Normally, my hand tools hang on pegboard or sit on open shelves.
Not too long ago I bought a tool that turned out to be such a
pleasure to use that I kept it in the box it was shipped in (with
a couple of silica gel packets) so as to provide absolute
I hadn't used it for about two months; but needed it this
afternoon. Took the box off the shelf and opened it up. You'll
have to infer what the tool looked like from my post-mortem shot
of the box - I didn't think to take a photo until after I'd had a
four-hour session with an extra fine diamond lapping plate and a
1200 grit EZLap file. There's also an "after" photo attached to
the ABPW copy.
As I was polishing out the pits, it occurred to me that this was
the first tool I'd ever stored in a cardboard box. I don't think
I'll make that mistake again...
I store some of my planes in the cardboard they came in. I rap them with the
craft paper they came with. I also treat them with camellia oil. No
corrosion yet. The camellia oil goes on my tenon and dovetail saws as well.
By the time I took pix of the plane, the sides and sole were
mirror bright. Anything you see there is a reflection of
When I opened the box, the plane was measled with pitted rust
spots varying from about 1/32" to 1/8", with some very fine rust
(without significant pitting) on the sole. The rust stains in the
box matched the spots on the plane.
I'm sure the cardboard started out dry (or I'd have seen rust
well before now); but Iowa has been rather humid this spring -
and I think that the cardboard absorbed its full share. Once the
cardboard took in the moisture; it shared with the iron.
[Actually, "saturated" is more apt than "humid". Our weather
pattern resembles that of '93, except that every thunderstorm
seems to be spawning tornados - a small town in northern Iowa has
been pretty well obliterated, local rivers and streams are at or
above flood stage, and the meteorologists are predicting more for
Saturday and Sunday. If this continues, Iowa farmers may have to
shift from corn and soybeans to rice; and I may have to ask Robin
to introduce stainless steel planes.]
Much depends on the cardboard, and on the shop humidity. Acid-free
board is pretty much an essential for paper conservation and the same
principle applies for tool storage. Keeping it dry helps a lot too.
I suspect the biggest contributor to your problem was your confidence in the
silica gel. Desicant packages do work, but they work by absorbing the
moisture in their environment. Once they've done this they are effectively
inert and afford no further protection. They can be renewed by placing them
in an oven a very low temps for a while or even by "baking" them under
normal light bulbs. You simply need to dry them out and then place them
back in the box. With many of these packages you can't see the actual
material so you have no visual indicator that the desicant in saturated, but
typically it changes color when it is. Using your cardboard box and the
desicant packages can be a viable storage technique, just make sure you keep
your desicant dried out from time to time. There might indeed be easier
I think you're right. That and misplaced confidence that the
cardboard box offered anything more than mechanical protection.
I have a couple of planes sitting out in the open that fared much
better than the one in the box - and this contributed to the
false confidence. Another plane in a wooden box (on the same
shelf!) remained as it was when I put it away.
My storage environment is terrible; and accelerated rusting. I
suspect that the same problem would occur in a nore "normal"
environment - but at a slower pace.
In any event, even a nice, sturdy cardboard box doesn't appear to
be the best choice.
Merely "acid-free" isn't even enough. Archival grade papers and boards
are also "buffered" with an excess of an alkaline base, so as to avoid
any chance of acid production in the future. Most organic materials
become acidic with age/decay, particularly proteins in animal glues,
leather, furs etc.
One exception is for storing colour prints. These should be acid-free,
but the alkaline buffers are just as damaging as something too acid.
Then there are the obscure problems too. One of the worst environments
to store high quality measuring instruments or tools is in a wool
baize-lined wooden box. Wool is full of sulphur and becomes very acid
over time. The only thing worse is storing silver in such a box,
because sulphur is the primary cause of black silver tarnish.
I'll add one more item to watch out for. I stored a plane on its side in a
cabinet that has a spare piece of poly insulating foam on the shelf.
Thought it was a smart idea to have a soft landing place under the plane.
Guess what, it started to rust the plane on the surface that was in contact
with the foam. I think I'll cut a piece of plywood for the shelf protector.
What sort of foam ? Material ? Open or closed cell ? Any close
contact like this is a risk for rust (even with VPI paper, if you wait
long enough), but for closed cell soft polyethylene foam it's most
unusual. Polyurethane foam is well-known as a nightmare and blown
polystyrene isn't that good either.
So long as there's no wool in it ! Synthetic carpet is better.
In fact, wool isn't too bad either. But there is a problem with using
wool near really fine work, especially silver or silver inlay (and you
can imagine the problem with niello).
I would think that if cardboard were the culprit that all of the
planes that that the manufacturer sells would have this issue. I
would also think that the silica bags and oil wrap paper in the
cardboard box would protect the steel, to a point. Do you keep the
plane in the garage, or in the basement? I find that I need to run a
humidifier in my basement in the summer. I live in Decorah Iowa by
the way, and know what you mean about the rain!
Neither garage nor basement. My shop's in an aircraft hanger. You
can catch a glimpse at http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto/pix.html
What the shop has in space is more than made up for by the lack
of environmental control - though it does have a nice big door (-:
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