Evapo-Rust Problem & Staining

Hi! I’ve been cleaning up an Asbern ADR-1 and had read of people using Evapo-Rust to great results. On the press bed, they’d soaked paper towels, covered them with plastic wrap, and left it to sit overnight.

When I tried that, it severely tarnished or etched…really not sure which my press bed (see photo below- you can actually see the impression of the paper towel texture). I tried re-applying for a shorter time and cleaning up, but the tarnish remains on the bed- even after using WD-40 with a brillo pad and then fine steel wool. When that didn’t work, I tried Brasso to polish it off, but am stuck with a press bed in worse shape than before using the Evapo-Rust.

Any ideas on how to remove the tarnish or etching, whichever it might be, would be greatly appreciated.

And finally, I removed the feed board to refinish it. Any ideas on a good stain or varnish to use would be appreciated. I have some Teak oil, but imagine that’s not going to be the best option- I’m assuming some of the oil could transfer to the paper when feeding. I’d like to match the original finish, but don’t know anything about wood work.

Thank you in advance for your help!

image: evapo-rust-stains.jpg


image: feed-board-stain.jpg


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I have never tried Evapo rust. If it is a cleaner and a polish you probably have tarnish/oxidation under the polish. Here are a couple of things I have used. Try Purple Cleaner from the auto parts store (Will remove paint from iron). Lemon juice mixed with baking soda should also work. May need to sit a bit though.There is a brown bottle of rust remover sometimes available at a grocery store or hardware store. If that doesn’t work try a car care product.

With these things once you get the tarnish off you will need to polish the metal right away. A can of Never Dull wadding is great to polish and clean. And will last a long time.

The only time you need to soak something overnight is if you have a really really heavy gunk and rust issue or trying to remove paint.

From what I have seen your before picture was really good. The old steel doesn’t really get like new.

Good Luck!

Evapo-Rust is a chelating agent. It removes rust by encouraging the rust particles to break their bonds and bond instead to the particles in the solution. If you leave the solution on until it dries I could imagine that these clusters will again bond themselves to the metal surface you had set out to remove them from.

Try soaking again in the Evapo-Rust and using a 3M pad to scrub away what remains- I suspect these deposits will lift away and back into the solution. Then make sure to get all the Evapo-Rust off and lightly oil the bed to keep it from corroding further.

Looking at your before photo I can’t help but wonder why you used it to begin with- it might just be the photo, but it looks pretty good!

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Hi Brett,

I think Dan’s right. Ideally the rusty item should be placed in a container and covered in an Evapo-Rust bath. The towel-and-plastic method also works if you keep the towel soupy enough so that the rust, once extracted from the metal, has somewhere to go. If you use a towel with a textured design, the Evapo-Rust might not make contact with the metal evenly since the design has recessed areas that will not be in contact with the metal the same way that the un-recessed areas are. So if you decide to use Evapo-Rust in this way again, use a non-textured towel or cloth and keep it as drenched as possible.

When all the rust has migrated into the Evapo-Rust, you can wring out the towel and reuse the Evapo-Rust. I’m amazed at how much rust the Evapo-Rust can “absorb.” You can make it last even longer if you give the item a quick brush to remove surface rust before soaking the item.


Without a doubt, the wood should first be sealed and tinted with orange shellac because
1) it is authentic
2) easy to use
3) reversible
4) dries quickly.
Shellac is a natural product, but the shellac you buy is thinned with alcohol, and should not be ingested (see label warnings).

For thousands of years, the most practical and most common method of sealing wood was to use shellac.

After the shellac was applied and dried, lacquer or varnish was applied for durability and to make the surface more waterproof.

You can use varnish, spray lacquer or just about any top-coating over the shellac, after you rub the surface of the shellac with, say 220 grit sandpaper. I generally use Varathane Diamond Hard water-base (more enviro-friendly) finish and apply at least 3 thin coats using a soft towel. Some prefer to use Wipe-On Polyurethane.

You can buy a “3 pound cut” of orange shellac in a small can at most stores that sell paint. Try it first on a sample of wood that you don’t really care about. You can apply several coats until you get the color that matches your photo. Shellac coloration deepens with each application.

You can apply shellac with a rag or a natural 2” “chip” brush. I put some shellac AND the brush into a quart-sized jar and re-use the brush for quick touch-ups. Or, buy a quart of shellac thinner (ethanol alcohol poisoned “on-purpose” to prevent un-taxed alcohol consumption) and clean the brush with the shellac thinner. The thinner should also be used to dilute the shellac for the first coat on fresh wood (not your situation) so that it penetrates more deeply into fresh-new wood.

ps I agree with the comments about the Evapo-Rust. I use it, but would not have used it if the metal looked as good as it does in the photo. Also, the metal you treated is cast iron and it is not steel. Cast iron and steel react differently to Evapo-Rust (see instructions). Most of the pieces of old printing presses are cast iron and cast iron will crack and break if hit with a hammer (think of ceramic dishes, hard and strong but they will break). A broken iron part of an old printing press will spoil your enthusiasm for the project.

Thank you Dan, Barb and Courtney and pt5, I really appreciate the advice and will let you know how it all works out.

I’m definitely kicking myself for trying to get that last little bit of rust off the press- but at least it’s just a cosmetic issue at this point.

I’ll be sure to keep the hammer away from the press, and the shellac out of the wine cellar, thanks Point Five ;)


The idea of using Evapo-Rust via the towel method is certainly not that of the manufacturer. Sometimes it pays to read the instructions and question the amateur online advice.


Hi Gerald and all,

While alternate methods of using Evapo-Rust are not in “the instructions,” they are supported on the website. Here’s how one customer used a spray bottle:



I’ve used a paint brush to apply in the past worked well
let it sit for a hour and whip with water…..follow with light oil to impede further rust

Hi Barbara

Yeah, the fellow was working on his car frame far as I can tell. Kind of into car work myself. But Lordy, yeah, re-invent however you want and can. Yeah. Do it. I’m all for it. The less functional presses and equipment left the better for those who have taken care of theirs.


Dear Gerald,

The reason I use Evapo-Rust on letterpress things is precisely because I want to take good care of them. Since Evapo-Rust extracts only the oxide and leaves the metal intact, I feel my derusted items are closer to their original state than if I used an acid such as lemon juice (citric), vinegar (acetic) or god-forbid Naval Jelly (phosphoric), which are commonly recommended.


P. S. I think you’re supposed to put “/s” after sarcastic remarks that someone might interpret as genuine.

Not all presses are as nice as yours when they’re found. This particular press I fixed up for The Pratt Institute was in a horrible state (left outdoors for years before being donated to the school), but it is now back in service and printing well. Thanks to the chelation process I didn’t have to use any harsh abrasives. Amazingly, you can see the original factory milling marks in the bed.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

image: 4beforeafter1.jpg

That is one impressive restoration, Daniel…

Any chance there are more photos and details of the process?



“supposed to’? I thought this discussion list was anti “supposed to”?

I use Evapo-Rust, Rust Bomb, Rust Bandit, and CP90 all the time. GREAT products. I just use them the way they are recommended. Naval Jelly, by the way, does do the job, at least as it is intended to be used.


Yeah, I tend to avoid presses like this, mainly because I am less interested in the press than in what it can do. Great job.


I have a Challenge paper cutter with a few very shallow rust issues. See pics. Is this something I should try to remove with Evapo-Rust then coat with rust bandit? Or scrub away with a scotchbrite pad and some wd-40? Or not worry about it and just keep the bed clean?

Some of the comments regarding removing rust always follow with painting or otherwise coating, but I don’t want to paint that surface and worry about coating with oil or otherwise because I want it clean for paper. Does Rust Bandit dry completely so as to not leave any tackiness?

Or should I keep it coated with WD-40 to avoid rust and wipe it down with mineral spirits and dry before printing, then keep it coated with WD-40 between uses?

any thoughts/suggestions?

image: tn_168.jpg


image: tn_167.jpg


My cutter was in a very bad fire, i cleaned my bed for weeks, i still have rust spots, i just wax the bed, it keeps more rust from forming and it makes the stock slide with ease on the bed.Dick G.

what do you use in particular? I’ve never waxed anything!


Use Naval Jelly and an ink knife to remove the rust (Rust Bomb is not longer available). Clean off with water. Let dry. Coat with Rust Bandit. Let dry. Coat with Lemon Pledge. Works.



Widmark, i wax my cutter bed with bowling alley wax, about any wax will work, car wax, lemon pledge, when i’m lazy i spray a shot of silicone on the bed, boy does that make the stock slide easy. Dick G.