Friday, September 12, 2008

Super Electrolysis Tank - Winter is coming

While my old electrolysis tank got the job done it was quite slow. I think the main problem was the anode (a small bbq grill) getting corroded badly. No amount of wire brushing seemed to restore the performance of the tank.

After reading about some of the hotrod setups the guys on the Wagner and Griswold Society page built I decided I'd follow suit and take the plunge on a serious charger and surround my cast iron with an anode with some real surface area. I can now set the new charger on a 40 amp continuous current which completely thrashes my old setup. (6 amps)

I have a lot of iron yet to be cleaned. (A little known fact about old black iron cookware is it multiplies like rabbits so keep your iron separated) Since the snow flies early at nearly 8000 feet (and Black Iron Chick wants her side of the garage back) I figured I needed to get the cleaning done before winter so a serious performance boost was in order.

Original article found >HERE


Anonymous said...

If you don't mind the smoke, ventilate well of course, I set the oven to self-clean mode with the cast iron in the oven and let the heat do the work. All and I mean all of the old gunk as well as all of the old seasoned stuff will end up as powder on the bottom of the oven. The pan will be completely bare cast iron after this process.

Greg said...

From what I've read self-cleaning ovens can vary in temp and duration of the self cleaning cycle. Some people report warping or cracking of old valuable pieces by doing this.

I save the electrolysis tank for pieces that are valuable $.

I have used the self cleaning oven method on modern Lodge pieces because I can always go buy another. It works very well in my oven.

James Denison said...

You might try a method I've used on cleaning internal engine parts while avoiding solvents. Oxygen is what rusts iron. I put the item in an old tub, pour boiling water over it till completely covered, let cool a bit, then add some vinegar and dishsoap (Joy, Sunlight). After cooling a bit more I float a plastic bag or a cut piece of plastic film on the surface of the water, a little bigger than the bucket, so no air can reenter the water. I've left things like this for weeks with no problem, come back and all that's needed is some soft, light brushing of what is soft gunk. No rust since no oxygen left in the water, but the detergent breaks down eventually and leaves a greenish covering, probably a sulfate, which brushes off with the crud.

ryanaslett said...

Make sure that the sacrificial anode is *not* stainless steel in an electrolosys set up.
Im quoting this from here:

"The stainless breaks down and releases chromium into the liquid electrolyte and a gas can be released (in the form of the compound hexavalent chromium) in the mist directly above the bath. Studies have shown that repeated and long term exposure to the liquid increase the risk of skin problems and repeated, long term inhalation of fumes increase the risk of lung cancer. For the most part, the users of this process are not exposed to levels that should cause immmediate concern. The studies have been performed on those who do this as a daily job over a long period. It is probably best not to use stainless material but if it is used, wear protective gloves when working in the liquid and adequate vetilation and/or breathing protection should be used."

ryanaslett said...

Also from

A word to the wise, slower is better. Trying to clean anything fast and without care and attention may result in badly pitted and damaged items. Using high current and a large positive electrode eats away at steel (and anything metallic) in a non-uniform and aggressive manner leaving pits that may be worse than what rust did to it.

Greg said...

Ryan - Thanks for the reminder about the stainless anode. I read about the problems with them but forgot to edit my post.

Re: speed, the rust and old seasoning are relatively soft and come off quick enough that you'd have to be very forgetful to lose any surface material.

BigIron said...

Hi Black Iron Guy,

What did you say that you used for your anode in this set up?


Greg said...

I just use plain old Rebar now.

It is cheap and lasts long enough.

Anonymous said...

How often do you add more washing soda? Just when you dump the water or after several uses?


Greg said...

After several uses I'll throw in another handful.

Greg said...

After several uses I'll throw in another handful.

Cali Girl said...

Great article! I'm going to put together a tank as I have several skillets to restore and I have most of the parts already. Question about the metal used for the anode. Would soda cans work, if I found a way to bundle a group of them together? In your 2nd tank, it looks like that might be sheet metal for duct work? The metal for the tank is the last piece I need to get started with the tank. Thanks for the article - can't wait to get it going!

smiley said...

Man, now I feel like a piker. is the setup I'm using now with about 4.5 amps

Which I thought was a huge step up from about 2 amps.

Time to start some battery charger price comparisons.