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Doug D. 02-21-2015 03:33 PM

Graphite as Sacrificial Anode
Some of you may have already read about or looked into using graphite as the anode for your electrolysis tank. I had pondered it for a while, saw a few sources on Amazon, and procrastinated because of the perceived expense. About the best I could find there was a 1 square foot plate for $35 plus shipping. I then read some online discussion which included a link to an eBay seller offering surplus plates approx. 12"x18"x3/8", quantity of two $20 plus shipping.


The plates arrived intact, and, even though my charger connectors were overdue for maintenance, I just had to hook it up anyway to see what would happen.

The pan I chose had been in the lye bath for weeks, and had some areas of really tough carbon remaining the lye would not budge. Once powered up, the pan started fizzing away just like with my old sheet metal anode. Within an hour or so, the carbon residue had loosened and begun to shed off. Probably would have gone faster had I first replaced the rusty old clamps with new.

Once it had done all it appeared it could, I took the pan inside to rinse and season it. I first rinsed it under cold running water, as is my custom. Drying it off, I noted the paper towel becoming quite blackened, although a residue was not apparent to the naked eye. I also noted, as I went about gathering the usual items for seasoning, the pan showed absolutely no signs of flash rusting. So, for experimental purposes, I stopped and left it unseasoned. That's been over a week ago, and it still has not rusted. :icon_scratchchin:

I now need to acquire a rusty pan to give it a proper test, and also to see if the no flash rust thing happens again or was just a fluke. I have an old Lodge hammered piece this also once happened with.

Bonnie Scott 02-21-2015 05:16 PM

Re: Graphite as Sacrificial Anode
I am curious as to what is the benefits of having both systems for cleaning? If the electrolysis method is so effective what is the benefit of having a lye tank also? Are there certain substances that are not removed by one or the other?

[SIZE=1]---------- Post added at 05:16 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:12 PM ----------[/SIZE]

Sorry I got off topic. I was interested in the possibility of the graphite leaving a film on the pan. If it was graphite that is?

Doug D. 02-21-2015 05:17 PM

Re: Graphite as Sacrificial Anode
Lye will not remove rust. But lye will remove crud, both unattended and at one's leisure, whereas electrolysis will also remove crud, but bears monitoring.

Graphite is carbon, so if anything was on the pan (since rust was not in this case to be converted), it had to be carbon. If it had been rusty, the black residue would be assumed to be ferrous oxide a.k.a. black rust, a soft form of iron oxide that can be rinsed off.

Jeffrey R. 02-21-2015 05:43 PM

Re: Graphite as Sacrificial Anode
Doug, Can you cut the graphite with a carbide saw?

I will be watching how you make out. This is on my spring to do list, well if spring does come.

Doug D. 02-21-2015 05:56 PM

Re: Graphite as Sacrificial Anode
I bought the size I needed, so had no cause to want to cut. It apparently can be cut with a carbide saw, and by other means, depending on thickness.

Jeffrey R. 02-21-2015 06:10 PM

Re: Graphite as Sacrificial Anode
I am planning a large E-tank for antiques, and a smaller one for my cast iron.

RustyP 02-21-2015 10:05 PM

Re: Graphite as Sacrificial Anode
I've been waiting to buy graphite until I sell my first couple pans (I want this hobby to be self sustaining). Looking forward to hearing more.

I find it curious that so many people talk about successfully removing stuck on carbon through electrolysis. I have 3 pans that have black stains left despite weeks in the lye bath. No amount of electrolysis has gotten the stuck on carbon to budge. How many amps are you pushing? I know I'm between 5A and 10A since I blew a 5A fuse and have been using a 10A fuse since then. I'm getting 12V off a PC PSU.

Glenn Brown 02-21-2015 10:12 PM

Re: Graphite as Sacrificial Anode
How did the graphite react as a sacrificial anode? Was there the usual crud as built up on the steel/iron anodes? Does it appear it might be more durable than the steel?

Doug D. 02-21-2015 10:38 PM

Re: Graphite as Sacrificial Anode
Rusty, there are some things that don't seem to want to move for lye or electro. The best that can be done with them, if vinegar won't help, is to minimize them by whatever safe means you can, and then let them blend in over time with seasoning. My charger is a 2amp/10amp manual that I use on the 10 amp setting.

Glenn, there was no apparent anything on the graphite plate afterwards. Having said that, the pan being cleaned wasn't rusty, either. But the graphite is supposed to eliminate that undesirable behavior of the anode rusting and becoming inefficient. Doesn't mean it doesn't erode (it's still sacrificial), but since it stays clean of oxides, it remains more efficient, both during the process and over its lifetime. That, I think, is the advantage to graphite.

Glenn Brown 02-21-2015 11:16 PM

Re: Graphite as Sacrificial Anode
Thanks. That's interesting. See if I can come up with some and try it.

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