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Using oxalic acid on a relic helmet

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Apologies for this not being a US helmet, wanted to try this on my relic German helmet before considering using it on my relic M1. Method is the same and since this is about the process, going to post it.


A few years ago, I bought a relic German helmet on eBay (perhaps someone could enlighten me to the specific model) from the eastern front in the Ukraine. Relics have always interested me, so wanted to have one of my own from the east. When I first got it it was covered in earth, so I gave it a bath and light scrubbing. I then found some information on oxalic acid being used to preserve and uncover paint, so figured I would give it a shot.


Bought a small bottle of acid on Amazon a while back, and finally got around to doing this yesterday. Got a decent sized bucket for the helmet to fit in, some gloves, a brush from Home Depot, and got to work. The ratio is 1 tablespoon of acid for every 10L of water, and since I was using a 30L bucket, I put in around two spoonfuls (using a plastic spoon to throw it out after) after filling it about two-thirds with warm water. Once it was added, I mixed the water with the spoon and immersed the helmet.


This acid can be kind of nasty (pretty sure I got a few minor burns from splashing even with gloves when I was brushing it), so be sure you use eye and hand protection, wear pants and a long sleeve shirt, etc.


Here are some before pictures (recent, after I cleaned the dirt and grass off):







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As you can see, the decal outlines are visible (the three-color, and not sure if the other one is the Wehrmacht eagle, SS, or what, too gone to tell I think). If you look closely, you can see some grayish areas, but certainly not clear or well defined.


Here is the helmet in the bucket. You will definitely want to do this outside and with a hose nearby in case you spill any acid mixing, splash, etc.





I let it sit for about 45 minutes, and then started gently-ish brushing it both in the water and holding it over it (again, wearing gloves and eye protection). Took extra care around the decals, did not want to mess with them much. Water got noticeably browner, sediment began accumulating at the bottom, and more and more gray became visible. Once I felt satisfied (it had been in a little over an hour), I pulled it out, gave it a good rinsing with the hose, and set it down to dry.


After it was dry, I sprayed the inside and then the outside with a few coats of Rustoleum clear finish to make the gray pop, hold everything together, and hopefully keep it from rusting more. It certainly did not come out looking brand new, but where there was paint to be saved, most of it is now visible. It is heavily pitted and rusted as you can see, so I could only do so much, but I am happy with it.


Definitely recommend this process, with an abundance of safety precautions.







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Be interesting to see the M1 relic you talked about used with this method, because as far as I'm concerned I feel like they're a little more fragile than a TR one.


Sent from my SM-J327V using Tapatalk

Actually somewhat on the fence about the M1, which is why I did this one first. It has a lot of OD still visible, the top rusted out a bit but overall the condition it is in leaves me wondering if I should just spray it and call it a day. Check my post history, I think I posted it in the helmet forum back in December or January.
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  • 9 months later...

Got bored in isolation and did this again last weekend to a different relic M1 I bought after the first one, which I still haven’t messed with and will almost certainly just clearcoat. The one I did last weekend is in even worse shape and missing about 50% of the helmet, but still has the general profile, and one fixed bail. Extremely rough shape when I started and zero paint visible, managed to pull back a little bit of OD from 75 years in French soil (allegedly Normandy). It’s really hard to see in most lightings and I’m sure won’t photograph well, but I’ll try. Will see if I can photograph it tomorrow for a writeup.

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I have seen some amazing results using oxalic acid on relic helmets on the "War Relics" forum. I have not tried it myself.

Mike B. in 'Bama

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