Removing Stuck Parts with Alum

By Curt Altarac

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Tools and supplies that you will need:

Before working with alum, or any chemical, first read and understand the Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS). Wear safety goggles and protective gear as needed and suggested in the MSDS. 

Alum is a chemical often used for pickling, it is available in small quantities in the spice aisle of most grocery stores. The alum sold at is not sterile and is not intended for food use. However, this alum is pure and very effective for removing stuck parts. 

A saturated Alum solution is effective for removing broken drills bits, taps, springs or other ferrous metals stuck in a non-ferrous metal parts, such as brass instruments. 

To remove a stuck part with Alum, you will need an aluminum pot (the pot must be aluminum) large enough to submerge the part. 

First, fill the aluminum pot with just enough water to submerge the ferrous metal part you need to remove. Check that the water level is higher than the frozen metal part. Remove the part from the water and heat the water to a boil. 

Once the water boils, begin to dissolve the alum crystals in the water. Continue dissolving the alum crystals until the water is saturated. It is often possible to add more alum to this solution than water. 

When saturation is reached, place the part into the solution. Be sure that the ferrous part you are trying to remove is submerged in the boiling solution. When the ferrous part begins to bubble, the solution is working. Continue to boil the part in the solution for several hours adding water as needed to compensate for evaporation. 

After several hours of boiling in the solution, the part will dissolve into a rusty muddy substance. Remove the sludge and the stuck part is gone! 

The solution can then be stored for future use.


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