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Is it time to the refresh the electrolysis tank? (Read 300 times)
Russell Ware
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Is it time to the refresh the electrolysis tank?
Oct 15th, 2017 at 3:38am
 
When it starts to look like creme brulee, itís time to clean and change the tank. I knew I had to change the solution and scrub the steel plate any way, so I saved what is turning out to be a difficult clean for the last run. Iím cleaning a heavily painted, bolt-together tripod stand that also didnít quite fit in my lye bath since it canít be disassembled yet. The nuts and bolts are locked with paint over some rust, so I need to get the paint off before I can try a penetrating oil. This paint is thick. Of course itís just that time when the lye bath needs to be changed too, so not all of the paint is coming off the stand as quickly as I would like. I figured Iíd see what the electro tank would do for the rest of the paint on the stand. What you see is the end result so far. A lot of action, but the results are lacking. Itís back in the lye bath until I can finish cleaning a few other pieces already in-process.
To be continued...
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Lewis Downey
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Re: Is it time to the refresh the electrolysis tank?
Reply #1 - Nov 19th, 2017 at 9:14pm
 
Looking forward follow-up pics of the tripod. It is definitely time to clean the tank!

When it is time to clean the electro, I do the same thing. The last piece in is apt to be difficult to fit in an LB and/or quite a bit nastier than the typical piece that goes in a fresh electro.

A YouTube search for electrolysis and cast iron will visually show that some people use the electrolyte when it is fouled worse. Early on I read somewhere that it really did not matter how nasty the electrolyte became. In my experience, that is not correct. My first electro, made from a stainless steel beer keg, went way too long before being cleaned. It quit working well. Fresh electrolyte and scrubbing the sides helped, but it was fouled beyond by my willingness to repair it. The sides of the tank (the anode to which the red lead attached) were dark brown and extremely challenging to clean.† After a couple of fresh batches of electrolyte and significant scrubbing I retired the tank. Fresh electrolyte and scrubbing helped the performance but not enough to justify keeping the tank in service, especially since a bigger tank was needed anyway. The pic of the beer keg below shows its current and relatively clean state.

Circular anodes are popular around here, but I switched to a plate system partly because the plates are easier to remove and clean. Now I pull and clean the anodes without thinking much about it and prioritize clean electrolyte. When the electrolyte becomes the least bit more than a little bit hazy, it is swapped out for fresh. My next electro is designed to make pulling the anodes all but effortless... if I could find the time and motivation to build it.
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Cheryl Watson
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Re: Is it time to the refresh the electrolysis tank?
Reply #2 - Nov 19th, 2017 at 9:33pm
 
Lewis, you have learned, what I have learned...  Smiley Smiley

I use a lye bath, then electro.... I run a 'clean' system, whether 360į or plate.   I change out electrolyte frequently, every 50 pieces or so, depending on size etc.

On the SS anodes, during change out, Barkeepers Friend is your BEST friend in maintaining and extending the life of your SS anodes.

My plates are laid across two sawhorses, and sprinkled with BKF.. and scrubbed (sponge or SOS pad if needed)... rinsed thoroughly and good to go.

For my barrel, lay on side... sprinkle ... roll... sprinkle, roll...

Now I am small enough, that I can actually fit inside the danged barrel, but..  I also have a scrubberwindow washer, with a telescoping handle .

Scrub well, rinse thoroughly....   

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.... Cool Cool Cool
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cheryl.watson.1291  
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Lewis Downey
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Re: Is it time to the refresh the electrolysis tank?
Reply #3 - Nov 19th, 2017 at 10:46pm
 
Thanks Cheryl. I'll try BKF next change of electrolyte, sometime before Thanksgiving. I generally use dish washing detergent and a SS scrubber, but a little extra oomph from the oxalic acid shouldn't hurt. I've randomly used BKF on the plates in the past but will specifically use it this time around.

On an unrelated note

I am thinking about collecting rainwater for mixing the electrolyte, but that is because of a relatively subtle issue related to chlorides. The Texas A&M Conservation Manual that many of us are fond of suggests that rainwater is preferable to tap water (and less desirable than de-ionized water) for removing chlorides. Chlorides may not be a† problem for most cookware, but in a quest against flash rust, tap water vs rain water is an area I want to explore. I am also thinking about setting up a final rinse or soak in rainwater after the last scrub. Jeff has gently suggested that I might be unnecessarily concerned about flash rust. He may well be right. That said I love it when a clean untreated piece sits in the open for days or weeks and shows no signs of flash rust. In my work space that happens sometimes but not every time. At least rainwater is free.

Speaking of operating costs for electros

For fun, well fun if you're a bean counter like Perry suggested of me once, my current 35-gallon electro goes about two months between changes of electrolyte. For the electrolyte I use a 2% solution of sodium hydroxide at a rounded up cost of seven dollars per batch. In general, the electro processes a pan a day -- meaning it processes around 60 pans per $7 batch for a cost of around $.12 per pan in sodium hydroxide. Electricity is extra and varies from about $.05 to $0.40 cents a day depending on whether I am using a fraction of an amp or a few amps to clean. Usage is measured with a Kill-A-Watt device which the DC power supply plugs into. My power supply usually runs at very low amperage relative to battery chargers. It normally consumes 30 to 40 watts. My back-up power supply often runs at 17 or 18 watts. Using the less efficient power supply $3.50/month in electricity may be enough to cover the cost of near-continuous use and $6 month almost certainly covers it. Altogether, I'm probably spending less than a combined $1.50 to $2.25/week on electricity and electrolyte for an electro operating near continuously. That comes to roughly $0.21 to $0.32/pan. These are rounded figures, but they are in the right ball park.
(Maybe Perry is onto something.)
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Lewis Downey
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Re: Is it time to the refresh the electrolysis tank?
Reply #4 - Nov 20th, 2017 at 1:29pm
 
I just noticed this window washer scrubber comment.

Cheryl Watson wrote on Nov 19th, 2017 at 9:33pm:
Now I am small enough, that I can actually fit inside the danged barrel, but..† I also have a scrubberwindow washer, with a telescoping handle .


The window washer scrubber is a good idea.

I have a squeegee that is used for periodically cleaning the bottom of the work sink, commonly after the first scrub on a lye soaked pan with a thick layer of crud.† Some of the crud is trapped with a little wire cover/insert at the drain. That often causes water to back up and take a while, sometimes hours, to drain. Once it is drained, the surface of the sink usually has a layer of grunge that settled while the water was slowly draining. The squeegee is helpful for moving the settled-out grunge around, so is a small whisk.

Thinking it would be helpful for cleaning the inside of barrels, I made a large swab out of a dowel, ss scrubber, and a zip tie (should have used at least two zip ties). Proportionally it is about the same as trying to clean a drinking glass with a cotton swab.† It is useful for small areas but not so much for large surfaces. It seemed like a good idea and is occasionally effective, but it's pretty inefficient.
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Lewis Downey
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Re: Is it time to the refresh the electrolysis tank?
Reply #5 - Nov 21st, 2017 at 4:54pm
 
Cheryl, The Barkeepers Friend and a stainless steel scrubber did a perfectly excellent job of cleaning the stainless steel anodes last night. Thanks for the suggestion!
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Cheryl Watson
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Re: Is it time to the refresh the electrolysis tank?
Reply #6 - Nov 22nd, 2017 at 9:15pm
 
We learn by doing!   Cheesy Cheesy

I like the Scrubby on a Stick Idea!  Hadn't thought of that yet.....
(probably because midgets fit inside 55 gallon barrels....  Grin Grin Grin)
<note to other wee folks... make sure you put chock blocks under barrel if on a downhill slope... Roll Eyes Roll Eyes>
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