Mangle restoration part 1: removing rust

When we moved into our new home last year, we found that the previous owners had left an old mangle in the cellar. “Cool!”, we said, “What a lovely antique to have left behind”. It soon became apparent that it had been left because it is both filthy and really heavy (it’s made of cast iron).

Given that the mangle is probably of a similar age to the house (100+ years old), I feel that they belong together. I’ve therefore decided to restore it, such that it can become a feature in our garden. This restoration has some ground rules:

  1. Be as cheap as possible
  2. Replace as few parts as possible
  3. Be fun and/or educational

The design is pretty cool. By lifting a latch, the mechanism can be pivoted 180° downwards (which disengages the drive). A wooden top can then be swung down to allow the mangle to be used as a small table. Whilst investigating this mechanism I discovered a nasty crack in the iron on one side. I’ve no idea what I’m going to do about that yet.

Disassembly

In the current technological era in which glue, security screws, and brittle plastic clips dominate, it was refreshing to be able to begin dismantling the mangle with nothing more than some adjustable spanners and grips. The first set of parts I’ve removed have required nothing more than leverage to overcome to rusted bolts, so hopefully that will be true for the rest of it (if not I have some WD-40 handy…).

Mangle pieces

Rust removal with vinegar

Long ago the mangle used to be a rather lovely shade of green, and I’m planning to return it to that state with Hammerite dark green paint, which gives a lovely finish but also protects the metal. Whilst Hammerite can be applied straight on top of rust, I expect I’ll get a better finish if I remove as much of it as possible.

Searching for ‘remove rust’ on the web gives lots of options, from lasers and special (and expensive) chemical removers through to methods that use stuff that you’re likely to have in your kitchen. I chose to explore the latter option, specifically using white vinegar as suggested in the Lifehacker article “6 Ways To Remove Rust From Just About Anything”.

I put the test pieces in a plastic container, covered them in white vinegar, and left them for 24 hours. After that time it was clear that something has happened; the vinegar was now a murky brown and there was foam on the surface (chemistry in action). The pieces themselves didn’t look too different… until I gave them a scrub with a wire brush, which easily removed all the rust and paint remnants, leaving the bare metal. Brilliant! For the smaller parts I found that wire wool was easier to use.

I rinsed the parts in clean water to remove any remaining vinegar, then put the parts in the oven to remove any moisture (120°C for about 20 minutes). This last step is critical, as the clean iron begins to rust again almost immediately! The photograph below shows the final result. Whilst some rust has returned, it’s minor and will be easy to remove with some wire wool prior to painting.

Brushed and dried pieces
Brushed and dried pieces

Immersion in vinegar won’t be practical for the larger pieces of the mangle – I’ll be trying some other methods for those – but for small parts it seems to do the trick.

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