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Rust Stains in Oak Any Cure ?

Anton Redman

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I am making three steps, (for a mini stair case but without the case for between two sections of the house) from reclaimed oak floor boards. I have removed the nails and planned and sanded them true. Have pegged and sanded the holes but am still left black stains resembling ink stains round the former nail holes. Is there any miracle cure for these ?

I could cut and insert Dutchmen or what ever they are called in these poilitically correct times.

I will probably live with them a signs of character but would hate to miss out is there is an easy cure. 

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Hi, Anton, good to meet you.

The stains are caused by the tannin in the oak reacting with the iron, and , as you say, leaves ink-like stains.  As a rule of thumb, iron or untreated steel should NEVER be used to fasten oak, because of this problem.  When you come to fasten it yourself, use brass (or better still - bronze), or stainless steel.  You can get away with hot dipped galvanized steel, but eventually this willbreak down. If you are a stranger to brass with oak, always drill pilot holes, and put in a steel fixing first to ensure the brass one will not shear - they shear incredibly easily, and are a bugger to get out.

The bad news is that there is really no great way to remove them, that I am aware of.  If you have some scrap wood left over, you might try oxalic acid.  Mix it up with hot water as concentrated as you can (when there is undesolved crystals in the bottom of the jar, that's as concentrated as you get it), and brush it on.  Leave for a few hours to dry, then brush it off, and wipe with a very wet cloth to remove the acid deposits.

You will probably end up using 'dutchmen'.

Good luck - let me know how you get on, please.


It's not pleasant stuff, so wear gloves, and do it outside if you can. Be prepared to do it many times.

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You cut a thin piece of similar wood. Then cut a similar sized and deep hole in the piece of wood with the damage and glue the pice of wood in to cover the damage.  English has a number of phrases which have a slightly unpleasent tinge to them about the Dutch .

Dutch Courage - Needing a drink before facing something

Going Dutch - Splitting the bill

Dutch Metal - Poor substitute for silver

etc. In much the same way as the French sometimes speak of the Spanish.  

Link below shows an example



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