Vinegar, when used properly, can be a great cleaner for the long term effects of a wet forest-canyon floor on metal. Decades ago, I learned a hard lesson when using vinegar to clean a set of rare, vintage motorcycle spokes. In the hectic pace of my agricultural and fatherly pursuits, I forgot about them for a month. I had set them aside where young children couldn’t get into a serious situation so when I finally remembered, they were no more. Spoke mush. Ever the lucky fool, I had a second set to fall back on.
The cleaning of my precious treasure trove revealed that Mathew Roderick’s enameled tin cup had a trace of blue on the finger loop. The wheel barrow frame had a coat of black paint much of which still looks good for the age and conditions. The small hatchet has a dark colour along the edge that I’m thinking might have been from a tempering process. And the two handles for the felling saw cleaned up appreciably well releasing accumulated rust, rocks and sand. One piece still held the hardwood handle – how’s that for a test on the quality of hardwood for a handle? With the debris removed I could also see how the handles were held in place. A small pin had been driven through the metal frame into the wood.
While the mining shovel had little enough rust covering the stamped lettering, the mining pick fared worse over the years and initially no stamped lettering could be found. But with the rust cleaned off, the name OLIVER was revealed. I’m guessing there was a foundry somewhere with that name.
In places where there had been no paint, the metal began to rust quickly after the cleaning. I developed a method of saturating the pieces with WD-40, that wonderful protective product familiar to many. Most of the pieces absorbed a lot of the protective coating over several days. Rubbing away the excess showed the method worked well. They are all in better condition than they were after being buried for 123 years.