Rust Prevention

I have been reading up on rust prevention and one name that comes up over and over is Ballistol. Apart from keeping Prussian guns clean and rust free, there are those who use it on leather, wood, goats, people, old records, and planes.

Here are a few links:
Woodnet discussion on Ballistol.

The Story (or legend) of Ballistol

Side by side rust experiment

Leather Treatment

The claims are well into the philosophers stone category, and apparently anyone who uses it becomes a fanatic ballistol zombie. I have j a rather large container, so if I become a fanatic ballistol zombie, you know that my theory is true.

have read a few gun forum posts where they like Renaissance Wax for the outsides of guns and Ballistol for the insides and moving parts.

Has anyone developed a preference or opinion on Microcrystalline Waxes? Lee Valley sells this for a bit less.

Microcrystalline wax is a fairly broad range of materials so I started looking for what conservators like to specify. As a result I found This Cosmolloid 80 H. So far, gram for gram, this is the least expensive, but then you don’t get the pretty can. I am not underrating the can here, it looks good on your shelf and will probably last there for a very long time.

I have managed to use up my tiny tin of Renaissance Wax through excessive use and having the tin at an angle in my greenhouse/shop on a hot day. Apparently I am a poor conservator of conservator materials.

Unless someone else has experience or knowledge with these materials, I may have to break down and get some of each just to do a side by side test of rust preventative materials.

My thought is that spending a bit up front learning what works best will in the long term save money and time on clean up of rust, and protecting tools.

I have a bit of a preference for other waxes for protecting tools than Renaissance Wax on tools that I regularly use, but that may be because it gets quite hot in Texas, and the tools I use regularly are not kept at anything like a controlled temperature. The low melting point on microcrystalline wax may make it a less ideal treatment in warmer areas. It does do a great job on tools stored in a more controlled environment, but then I have less problems with rust on tools kept inside. I have not done a side by side test, this is just from personal experience.

When it gets hot and humid, rust forms easily. I suspect that I will end up treating my tools with Oxpho-Blue followed by ballistol, unless some form of microcrystalline wax does better. I have a Camphor Block in several of my tool boxes, but I have no idea how well it works, but I do like the smell. The link mentions an aromatic taste, but a 1 oz dose has killed children before, so I don’t advise eating the stuff or using it where young critters might get their paws on it.

I have been using ballistol for a little while now, and here is my data.

The smell is a bit off from licorice. It smells kind of like the liquor Anisette or maybe Galliano. It does not even vaguely remind me of old socks. That being said, it is not a bad smell, more of a discordant smell. It does not seem to belong, and you do notice it.

Because they say, it holds up forever, and because I got a gallon bottle of it, I poured some into a cheap 8 oz bottle .

This has been out in the weather, but not in direct sun. When I used it last, the smell was mostly gone, only a mild fragrance note really. So you can ignore the scent warning if that is an issue, with a bit of time and preparation. The type of bottle I used has a tendency to get scrunchy in the weather. When it is hot, the air expands and the cap lets the air out. When it cools the air contracts so the bottle smushes in. This will allow the release of most volitiles over time, but prevent a lot of oxidation.

So far, I have not seen any rust form under it, and it seems to work well. It is not hard to apply and it penetrates and cleans quite well. I am tempted to try it for sharpening.
Oddly the thicker oil of Camellia penetrates and lubricates better, I think, but does not prevent rust quite as well. Camellia is the best lubricant I have found for door hinges that squeak.

As far as I can tell, I have not turned into a ballistol zombie, but it may take time. I do rather like the stuff, however.


6 comments to Rust Prevention

  • Skip J.

    Well… I have used a variety of phosphoric acid rust cleaners and bluers for the past few years as well as vinegar. And just bought another quart, but will go to Oxpho-Blue next. Have used a variety of waxes and oils for wood and metal and leather products… so one container of Ballistol for all of them sounds good…

    However, one gallon of Ballistol is way more expensive than one gallon of WD-40, so for general cleaning up purposes – should I keep using WD-40 for general cleaning??? It’s too lite for rust prevention anyway….


  • WD 40 is still a good water remover, grunge cleaner and part loosener. Every 16 oz of WD-40 should come with 64 ounces of cleaning solvent to remove the WD-40 after it is used, so that a good protective lubricant can be put on. I try to use WD-40 rarely, since it inevitably means more volatile petrochemical waste. Sometimes to save a machine however I need the stuff. Waste to prevent waste.


  • Skip J.

    I use WD-40 by the gallon as a cleaner,,, I just feel naked without a fresh gallon on-hand. Last week I mowed shortly after a rain and used it to clean the wet mower down after it cooled off. But to be truthful – I use a whole lot more Murphy’s for cleaning than I do WD-40. It cleans wood and metal and leather like a champ. Nobody ever talks about Murphy’s on the forums….


  • Skip J.

    Moving on… I finished rehabbing a #52 shave over the weekend and I needed to wax it. Normally I’d use Johnson’s to get a hard coat on a tool – wood or metal. But I had left just a bit of the “patina” on this one and didn’t clean it all the way down to new grey metal. I thought maybe a more soaked-in softer satin look would retain that image while protecting it during use. Thinking that, I took some of your special handmade wax – which is a bit softer – and rubbed it in. Let it “cure” overnite and polished it in the morning. It looks great! Maybe the expert tool conservators for museums would pay big bucks for that capability???


  • I like this wax on shaves and planes too! I don’t think a conservator would love it much, apart from it’s classic formula.

    Conservators are quite used to mixing their own compounds, because they have learned to distrust external sources. While they might use a mix like this to recreate some items made within the last 200 years, they are quite unlikely to want to introduce this compound to an old artifact. Introducing any drying oil, is likely to be considered ill advised. Partially because of the added potential for chipping, aging and yellowing. Mostly because they prefer acid neutral materials.

    The history of artifact conservation is quite filled with well intended destruction by conservators. Often the horrible mistakes made be conservators don’t show up for years. As a result, conservators tend to be fairly careful about the compounds they use to restore or protect objects. Rarely do they try to return objects to original function. That is what they use reproductions for.

    Conservators are going side with materials that do the least harm, while protecting the most. However the environment that they are protecting from is in a dry cabinet or on a dry shelf.

    If you treat a saddle that you ride on, the way a conservator does, the saddle will not have the protective ingredients soaking in that would help keep a saddle supple, rot resistant, sweat, rain, grunge and wear resistant.

    If however you treat a 500 year old saddle with the stuff you would best use on a riding saddle, you might cause great harm to that saddle.

    I love the wax, safflower oil and turpentine mix for it’s look, feel, and it’s preserving and protecting qualities. But 500 years from now, any curator trying to preserve it, will probably have to compensate for the mix I used.

    Till then however, is does have a wonderful look and feel while protecting wood. It makes a timeless sort of finish, that gives no clue as to the possible age of the item. I love that quality as well.


  • Skip J.

    Well us old tool users won’t pay as much as a conservator. On the other hand, there are a lot of us old tool users who don’t rehab their tools to a like-new finish. I have done – and still do – vinegar, phosphor bluing, electrolysis and am now trying PB Blaster. All of them leave a little residue after cleaning off most of the gunk – just in different ways.

    I like the old-tool look for my old tools; I have no desire to strip down to new metal and paint like new.

    Since you have shown us how to stiffen your old-time formula with CA glue if we want to – I see no reason to use anything else on my tools – old or new. But, stiff flooring wax is common as dirt; you can even get it in colors! I value yours because it offers the soft satin “almost not there” look when wanted. Thanks again!

    I’m completing and finishing my kit plane soon, so that will give me a basis to look at it on a new tool.


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