your own replacement gaskets or try to repair what you had but now there is an awesome ready-to-go quality gasket you can buy.

Here’s the lid of one of my modified tanks. You can see remnants of blue RTV everywhere from past fixes. The OEM gaskets are thin and don’t always seal very easily. I keep a wrench by make tanks to crank down the lids the last bit if there are air leaks after pressurizing.
There’s the failure. In the past I would have filled that with RTV and let it cure for 24 hours. I don’t do that any more – I replaced this old gasket with the new one I will tell you about shortly.

Enter TCP Global with a solution

I periodically search for stuff I hope somebody will create and sell. That includes these gaskets. It’s been a while since I last looked and the above gasket’s splitting prodded me to check again. It just so happens that TCP Global had ,realized there was a market and was making gaskets better than the original.

How are they better? They are thicker and the durometer (firmness) of the gasket is such that there is a bit of give to get a really good seal. The gasket measures 10-5/16″ for the outside diameter and 9-5/16″ for the inside diameter. It’s also a 1/4″ thick which is great and the dogs (the bolts on top that secure the lid) have enough adjustment to accommodate this thicker gasket.

To cut to the chase, these units fit my pressure tanks perfectly. No more gluing, cutting, etc. These work right out of the box and are way, way better. They also fit a number of other thanks including:

  • TCP GLOBAL Brand 2.5 Gallon Pressure Pot Tanks Systems. Part# PT8310, PT8312 and PT8318
  • Binks or Devilbiss Brand 2.7 Gallon Paint Pressure Pot Tank Systems that use the Devilbiss Part# PT-33 Gasket. Binks Tank Part# 83C-210, 83C-220 and 83C-221
  • Other brands of tanks as well – many are made by the same Chinese factories and use the same size gasket.
Look at the difference! The old gasket has the blue RTV on it and the new one is the much thicker all black gasket.

Installation is a breeze

Literally, pull the old gasket out and push this new one in place. I did not need to do any trimming. When I put the lid back on the tank, I did have to back off the toggle bolts in the dogs (clamps) so that they could pass over the edge of the lid given it’s new taller height but that was literally just backing the off a 1/4″ more or so. Then when I turned the bolts down, the clamping pressure fully seated the gasket and the job was done. I spent more time taking the pictures than I did replacing the gasket and adjusting the bolts!!

Here’s the tank with the new gasket installed. You can see the dogs (clamps) have plenty of adjustment. When I took this photo, I clamped the top down by hand with no wrench and pressurized the tank to 60 PSI – no leaks or problems. Seriously, these gaskets rock.

Here’s the gasket on Amazon:

If you click on the following link, I will get a small referral fee but that is all I get – I had to buy my own gasket and wouldn’t be writing this review if I honestly didn’t think the product was fantastic:

Conclusion

These TCP Global replacement gaskets are awesome. The seal works wonderfully and I can just tighten the lid down by hand now – no more wrenching. If you have a tank these gaskets will fit, I highly recommend them.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Save on End Mills and Other Cutting Tools – Two Solid Vendors I’m Using

Everyone is trying to save money these days and that includes me. When you start talking about quality carbide end mills and cobalt drills, the costs rack up fast but there are options for you to save money and I’ll make this short and sweet.

To be clear, these folks did not pay me or even know I was going to do this blog post. I’m not getting a dime from them.

Drills and Cutters

I needed to buy a 3/4″ reduced shank cobalt drill bit. These things are usually around $40-50/ea and I was able to get a nicely made Qualtech from Drills and Cutters for $32.91 out the door. I use this bit for drilling out the top of my AK-12 grips and the glass reinforced polymer shreds HSS bits so discount Silver & Deming bits don’t last. Spending the money for a quality bit made from cobalt makes a ton of sense because it will do hundreds of holes before it needs to be sharpened.

So, Drills and Cutters is a web store that you can buy from and they may have the manufacturer ship direct to you. I have found their pricing and shipping speeds very good.

They sell drill bits, taps & dies, cutters & saws, reamers, end mills, carbide burrs, annual cutters and more.

So, if you want to save money, check them out at:

https://drillsandcutters.com/ or call them at 1-800-870-3201


End Mill Discount

The second group I want to share with you is EndMillDiscount.com. Carbide is not cheap and “cheap” carbide tooling does not hold up. I go through a fair number of carbide end mills and carbide spotting/centering drills each year. When you need to drill hardened steel, there are situations where you simply need the hardness to cut. So, I needed to order in more 1/4″ bits and started shopping around. With the word “Discount” in the site’s name I was a little nervous but they had *really* good prices and I couldn’t find any negative reviews so I took the plunge.

I ordered 4 of the HTC 4-flute 1/4″ diameter end mills at $7.15/ea and 2 of the SwiftCarb Spotting/Centering drills at $16.98/ea and shipping was only $10.51. Wow, in just a few days the end mills arrived drop shipped from HTC and then the drills arrived drop shipped from SwiftCarb. I was very impressed.

Do you ever look at a photo and ask yourself “Why?” I don’t know why that big end mill is in the photo at the bottom. The smaller 1/4″ bits are what I ordered from End Mill Discount. They worked great by the way.

End Mill Discount sells end mills, drills, micro tools, cutters, cobalt tools, carbide burrs and more.

I definitely plan on buying from them again. Visit them at:

http://www.endmilldiscount.com or call them at 1-888-305-TOOL


I hope this helps you out.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Painting the Cleaned Up 18″ Ridgid Pipe Wrench

In the last post I told you about removing the rust from the old Ridgid pipe wrench using a solution of apple cider and Prep-N-Ethc. Now we’ll go over painting it. I considered three options – using a durable bake on weapons paint, a spray on epoxy paint or a basic spray paint. I went with the latter simply to save money. It just so happened that I had cans of Fusion All-In-One Gloss Red Pepper and Satin Black Krylon in stock. All-in-one meaning it contained both the primer and the paint.

As a reminder from the last post, this is what the wrench looked like after I cleaned it up and ran it through the hot apple cider bath.

What is Krylon?

Krylon is an acrylic laquer and not an enamel. In case you are wondering about the unique name, it comes from the founder’s first two letters of his last name – Krester – and that he was so impressed by Dupont’s discovery of nylon that he dropped the “n” and called his paint Krylon. This was a marketing move because he’d developed the basic formula in 1947 and nylon was introduced shortly after.

I like Krylon because it dries fast. I hate waiting for Rustoleum to dry and that pushes me in the direction of Krylon. With that said, Rustoleum’s enamel paint tends to be more durable. If I had it in stock, I would have used Rustoleum and baked it on.

Applying The Krylon

I took the wrench, disassembled it again and sprayed everything down again with brake cleaner to make sure there wasn’t any oil. A side benefit of acid rust removal is that it does acid etching of the surface as well creating little pockets/surface imperfection all over that give an excellent surface for finishes to adhere to.

I like to paint in the sun and use it to heat up the parts. I typically use old boxes to hold the parts to catch the overspray.
This is the handle after the first or second coat.

When spray painting, you need to be patient. You build up to the final color you want by spraying successive coats of paint. Follow the directions for drying time per coat and the maximum time to wait to apply the next coat.

Because I acid etched the surface, I didn’t apply a primer plus Krylon’s Fusion series claims to have some primer in it. I noticed on the can they still recommended primer for a bare metal but I skipped that. I typically waited 15-20 minutes between light coats based on the instructions on the can. Light coats reduces the risk of runs and making a mess.

Be sure to let the paint have plenty of time to set before you turn it over. Either wait until just before the maximum time before next coats or you will need to wait until the first side fully cures. I would rather try and do it together to get the best adhesion that I can. If it fully cures then you either get a less than ideal bond or you have to scuff it. Some folks will hang their parts to avoid some of this.

So, I put the parts in my curing oven for a couple of hours at 175F to help stuff dry fully and let it sit overnight before reassembly. With enamel, a lot of folks say that baking helps. I don’t think it makes a big difference with Krylon but I do know that it pays to let parts have the full time to cure based on the instructions on the can. If they say 24 hours, give it 24 hours. I’ve ruined a ton of paint jobs being in a rush.

Here are the three main parts. In some original ads it looks like they did not paint the jaws. I painted the jaws for expediency and to retard rust. I figure it will wear off with use where it needs to.

So here is the refinished wrench:

From the top – 1. Another old one of my grandpa’s. The rivet holding the thumbscrew and top jaw is really loose. 2. The wrench I just refinished. 3. A Craftsman that was my dad’s. 4. Guess who bought the cheap Harbor Freight wrench when we first got a house 20+ years ago – me 🙂

Conclusion

Well, it was interesting to learn about Ridgid and to bring some color back to the old wrench. I’ve already used this to tighten a pipe since I tool the photo. The paint did come right off the jaw as I knew it would but I’ll definitely be using it more in the future and remembering my dad and grandpa who passed it down.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Cleaning Up My Grandfather’s 18″ Ridgid Pipe Wrench

Like so many of my stories, this one begins as so “One day I was in my wrench and ran across and old rusty tool that was still functional”. Let’s start with a bit of backstory.

My grandfather immigrated from Quebec along with his brother to the Boston area to improve their lot in life. They’d grown up on a farm near Compton, Quebec, and somewhere along the line had picked up the skills necessary to service heavy machinery. He’d tell my dad stories of working on various machines who then relayed some of them to me.

My grandfather had a family, including by dad of course, somewhere near Rockport and eventually bought a farm in Derry, NH, sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s where he raised dairy cattle, grew hay and what not. Along the way he amassed quite a few tools that then passed on to my dad.

One of these tools was a rusty 18″ pipe wrench that I recall my dad using on a number of occasions and when my dad passed away, I got the tools, including this old wrench.

So, I’m in my shop moving stuff and uncover this big 18″ pipe wrench that I then took a lot closer look at. Interestingly enough, it was made by Ridgid.

Ridgid and the 18″ Pipe Wrench

For years I thought Ridgid was a made-up Home Depot house brand. Actually, it was founded in 1923 in North Ridgeville, Ohio, and moved to Elyria, Ohio, in 1943. What got them started was the invention of the modern pipe wrench. In 1966 it was bought by Emerson Electric and today it sells a lot of different tools including hand tools they make, power tools by Techtronic Industries of Hong Kong and Wet Dry vacs made by Emerson.

This 18″ pipe wrench was rusty but solid. The jaws were still sharp and nothing was cracked or bent.
You’ll notice it does identify the Ridge Tool Company as being in Elyria so that tells us it was made after the move in 1943.
The original patent was 1549164 from August 11, 1925, and was then updated to patent 1552091 dated September 1, 1925. Now the patent tells us a bit more. 1727623 was filed on September 10, 1929. The next pipe wrench patent was 2051755 filed on August 18, 1936. [A big thank you VintageMachinery.0rg having this info online.]

Now if you read the caption of the photo above, the 1727623 patent was in 1929 and 2051755 filed in 1936. That patent was actually split into two and an additional patent 2076830 was filed in 1937. I’m going to go out on a limb and bet that wrench was made somewhere between 1929 and 1937. The compression spring in the wrench is a leaf design and not conical so that does put it prior to 1937 patent.

In reading, guys report the markings as not being very reliable and company records incomplete so the above is really a best guess but it does basically align with when my grandfather would have been buying tools.

So I had a decision to make – leave it alone and let it rust or clean it and apply paint. Well, it’s not like these wrenches are rare collector pieces and this was a tool I would use going forward – seriously, other than being rusty it was good as new.

Removing the Rust

I considered three options – abrasive, electrolytic or acid. The rust was actually pretty light and I opted to go with acid – notably a combination of apple cider and phosphoric acid.

The first step was to spray down the wrench with brake cleaner liberally to get rid of oils. Next, I put a wire brush in my hand drill and removed all of the loose rust and dirt from the wrench body, nut and jaw.

I used brake cleaner to remove the initial oil as well as just before I inserted the wrench into the acid bath.
Getting in a bit closer, note the sole remnant of red paint to the right of the RIDGID logo on the handle of the wrench.

The acid bath was a gallon of grocery store bought apple cider vinegar plus about a quart of Prep-N-Etch phosphoric acid. Apple cider alone would do the job but I was re-using apple cider and I wanted to make sure there was enough acid to do the job.

Now a trick to really get things done is to heat up the apple cider bath and get it warm – you don’t need to boil it. I don’t bother with a thermometer for this – just hot to the touch. The reason why is that heating up a solution speeds up the chemical reaction. If it’s cooler then it just takes longer and if it is boiling off then you are losing liquid needlessly.

This is a full size stainless buffet / chafing pan that I use for acid etching and parkerizing – I clean it after each use of course. Underneath it is my big two-burner Camp Chef Explorer stove that is awesome for heating up tanks with acid or park solution. There are all kinds of different sizes of chafing pans by the way full, half, third, etc. and you can see them first had at restaurant supply stores like Gordon Foods, Sams Club sometimes has them, etc.

Please remember something – do this in a well ventilated area or outdoors or the condensation will cause exposed steel to rust. It’s a very weak acid solution and while the vapors aren’t something you should be breathing, I would be more worried about causing rust if I were you.

Before I put the wrench parts in the warm/hot acid bath, I really hosed them down with brake cleaner one more time while wearing nitrile gloves. The reason for the gloves was mainly to keep oils from my skin from contaminating the otherwise clean surface. Oil will block the acid. The hot bath will remove some oil but it is contaminated at that point and must be discarded.

The bubbles are caused by the chemical reaction between the rust, steel and acid.

I checked it every few minutes and when all the rust was gone, I pulled it out, hosed it down liberally with water and then used WD40 to displace the water and reduce the odds of rusting. This is what WD40 was meant to do – water displacement formula 40.

At this point it was getting dark and I decided to wait until the next day to point the wrench but here’s what it looked like at that point. The next post will be about painting the wrench and the end result.

By the way, I’ve written on using apple cider to remove rust from tools as well as formal manganese parkerizing before this so you can click on one of the links to learn more.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Restored An Almost 100 Year Old Samson 5263 3.5″ Machinists’ Vise For Regular Use

Growing up, my dad has this big rusty vise on his work bench and we’d use it for all kinds of stuff ranging from holding mower blades and axes during sharpening to bending metal for brackets and so forth. I knew it came from my grandfather’s farm in New Hampshire but not much else., When my parents moved near us, my dad brought the vise with him and installed it on a tool bench in their new garage.

Life can be harsh. I have a lot of good memories about my parents but nothing really prepares you for when they pass away. I was close to my dad and to this day, when I use one of his old tools, it makes me feel good – kind of like he’s still here and happy to see me using something of his – hopefully the right way.

At any rate, when we had to sell their house and clean stuff out, I snagged the big old vise and stuck it on the floor in the corner of my shop and really didn’t think much about it for almost five years. One day I started thinking about installing a second vise in my shop near another area where I do a lot of work that requires both work holding and a vise that can withstand 50-100 ft/lbs of torque. I figured I had two options – I have a 6″ Harbor Freight unit somewhere buried in my shop that I could dig out or I could go find my dad’s and take a closer look at it.

So. I dug out the old vise from under a work bench and blew off a ton of dust and dirt. The first thing that I noticed was that it weighed a ton and the second was that it was remarkably beefy and actually in really good shape other than surface rust. The action moved fairly well albeit a little gritty. Everything felt fairly tight meaning nothing seemed to be bent or broken. Last but not least, other than missing the handle on the locking nut, everything seemed to be there.

Where did Samson vises come from?

I did some searching on the web and found mention that Samson vises were sold by Sears from about 1908 to 1939 based on searching for “Samson Machinists” on ancestry.com. This page is from a 1923 Sears catalog and was copied from Vintagemachinery.org:

There it is down in the lower-left – 99N5263. A 3-1/2″ jaw width with a 5″ opening, weight was 37 pounds and cost a whopping $9.30!! Wow! Now, when my grandpa actually bought it, I have no idea. If my dad knew, he never said or I don’t recall – at this point, I’m really not sure.

By the way, in the catalog ad above, look at the weight of the 5266 5″ vise – 93 pounds! That would be a fun one to find. It must be enormous – I’ll have to keep my eye out for one 🙂

By the way, I couldn’t find a definitive answer about who made the Samson vises for Sears. Some people thought it was Reed but I haven’t confirmed that. If you search on Reed Vises, you will see some similar designs but I did not see an exact match. I emailed both Reed and Yost to see if they can share any insights. If I find out, I’ll update this post.

8/25/2020 Update: I got a very nice email from James about Samson vises based on some research he did: “Samson Vises were the Sears house brand before Craftsman took over in 1927. Samson Vises were made by Rock Island Vise Company for Sears and Roebuck out of Rock Island, Illinois.”

Restoring the old vise for regular use

Other than quite a bit of surface rust, it was really in very shape and I decided to use the old vise. The next thing I had to decide was what to do with the finish – it was rusty my whole life so I thought about just oiling the rust and sealing it. Another part wanted to fix it up. I honestly thought about it for a few days because I couldn’t do anything right away. In the end, I decided to refinish it. From what I could tell the vises were originally black and either partially or fully painted. My vise had zero paint on it anywhere.

Note: I am not doing a 100% overhaul to make it look like when it shipped from Sears. I wanted to clean it up some have it be functional. I just want to be clear in case any purists take issue with my use of the term “restoration”.

So, the first step was to disassemble the vise both to make sure it was indeed salvageable and also to clean everything. The weather wasn’t cooperating so you’ll some photos were taken indoors and some outdoors so bear with me.

Before I took the vise apart, I mocked up where I wanted it on the bench and drilled the holes. I planned to use 3/8″ bolts to secure it and they are in the photo. The bench it is on has a top made of 1-1/2″ of plywood and weighs 5-600 pounds because of the massive steel frame I built for it.
The first thing you do is to remove the sliding jaw. This is usually done by rotating the handle until the screw exits the spindle nut in the body of the vise and the sliding jaw then pulls out. Be aware that the sliding unit can be surprisingly heavy depending on the design of the vise.
The greasy looking thing is the spindle and it was in great shape. There were remnants of old grease protecting it, the screw and the ways where the sliding jaw slid (the clear tracks on the body. There were no signs of cracks – just dirt and rust in non critical areas.
To the right of the main body of the vise is the lock nut. Normally there is a small handle on it but it’s long gone. This is basically threaded onto a bolt that protrudes us from the clamp in the base. It simply unthreads. The shiny 3/8″ grade 1 bolt to the right of it will become the new handle for it.
This is the bottom of the slide. As you can see, the machined surfaces and screw are in great shape.
Somehow I always manage to miss taking a photo. The top part of the vise is secured to the base by a heavily made axle bolt. It’s the beefy chunk of steel sitting between the base and my ball pein hammer. Surprisingly, it came out very easily with a simple adjustable wrench – I just reached in perpendicular and turned the bolt not expecting it to come loose and it did. That was a very pleasant surprise. So you can also see that the bottom surface of the static jaw assembly and the top of the base are in remarkably good shape compared to the exterior.
Here’s an even closer view of the base and the locking pad bolt. You can also see the axle nut off to the back right by the back ear of the vise even better.. I think they greased it well almost a 100 years ago and that saved the inside parts. I suppose it’s possible my grandfather or dad took it apart and lubed it but I can’t ask them now.
The weather cooperated and I took the parts outside to degrease and wire brush them.
I could have punched out pins and removed the spindle nut but I figured the vise was really solid mechanically so I took a shortcut and didn’t tear the static or sliding jaws down further.
Here’s a zoomed in photo of the static jaw’s pad. I think I can barely see a screw down on the right but it would be a heck of a chore to remove them. Honestly, the jaws were in good enough shape for me.
“72C” is marked on the base. It was the only other marking I found in addition to “Samson 5263” on the side of the static jaw’s body.
After cleaning up the static jaw, the model number was clear as day – 5263.
For the really thick rust, I used my Ingersoll-Rand needle scaler to knock it off. The external surfaces on the base of the vise were the worst.
Here’s everything after degreasing with lots of brake cleaner and the paint will be Satin Black Krylon Fusion.
Here they are from another angle.
I applied four coats of paint following the directions on the can. By the way, when a paint tells you to allow two days for it to cure and you expect it to be rubbing a lot – give it the two days. I have messed up so many finishes over the years that I now follow the directions on timing between coats and how long until a full cure.
This will be my new locking nut handle. I had to grind down the nut so it would clear the body of the vise and then I abrasive blasted the surface so the black pain will stick. It was not blasted or painted yet for this photo.
From left to right – Locking nut, locking pad, and then the axle bolt.
I found it funny to set a modern cheap 4.5″ vise next to the big Samson. Look at the difference in slides! My dad always told me to be careful and not bend the slide on the Samson. Being a kid, I did what he said without knowing much. I look at the Samson’s slide now and it would take a hell of a lot of force to bend that slide!
I greased everything with Super Lube grease. I use it a lot now because it doesn’t dry out fast and has fine particles of PTFE in it to help with lubrication. I kid you not, I coated threads, surfaces, everything!
Boy did it turn smoothly on the base!
It looks and feels like new – with some character marks of course. She is around 100 years old!
The purplish tinge is the Super Lube grease. I literally coated all sliding surfaces to try and get stuff coated. I then wiped it down after this photo. Note that it also shows at the back that the vise is not perfectly concentric. It’s still tight but not perfectly centered on the base – my guess is that it never was. We’re talking being off center by about a 1/16th of an inch or less.
Here’s the locking nut with the finished 3/8″ bolt that serves as the new sliding handle. I applied blue LocTite to the nut to secure it. Note that I can turn the vise and use it from either direction on the bench. Right now it is rotated away from the side of the bench where I primarily plan to use it.
From McMaster I ordered 3.5″ copper Wilton jaw pad covers. My 4″ Wilton has original brass covers that are beefier but these copper units will work.
So you put the pads in your vise and then tap down the surfaces including the small ears on the left and right sides. The Samson is asymmetrical so I labeled the front pad so when I remove them I don’t have to fumble around figuring out which pad goes to the front and which to the back.
I also bought some Mission Automotive plastic pads that are held in place by strong magnets. These come in handy for delicate surfaces.

Conclusion

So the vise is back in use. Every time I use it, I feel good about it and hope my dad approves.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Acid Etching With Ferric Chloride and Apple Cider Vinegar – Wicked Results on High Carbon Steel

I recently did two posts about building a new heated tank out of PVC pipe and a digitally controlled heating element that is both effective and affordable. This also marked my first batch of blades where I moved from my traditional hot apple cider etching to using a mix of 70% ferric chloride and 30% apple cider vinegar heated to 90-94F.

The Chemicals

Let me give you a quick overview of the two chemicals I used to make my blade etching solution:

The primary ingredient is liquid ferric chloride from MG Chemicals. It’s available in quarts and gallons and is about 38-42% ferric chloride by volume. The MG Chemicals product is well regarded and that played a big factor in my selecting it. I purchased mine from Amazon and it arrived quickly and well packed.

The second chemical is regular apple cider vinegar from the grocery store. They tend to be normalized around 5% acetic acid by volume. The brand I used was at 5% and there were other brands at 4% that I passed over – go for 5% because you need the acetic acid. I literally bought this at my local grocery store – nothing special.

The solution I made was 70% of the ferric chloride and 30% apple cider vinegar. I wore lab goggles, nitrile gloves, old clothes and am in a well ventilated area when I slowly add the ferric chloride to the relatively weaker apple cider vinegar.

The ratio was based on looking at the end results from other blade smiths and talking about what they learned. In my case, I can tell you that this combination makes for a very nice dark etch.

The Process

  1. Heat the etching solution up to 90-94F before I put in the first blade. MG Chemicals recommends the operating range from 94F to 131F and not to exeed 131F. [Click here for their technical data sheet and MSDS]
  2. The blades need to be at least 70F prior to dunking in the solution. The warmer the solution and blade, the better chemical reaction you are going to have.
  3. Clean the blade with brake cleaner throughly
  4. Abrasive blast the blade – I am using Black Beauty these days. It is a coarse coal slag based product. Note, not all guys blast their blades – some just clean them very carefully.
  5. From this point on, wear nitrile gloves when handling the blades to avoid any oils and contaminants from your skin
  6. I again use brake cleaner to do a final cleaning and make sure it fully evaporates. Some guys rub down with acetone – do what works for you but it must not leave a residue
  7. Fully submerged the blade in the heated etching solution for 10 minutes
  8. Remove the blade and wipe off the remaining solution with a paper towel [as a reminder, you must be wearing gloves to not contaminate the blade]
  9. Used clean/bare 0000 steel wool to buff the surface of the blade and remove any loose particles. Note, this 0000 steel wool is bare wool – no cleaners or anything. You find these in woodworking / hardware sections of stores – not in the kitchen area.
  10. Submerge the blade for another 5 minutes and again wiped and rubbed the blade down with steel wool. I think I repeated this process three times per blade but experiment and see what works for you.
  11. Soak the blade in warm water with baking soda to neutralize the acid
  12. Spray the blade down with WD-40 to displace the water
  13. Apply finish – I like to use a 50-50 mix of boiled linseed oil and turpentine to apply severa thin coats. This gives my blades the worn post-apocalypse look. Many guys just coat the acid etched surface with oil to inhibit rust.
Here’s a small 5″ khukuri where all steel surfaces have been blasted.
Here’s the finished khukuri just before I mailed it to its new owner.
Here’s a look at the solution in the tank.
Here is one of the etched damascus blades. The beads on the blade are oil.
Here’s an even closer look at the finished blade.

Summary

I’m definitely very happy with the results and will be using this solution going forward.


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How to Make An Affordable and Effective Heated Tank For Acid Etching – Part 1

I like to acid etch blades that I build using apple cider and/or ferric chloride. I also manganese park firearms and tools. Assuming the part is prepped properly, there are two common needs in all of the above – the part must be submerged and the solution heated. So you have two options, buy a stainless tank and heat source or build one using PVC pipe. These next couple of posts are going to dive into how you can build an affordable and very effective heated tank to finish you parts plus have some fun doing it.

PVC or CPVC?

We can use rigid PVC pipe as the container to hold the etching solution. It’s cheap, easy to find and easy to work with. I need to explain a few things first about what we can and can’t do with it.

In plumbing, rigid PVC pipe has an operating temperature of 140F degrees. The reason for this is that PVC is a thermoplastic and begins to soften with heat and will burst due to the pressurized water. We don’t have much pressure to worry about other than atmospheric pressure but you don’t want to push plain PVC towards 200F – it really isn’t designed for it.

If you want to do parkerizing at 190F, then you need to use CPVC pipe. CPVC rigid pipe has extra chlorination that allows it to withstand 200F while delivering water under normal household pressures. Fun trivia, CPVC was invented by Genova Products in Michigan.

If you are trying to figure out what you are looking at, if the pipe is white, it is probably PVC. If it is cream colored, it is probably CPVC. It ought to be labeled/printed on the side of the pipe also but be on guard for people putting stuff in the wrong bins at a store or clerks not knowing what is what.

In this post, I am working with regular PVC purchased from my local Ace Hardware because the tank is for acid etching knives and will the liquid will be 90-110F on average. If I ever build one for parkerizing, it would be in CPVC. The reason it’s an “if” is that I already have a big stainless steel parkerizing tank but it’s a headache to drag out and set up whenI need it.

The Parts List

Basically, we are going to build a tube with a cemented permanent cap on the bottom and a threaded cap at the top. You can go with any size you want. For most blades I work with, 3″ is plenty and I wanted it to be portable.

Let me give you a piece of advice – it’s aways better to be a little bigger than you think you need than to find that out later. When in doubt, make it wider and taller — within reason of course. Note, I knew a 3″ diameter and about 16″ tall would meet most of my needs but not all and I was fine with that. I’ll pull out my four foot stainless tank when I need to do something huge like a cleaver.

In terms of parts, you need the following:

  • A length of pipe of the diameter that is needed
  • A coupling for that size
  • A threaded adapter for that size – you cement it onto the end of the pipe and it gives you a national pipe thread on the other end
  • A threaded plug that fits into the adapter
  • An end cap of one type or another. If you use 3″ or 4″ pipe, you can use a toilet flange adapter to actually both plug the end and allow you to connect it to the wood if you aren’t making it very tall. I would be worried about torque on a tank with an overall length of 24″ or more. In those cases I would cement on a normal end cap and build up a crade around the pipe to support it.
  • You may want a drain for a big tank – I didn’t need one for this little unit because I can easily lift it even when it is full of the acid etching solution.
  • PVC cleaner and cement (note, PVC and CPVC use different cement)
  • Wood to form a base to keep the pipe from tipping over so it needs to be both wide and heavy enough. Really it’s up to you as to how you secure it to be vertical. I like a mobile base but you could tie it to something, etc.
  • A heating source and controller – we’ll get into more detail in the next post.

Weight Considerations and a Drain

Bear in mind that this tank can get pretty heavy if you plan on using really big piple (6″ or bigger). Water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon. You will find that other liquids can weigh more. Apple cider vinegar may be around 8.6 pounds and ferric chloride might weigh 10-12 pounds per gallon depending on the concentration.

I bring the weight up because if you are thinking of building a big tank, the weight is going to add up and you may want to install a drain near the base. There are two big reasons you need to think about this – you may want to move the unit around plus you will need to change the solution as it ages and breaks down from use.

This is my 3″ tank I just built. The toilet flange us availab;e for 3″ and 4″ pipe and is handy for smaller tanks. I’d build a cradle/surrounding frame to support a bigger tank.

The pictured tank is about 16″ tall with 3″ pipe and has about a gallon of 70% ferric chloride and 30% apple cider vinegar in it. I can move it around very easily and portability was one of my design goals.

Assembling The Pipe

PVC is really easy to work with. You cut the pipe to the length you want or have the store do it for you. I use a big miter saw for stuff like this to get nice square ends and use an airline to blow all the loose plastic out (wear safety glasses).

To “glue” the pipe together, you first prime the surfaces and then apply the cement. Note, PVC and CPVC use the same primer but different cement. In this case,I use Oatey’s purple primer and clear cement. Read the directions on their box just to make sure. Bear in mind the solvent is really thin and is going to run everywhere – especially in cold weather.

I’m a creature of habit. I’ve had very good luck with Oatey products so I stick with them. There are other brands out there such as Ace’s own private labled stuff, but I stick with Oatey to avoid surprises. When following their directions and using their products, I’ve not had a joint fail/leak yet,

The Base

To make the tank stable, you need a big enough base both in terms of area and weight. I had some old 1×12 stock that I chopped into squares and stacked if four deep for weight. You can do whatever you want and your goal is stability, however you get it.

I centered the flange on the first board and screwed it in. I’m not sure I would trust the flange to handle the potential torque of a long pipe. For me, once I get around 24″ overall, I am going to build a cradle and not subject that flange to a ton of stress.
I then applied epoxy and clamped the layers together. I was kind of experimenting as I went. Just one piece of wood wasn’t heavy enough so I then added the additional layers after. I could have glued the base and then used longer screws to secure the flange had I known more up front. I wound up with four layers of wood in the end.

I have another tank that is full of a boiled linseed oil an turpentine mix that I use for hydrating wood handles in khukuris and cleavers that I restore. It has a rounded end bap on the bottom and the base is more like a heavy cradle made up fo 2×4 lumber that gives it weight and then goes up the sides to provide support.

This is a 4″ pipe with a wood scaffold base. It’s very stable. This is a tankI use for moisturizing and treating long wood hanndles.

Summary

That’s it for now. In the next post we are going to talk about heating the tank. This is where I did the most experimenting and can share some ideas with you.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


How to Make An Affordable and Effective Heated Tank For Acid Etching – Part 2

In the last post, I covered the basic construction of the tank. In this post I want to talk about heating the tank. Thanks to mass production of digital temperature switches, you can build a digitally controlled heated tank for a very reasonable price.

Why Does Heat Matter?

In case you are wondering, heating the solution does matter. Years ago, in 1889, a chemist by the name of Svante Arrhenius proposed an equation that would later bear his name. Basically, a chemical reaction increases as the level of activation energy increases. The reason temperature enters in as that you are raising the energy in the liquid, more energetic particles are bouncing around and increasing the volume of reactions which means that more successful reactions will occur as well. We can use a rule of thumb that for each 10C increase in temperature, the reaction rate will double and for each 10C drop, it will be cut in half. To sum it up, cold=bad for chemical reactions. As a side note, this is also why marginal batteries fail when cold weather hits.

So what this means to acid etching is that in my cold unheated shop in the Winter, reactions are going to be real, real slow. Thus, I must have a way to heat the chemical and the submerged part to improve the reaction.

The Heating Element For The Tank

The first thing I wanted to do was to keep the cost down and the second was that I didn’t want something that would get so hot that it would melt the PVC. I had a 30 foot length of roof heating tape from when we cleaned out my dad’s garage that I had been thinking about for a while. It always makes me feel good when I use something that was my dad’s.

These roof heating cables use AC voltage to warm up and melt ice are readily availble and are designed not to get so hot that they melt the shingles but also are designed to be spread out and not right next to each other so I was going to need to test the design. I planned to wrap the tape from the bottom of the tank until I ran out cable with each coil right against the previous. I was counting on convection of move warmer fluid up and cooler fluid down but I wasn’t really sure how it would sort out.

Another nice things about these heating cables, or heating tapes, is that they do not use a lot of electricity. The 30 foot model my dad had was spec’d to draw only 150 watts at 12 volts. That makes for a nice portable unit that you can run off just about any extension cord.

So, step one, I applied the tape to the empty tank and secured it just with 3M 3340 aluminum HVAC tape. This is the tape made for higher temperatures with an aluminum foil backing – it’s not dcut tape. I then watched the temperature with my Fluke 62 Max IR thermometer. You need an accurate thermometer and the Fluke has served me very well – it’s proved itself to be accurate, reliable and durable – it’s been bounched around a lot in my shop.

So, the temperature slowly climbed but made it all the way up to 170F before I shut it down. The PVC still felt pretty good but it was way hotter than what I wanted. Just plugging the tape in and calling it done was not the answer. Sure it would heat the liquid up fast but I couldn’t safey leave it unattended. I needed something to control the temperature but use the heat tape.

Please note that there are pipe heaters that are a different creature. Some of them need to be submerged in water or wrapped around a steel pipe. Do not use those types of heaters. There are a ton of different names buy you are looking for the cable or tape that is put on roofs to melt ice dams, etc.

Solution – Use A Digital Temperature Controller

I thought I knew the switch I was going to buy until I did some further research. Some controllers are very easy to set up and others seem a bit more confusing. I opted for the WILLHI WH1436A Temperature Controller 110V Digital Thermostat Switch. All you do set set the temperature for ON and the temperature for OFF. That’s it. If you want them, there are some more advanced settings that you can explore if you want but this seemed like just what I needed.

I undid the top few coils of the heat tape and rewound them with the temperature probe wrapped in them. I then used aluminum HVAC tape to secure the top. I set ON to 90F and Off at 95F and plugged the roofing tape into the controller.

I inserted the temperature probe a few coils down and secured the top with 3M Aluminum HVACtape. Note the small cable clamp screwed into the wood base securing the bottom of the heater tape and preventing it from unwinding.

I started watching with the Fluke meter and since the temperature based on the probe was 40.2F, the controller turned on power to the switch and the tape heated. It did cut power around 95F but the tape continued to warm up even so by about 10F so the peak temperature was between 103-105F according to the Fluke. This was actually within my acceptable range. I was just ballparking 90F but even 105F was fine by me.

The digital controller works well. I’m going to leave it loose some I can move it around depending on what I am working on and were.

There was one minor hitch I noticed during experiments – the controlled heat took over an hour to warm up the fluid. If I unplugged the tape from the controller and plugged the tape straight into AC power, the fluid heated way faster and the pipe never felt soft – probably because the tape was heating part of it and the acid was cooling it. This was the fastest way but risky because if you forget, it’s going to get quite hot. I let the fluid get up to 160F during one run and decided that I would only do this if I was in a big rush and going to be there working the whole time. If I wanted to play it safe, letting the controller keep things safe was a better bet. I could have also sped things up by setting the OFF temperature higher, say at 110F and that’s something I will experiment more with.

The temperature controlled tank worked out great on these high carbon steel damascus blades.

Operating Temperature Range

Do not heat ferric chloride past 131F. Remember that the heating element will still heat the chemical another 10 degrees or so past the upper limit you set as OFF.

The operating temperature range from MG Chemical is 95-131F. Based on my results, I don’t see a need to push the upper limit.

Click here both for their technical sheet and MSDS sheet,

Conclusion

I had about $30 in the PVC and fresh glue, nothing for the base, the controller was $29.99 and the roof heat tape was free but if you bought it, the price would be around $30. This definitely falls in the affordable category plus I turned out some really cool etched damasus blades using the controlled tank. If you want to know a bit more about the chemicals and my process, click here.

When I was done, I let the tank cool down, screwed on the lid, cleaned things up, coiled the cords up and stored the tank for the next use.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.