finishes to steel plate
June 3, 2010 6:46 AM   Subscribe

I have several projects (furniture, doors) using steel. Painting them does not interest me; I like rougher, more transparent finishes. In the past, I have used clear varnish to protect against rust. Am looking for new ideas. Wax? Has anyone tried grinding and finishing?
posted by ebesan to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
A few options in no particular order:

1) very very thin mix of linseed oil, applied in multiple layers with a lint-free rag. Beware spontaneous rag fires. If the steel is already rusted (brush off loose rust first), you'll usually end up with a neat almost leathery look (especially if you use weathering steel and let it weather first)

2) "burned wax" technique. Get a torch, heat the steel so it'll boil water, then rub on beeswax or similar. Wave torch over the surface again to even things out a bit. When cold, buff with a rag. This won't work for pieces that'll live outside.

3) old-fashioned method: take used motor oil. Apply to metal. Set on fire.

4) Fish oil
posted by aramaic at 6:59 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Clear powdercoat looks great on bare metal, and does a great job preventing rust--it resists rust well enough that it can be used on (non-stainless) steel bike frames in lieu of paint. This is, in fact, really the only place I've seen it used on bare metal.

However, this will only work for stuff you can practically powdercoat, that is, fit in a powdercoating oven.
posted by pullayup at 8:49 AM on June 3, 2010

Here's an example, and another.
posted by pullayup at 8:55 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

fish oil? what do you mean?
how do you set a piece of steel on fire? a torch?
what if you use Corten steel? (before or after it rusts)
posted by ebesan at 3:34 PM on June 3, 2010

Fish oil: old-timey rust protectors are just fish oil -- the original Rustoleum, for example. You can still get it at "serious" hardware stores; two larger brands are Septone & Mako, but there are others. Weirdly popular in Australia, for reasons which are not clear to me (lots of cheap fish, I guess?)

Setting things on fire: basically, coat the steel with the used motor oil, and then light the oil on fire with a torch or the like. This technique may result in weird colorations (which is why some folks like it).

Cor-Ten: this is a brand name for weathering steel (sorta like "Kleenex" being a brand name for facial tissues), not a type of material per se. Actual material specs are ASTM A588, A847, A606 and A242, depending on application (there are others, for specific applications, but these are the main ones).

Weathering steel is a tricky thing; first, for optimum results it should be blast-cleaned prior to being exposed to weather. Oils left over from manufacturing will otherwise result in an uneven surface finish. Second, weathering steel will rust like normal steel at first (leaving rusty runoff everywhere) until the tightly-adherent protective oxide layer can form -- but it will always continue to produce rusty runoff in *some* quantity when exposed to water. It still rusts, it just rusts very very slowly.
posted by aramaic at 4:41 PM on June 3, 2010

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