Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Bicycle Mechanics
Reload this Page >

Better Living Through Chemistry

Notices
Bicycle Mechanics Broken bottom bracket? Tacoed wheel? If you're having problems with your bicycle, or just need help fixing a flat, drop in here for the latest on bicycle mechanics & bicycle maintenance.

Better Living Through Chemistry

Old 06-14-20, 07:44 PM
  #1  
CyclingFool95 
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Northern NJ
Posts: 324

Bikes: 1987 Pinarello Montello, 1995 Litespeed Classic, 1996 Colnago Master Light, 2006 Opera Leonardo FP, 2006 Pinarello Paris FP, 1984 Pinarello Record

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 118 Post(s)
Liked 72 Times in 50 Posts
Better Living Through Chemistry

For the last six months or so, I've had a Pinarello Record with stuck Cinelli stem soaking in WD-40 to no avail. FInally on Friday I gave up and sawed the thing off. Turned out the headset was so well gummed onto the fork that I demolished the nut and top race trying to remove them, finally using a pair of vise grips once the hexes had been thoroughly rounded. Not one of my finest efforts. End result of the demolition derby shown:

CyclingFool95 is offline  
Old 06-14-20, 07:46 PM
  #2  
CyclingFool95 
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Northern NJ
Posts: 324

Bikes: 1987 Pinarello Montello, 1995 Litespeed Classic, 1996 Colnago Master Light, 2006 Opera Leonardo FP, 2006 Pinarello Paris FP, 1984 Pinarello Record

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 118 Post(s)
Liked 72 Times in 50 Posts
But, I still have a chunk of aluminum thoroughly stuck in the fork. I dont know why the picture looks so awful but the threads on the fork are fine


CyclingFool95 is offline  
Old 06-14-20, 07:51 PM
  #3  
CyclingFool95 
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Northern NJ
Posts: 324

Bikes: 1987 Pinarello Montello, 1995 Litespeed Classic, 1996 Colnago Master Light, 2006 Opera Leonardo FP, 2006 Pinarello Paris FP, 1984 Pinarello Record

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 118 Post(s)
Liked 72 Times in 50 Posts
Now, the fork is sitting upside down in a tomato sauce jar of drain cleaner, out on my driveway, bubbling away quite happily. Liquid is now completely black, and the jar is noticeably warm.

One molecule at a time, though, I think this is going to take a while.

bubbling (Click on the link for a video - the sound, other than the birds, is the sound of hydrogen being emitted)

Last edited by CyclingFool95; 06-14-20 at 07:56 PM.
CyclingFool95 is offline  
Likes For CyclingFool95:
Old 06-14-20, 07:54 PM
  #4  
ridelikeaturtle
Senior Member
 
ridelikeaturtle's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Posts: 941

Bikes: Bianchi Ti Megatube, M Alloy Pro, Sprint 76; Amp Research B4; Colnago Crystal; Klein Pulse; Litespeed Catalyst, Fondriest Squadra Corse

Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 447 Post(s)
Liked 209 Times in 123 Posts
If more than just a cursory lesson in biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus, were imparted on the masses, the world would be a much better place.
ridelikeaturtle is offline  
Likes For ridelikeaturtle:
Old 06-14-20, 08:03 PM
  #5  
CyclingFool95 
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Northern NJ
Posts: 324

Bikes: 1987 Pinarello Montello, 1995 Litespeed Classic, 1996 Colnago Master Light, 2006 Opera Leonardo FP, 2006 Pinarello Paris FP, 1984 Pinarello Record

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 118 Post(s)
Liked 72 Times in 50 Posts
Originally Posted by ridelikeaturtle View Post
If more than just a cursory lesson in biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus, were imparted on the masses, the world would be a much better place.
It's probably worth pointing out that the main chemical in drain cleaner (ie lye) can cause severe burns, blindness, etc. And, the hydrogen gas emitted by the reaction is extremely flammable (think Hindenburg). So, exercise extreme caution ye masses and don't try this in the house.
CyclingFool95 is offline  
Likes For CyclingFool95:
Old 06-15-20, 06:29 PM
  #6  
Mad Honk 
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2019
Location: Bloomington, IN
Posts: 996

Bikes: Trek 770, Trek 760, Schwinn Peloton, Patelli Professional, Othon Ochsner

Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 417 Post(s)
Liked 296 Times in 227 Posts
Yes! Dangerous indeed. But it works so well. you are going to have some pretty clean steel when you are finished. Lye does work but just a bit slow. Smiles, MH
Mad Honk is offline  
Old 06-15-20, 06:48 PM
  #7  
cyccommute 
Mad bike riding scientist
 
cyccommute's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 22,727

Bikes: Some silver ones, a red one, an orange one and a few titanium ones

Mentioned: 112 Post(s)
Tagged: 1 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3361 Post(s)
Liked 815 Times in 513 Posts
Originally Posted by CyclingFool95 View Post
It's probably worth pointing out that the main chemical in drain cleaner (ie lye) can cause severe burns, blindness, etc. And, the hydrogen gas emitted by the reaction is extremely flammable (think Hindenburg). So, exercise extreme caution ye masses and don't try this in the house.
The hydrogen generated is flammable but the concentration you are generating isn't. Aluminum is a reactive metal but it's a slow reaction.

And the lye doesn't really "burn". It hydrolyzes the fat under the skin...turns it into soap. The blisters are formed from the skin not being connected to the fat anymore.
__________________
Stuart Black
Gold Fever Three days of dirt in Colorado
Pokin' around the Poconos A cold ride around Lake Erie
Dinosaurs in Colorado A mountain bike guide to the Purgatory Canyon dinosaur trackway
Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
cyccommute is offline  
Likes For cyccommute:
Old 06-16-20, 07:23 AM
  #8  
kaos joe
Senior Member
 
kaos joe's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 1,075

Bikes: Trek 5200, Rivendell Atlantis, Soma DoubleCross, Bilenky Signature tandem, Cannondale RT3000 tandem, Santa Cruz TallBoy, Kona Explosif, Bridgestone MB2

Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 263 Post(s)
Liked 50 Times in 31 Posts
[QUOTE=cyccommute;21536031.....And the lye doesn't really "burn". It hydrolyzes the fat under the skin...turns it into soap. The blisters are formed from the skin not being connected to the fat anymore.[/QUOTE]

My middle school chemistry teacher took a bizarre relish in describing this phenomenon to us. I remember this satanic gleam in his eye as he said the word "saponification". He was a character for sure.
kaos joe is offline  
Old 06-16-20, 07:28 AM
  #9  
CyclingFool95 
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Northern NJ
Posts: 324

Bikes: 1987 Pinarello Montello, 1995 Litespeed Classic, 1996 Colnago Master Light, 2006 Opera Leonardo FP, 2006 Pinarello Paris FP, 1984 Pinarello Record

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 118 Post(s)
Liked 72 Times in 50 Posts
Originally Posted by kaos joe View Post
My middle school chemistry teacher took a bizarre relish in describing this phenomenon to us. I remember this satanic gleam in his eye as he said the word "saponification". He was a character for sure.
Falls under the list of things to avoid so I dress appropriately

CyclingFool95 is offline  
Old 06-16-20, 11:22 AM
  #10  
Phoenix800
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2019
Posts: 19
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 10 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 12 Times in 5 Posts
Get a bucket. Fill it with muriatic (hydrochloric) acid up to about two inches deep. Carefully place the steerer tube end of the fork in the acid. Then - RUN AWAY!!!

The muriatic acid will dissolve the stem in a couple of minutes. Do not breath the gas that results from this reaction.
Phoenix800 is offline  
Old 06-16-20, 11:27 AM
  #11  
squirtdad
Senior Member
 
squirtdad's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: San Jose (Willow Glen) Ca
Posts: 7,042

Bikes: 85 team Miyata (modern 5800 105) , '84 Team Miyata,(dura ace old school) '82 nishiski,

Mentioned: 70 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1171 Post(s)
Liked 368 Times in 283 Posts
Just to note wd40 is not a good penetrating oil. I have have best luck with freeze off

good luck on the chemistry
__________________
Looking for more time to ride what I have
squirtdad is offline  
Old 06-16-20, 11:44 AM
  #12  
CyclingFool95 
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Northern NJ
Posts: 324

Bikes: 1987 Pinarello Montello, 1995 Litespeed Classic, 1996 Colnago Master Light, 2006 Opera Leonardo FP, 2006 Pinarello Paris FP, 1984 Pinarello Record

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 118 Post(s)
Liked 72 Times in 50 Posts
Originally Posted by Phoenix800 View Post
Get a bucket. Fill it with muriatic (hydrochloric) acid up to about two inches deep. Carefully place the steerer tube end of the fork in the acid. Then - RUN AWAY!!!

The muriatic acid will dissolve the stem in a couple of minutes. Do not breath the gas that results from this reaction.
Thought about acid but it could damage the steel. The strong base will not. I'm not really in a hurry.
CyclingFool95 is offline  
Old 06-16-20, 01:09 PM
  #13  
DeadGrandpa
Philosopher of Bicycling
 
DeadGrandpa's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Carolina
Posts: 887

Bikes: Too many, yet not enough.

Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 305 Post(s)
Liked 85 Times in 68 Posts
Originally Posted by CyclingFool95 View Post
Thought about acid but it could damage the steel. The strong base will not. I'm not really in a hurry.
I use a product called "PB Blaster" for loosening rusted things. Don't know if it works for aluminum, but it's a miracle for breaking the rust bond.
It penetrates like crazy.
DeadGrandpa is offline  
Old 06-16-20, 04:42 PM
  #14  
SethAZ 
Senior Member
 
SethAZ's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 1,394

Bikes: 2018 Lynskey R260, 2005 Diamondback 29er, 2003 Trek 2300

Mentioned: 18 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 562 Post(s)
Liked 325 Times in 179 Posts
Originally Posted by CyclingFool95 View Post
It's probably worth pointing out that the main chemical in drain cleaner (ie lye) can cause severe burns, blindness, etc. And, the hydrogen gas emitted by the reaction is extremely flammable (think Hindenburg). So, exercise extreme caution ye masses and don't try this in the house.
When I was a teen I'd collect hydrogen in a balloon doing this and re-enact the Hindenburg. But yeah, it's dangerous stuff if misused or safety precautions aren't taken.

If I'm understanding this correctly, the purpose of soaking that steerer tube in the lye is to react away enough of the aluminum that it can be removed from the steerer tube, all without harming the steerer itself?
SethAZ is offline  
Likes For SethAZ:
Old 06-16-20, 05:59 PM
  #15  
ramzilla
Senior Member
 
ramzilla's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: Fernandina Beach FL
Posts: 3,224

Bikes: Vintage Japanese Bicycles, Tange, Ishiwata, Kuwahara

Mentioned: 19 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 605 Post(s)
Liked 195 Times in 153 Posts
I've had really good luck using diesel fuel to loosen rusty stuff. It does a great job. If you can rig up a containment system to soak seat post tubes or bottom brackets for several days it works even better.
ramzilla is offline  
Old 06-16-20, 06:01 PM
  #16  
CyclingFool95 
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Northern NJ
Posts: 324

Bikes: 1987 Pinarello Montello, 1995 Litespeed Classic, 1996 Colnago Master Light, 2006 Opera Leonardo FP, 2006 Pinarello Paris FP, 1984 Pinarello Record

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 118 Post(s)
Liked 72 Times in 50 Posts
Originally Posted by SethAZ View Post
When I was a teen I'd collect hydrogen in a balloon doing this and re-enact the Hindenburg. But yeah, it's dangerous stuff if misused or safety precautions aren't taken.

If I'm understanding this correctly, the purpose of soaking that steerer tube in the lye is to react away enough of the aluminum that it can be removed from the steerer tube, all without harming the steerer itself?
That's exactly it. Works with a steel steerer and aluminum stem - obviously wouldnt work well if your fork had an aluminum or carbon fiber steerer.
CyclingFool95 is offline  
Likes For CyclingFool95:
Old 06-18-20, 09:40 AM
  #17  
CyclingFool95 
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Northern NJ
Posts: 324

Bikes: 1987 Pinarello Montello, 1995 Litespeed Classic, 1996 Colnago Master Light, 2006 Opera Leonardo FP, 2006 Pinarello Paris FP, 1984 Pinarello Record

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 118 Post(s)
Liked 72 Times in 50 Posts
My jar of Lye powder just arrived. Has a warning on the label not to allow it to come into contact with Aluminum. Also that its safe on Chrome. Sounds like a win-win.

I filled a sauce jar about 4-5" up (to fully cover the stem) and added a generous amount of lye powder - about 1/2 cup to a cup I'd guess (not a fan of measuring). Stirred using the steerer tube. Stepped back. Within seconds the jar was too hot to touch and the reaction is tremendous - far more than with the drain cleaner. This may not take so long. If I see the top of the steerer resting on the bottom of the jar, I'll know its done.
CyclingFool95 is offline  
Likes For CyclingFool95:
Old 06-18-20, 12:49 PM
  #18  
CyclingFool95 
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Northern NJ
Posts: 324

Bikes: 1987 Pinarello Montello, 1995 Litespeed Classic, 1996 Colnago Master Light, 2006 Opera Leonardo FP, 2006 Pinarello Paris FP, 1984 Pinarello Record

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 118 Post(s)
Liked 72 Times in 50 Posts
3 hours later, I've had to refill the cauldron twice with water and lye powder. At one point it was bubbling so fiercely gas was pouring out of the steerer opening like it was a chimney. At last refill, a half hour ago, all that was left was a layer of aluminum around .030" thick, where this morning it was at least 1/8". It might be done by now.

I'm really entertained by this entire exercise, whether the actual application of high school chemistry, or the painless solution to a six month headache,


Last edited by CyclingFool95; 06-18-20 at 01:49 PM.
CyclingFool95 is offline  
Likes For CyclingFool95:
Old 06-18-20, 04:55 PM
  #19  
CyclingFool95 
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Northern NJ
Posts: 324

Bikes: 1987 Pinarello Montello, 1995 Litespeed Classic, 1996 Colnago Master Light, 2006 Opera Leonardo FP, 2006 Pinarello Paris FP, 1984 Pinarello Record

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 118 Post(s)
Liked 72 Times in 50 Posts
One last follow-up. The science experiment is complete. Aluminum stem is gone. Steel and chrome are unharmed. I washed the fork down thoroughly with water and then sprayed every inch of it with WD-40 both inside and out. "Sanded" the chrome with a wad of tin-foil and the foil/WD-40 combo took off whatever rust there was on the chrome. Beautiful, clean, ready to re-install once I find a new headset.

This sliver of stem is all that was left in the fork when I took it out of the bath. Had I left it a little longer, even this would have been gone.


Last edited by CyclingFool95; 06-21-20 at 07:01 AM. Reason: add photo
CyclingFool95 is offline  
Likes For CyclingFool95:
Old 06-18-20, 05:37 PM
  #20  
bikemeister
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Tucson, AZ
Posts: 776
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Alot of guys at a tool forum I frequent are ecstatic about a 50/50 mixture of acetone and automatic transmission fluid. I mixed up a batch - gotta say it rarely lets me down. Stuff is amazing on un-sticking frozen mechanisms. Maybe it'll work for ya? Cheap to try in any case.
bikemeister is offline  
Old 06-22-20, 05:00 PM
  #21  
dmark
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: NJ
Posts: 203

Bikes: 84 Pinnarello Treviso NR, 72 PX-10, 92 Trek 930, 72 Fuji Finest, 91 Trek 750 commuter

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 64 Post(s)
Liked 40 Times in 27 Posts
20 hrs in an enameled pot with close to 1lb of lye freed up the fork to my curb find 88 Ironman Master. Started yesterday afternoon.

Last edited by dmark; 06-22-20 at 07:51 PM.
dmark is offline  
Likes For dmark:
Old 06-22-20, 08:46 PM
  #22  
JanMM
rebmeM roineS
 
JanMM's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Metro Indy, IN
Posts: 15,870

Bikes: RANS V3 ti, RANS V-Rex, RANS Screamer

Mentioned: 15 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 562 Post(s)
Liked 178 Times in 118 Posts
Aptly named thread, indeed!
__________________
RANS V3 Ti, RANS V-Rex, RANS Screamer
JanMM is offline  
Old 06-23-20, 12:15 PM
  #23  
WizardOfBoz
Generally bewildered
 
WizardOfBoz's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Eastern PA, USA
Posts: 2,781

Bikes: 2014 Trek Domane 6.9, 1999 LeMond Zurich, 1978 Schwinn Superior

Mentioned: 20 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1034 Post(s)
Liked 241 Times in 178 Posts
Guys, I'm all for the use of chemistry to make things better (BS and PhD in Chemical Engineering), but I've gotta say I'm really concerned about the rather casual disregard for safety. As cycommute says, lye will turn your skin from a water resistant barrier to a water soluble bar of soap, pretty much killing all the cells in its path. Seriously, this stuff can do grisly damage.

Some recommendations:
1) To remove a piece of aluminum (seat post, handlebar stem) from a tube that you have access too, like the OP's stem, the machinist's classic approach is a) penetrant, like Kroil, PB Blaster, or 50/50 ATF and acetone, and if that doesn't work b) heat, using a torch. You apply the flame to the steel tube (AFTER you remove all traces of the penetrant!) and the heat expands the tube and breaks the grip of the corrosion. If this doesn't work, depending upon the value of the fork, it might also be worth electrical discharge machining (EDM) to slice up the stem enough to remove.
2) A mechanical approach (coupled with penetrant and heat) helps. Put a steel bar into the bottom of the fork, rest the fork shoulders on your vice with some leather to protect finish, then wail on the bar with a hammer to pound the stem out.
3) If you use strong bases like lye or potash,
a) Wear a face shield and googles and use thick chem resistant rubber gloves
b) NEVER add water to base. NEVER EVER!. Dissolving base produces so much heat a splash of water into the base can create something like an explosion of caustic material. If you feel compelled to use lye or potash, add the base a small amount at a time to a large amount of water that is in a heat-proof (not plastic!) vessel. Stir with a glass rod or a stainless utensil (you're still wearing gloves and goggles and a face-shield, right?). You can repeat this process to get the amount of base dissolved you want, but monitor the vessel temperature. Dumping a large amount of base into a small amount of water can lead to the released heat boiling the liquid and producing a small explosion of boiling caustic.l The gradual process allows time for heat to transfer out of the liquid.
c) Be careful how you dispose of the left-over liquid. It may be illegal to dump this down the drain, or on the ground, in your locality. Check before doing. If you are allowed to put the stuff down the drain, it should be done with the cold water faucet in a utility base turned full on, and the waste liquid added very gradually. Then run the faucet for 10 minutes or so after you've emptied all the caustic solution. The water initially dilutes the stuff so you don't have pockets of strong base in the sewer system. Leaving the tap on ensures that all of the base gets washed out of your pipes into the sewer.

If you use a septic tank and field, I would not use caustic. I would not dispose of caustic into that field.

Finally, I probably would never use chemical means to remove a stem. I would have clamped the fork vertically and would then have used heat and progressively larger drills to drill the stem till it was loose enough to knock out.

Last edited by WizardOfBoz; 06-23-20 at 12:19 PM.
WizardOfBoz is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

Copyright 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.