I won't go into details about how electrolysis works, as a google search will explain it better than I can.  But I will relay my experiences with it, and any observations I can make that I think might be helpful.  Anyhow, starting about March 1, I took everything apart and set up the electrolysis bath.  I started with the cabinet doors, thinking that they are indestructible and mistakes wouldn't hurt much.

Before stripping, I removed all the name & info tags from the bed, gearbox and gear cover, they're held in place with little "screw-nails" driven into holes.  Some are in through holes which you can punch out from the rear, others are in blind holes.  For the latter, if you sharpen the tip of a sacrificial screwdriver, you can tap the edge underneath the head of the screwnails and slowly work them free.  I'm not sure yet what I'll do about restoring the tags, I'm not into repainting every letter, yet they are kind of a mess.  We'll see.

update 1/2005- I finally got around to cleaning up the threading chart.  I used lacquer thinner and fine steel wool to polish the brass and clean off the oddball paint smears.  The red highlight on the IN/OUT labels came off too, but the black background paint remained intact.  So I declared victory and gave the chart 2 coats of shellac and reinstalled it after drilling and tapping the 4 holes for 8-32 brass screws.  Don't drill thru on the lower right hole, just deepen the hole enough to tap it.

The bath is a mixture of water with some baking soda and sodium carbonate based washing soda (Arm & Hammer in my case).   I experimented with a number of cleaners, the best were those with sodium carbonate.  Sodium bicarbonate worked fairly well, various other sodiums were less effective.  I settled on Arm & Hammer Washing Soda- mostly because that was the only one at the local supermarket with sodium carbonate in it.  I tried some 50% sodium hydroxide (lye), but it didn't seem to make anything go faster.   If you keep with the milder stuff, you won't need gloves to reach into the water- though maybe you do anyway, it gets gross before long.

Observe the ground cable is attached to the panel being cleaned- polarity is critical.  I have 2 stainless steel anodes suspended in the solution, powered by the positive cable- they're connected together with the yellow wire.  I try to arrange the electrodes so all surfaces of the part can get a line-of-sight connection to an electrode; the idea is to get lots of current per square inch of the part's surface.  The closer an anode gets to the part, the more current it will pass, sometimes its tricky to get all the anodes going more or less equally.  OTOH, an anode closer to a quite dirty/thickly painted surface will clean it faster.  You can also see where the copper anode wires change to stainless before going under water.  Electrolysis will dissolve copper and aluminum very quickly- I imagine brass and bronze will suffer too, so be careful what you clean!  I gave it a whirl with a rusty 1930's beer can my brother gave me to test with- electrolysis ate all the paint right off the can, cleaned up the rust and lifted a wax coating off the bottom of the can; all in 30 minutes or so.

The white foam on the panel is formed by hydrogen bubbles forming on the submerged metal and floating free- its this effect that does the cleaning.  If you brush away the foam with a stick, you'll see the bubbles rising off the part- and off the anode as well.  I think of electrolytic cleaning as the bubbles forming between the metal and paint, wherever the bath water and electric current can reach, slowly breaking up the paint & crud.  As the surface coating breaks off, more metal is exposed, etc.  Rust on the part undergoes something of a reversal in chemistry, you won't get original metal back, but the rust will become more "metal-like", and large bits of it will decompose and break up.  I electrolized the micrometer dials & handwheels which had a good deal of surface rust, they came out with the rust turned to a dark coating that easily came off with an oily rag and a bit of wire wheel, leaving clean metal underneath.

The brown, rusty looking foam is not caused by rust on the electrodes, they get covered with it too, but its more of a deposit than surface oxidation.  This discoloration seems to come out of the solution.  The brown foam is a mixture of oxygen and carbon dioxide bubbles.  Ensure good ventilation; there probably isn't all that much hydrogen coming off, but you don't want it to build up.

Since electricity drives the process, the more current you can drive through the circuit the better.  This bath was going at something like 20 amps- the water will get quite warm.  CUT POWER BEFORE STICKING YOUR HANDS IN or you'll get shocked.  If you forget this point, don't worry, you'll learn quickly enough... ;)

Although the part is not eroded by the process, the anodes are.  Plain steel will rust really fast, stainless lasts longer, but it still erodes.  Check with SWMBO before raiding the silverware drawer or electrolysis will be the least of your problems!  The last few baths I ran, my electrodes were mostly dissolved, so I tried some stainless steel spoons from my wife- they erode very quickly.  The best electrodes seem to be of hard stainless steel; springs are good, stainless pipe would do well too.  I used 2 tired stainless springs and 2 discarded stainless pipe clamps my brother gave me, the springs essentially dissolved and the cross sectional area of the pipe clamps is  reduced by half in a couple places.

If you suspend the anodes in the bath with wire, use stainless steel wire.  Home Despot sells stainless steel picture hanger wire, which works fine, but you'll have to quadruple it to take the current because the wire has a fairly high resistance- and change it out from time to time as its eaten through.  If the anode power connector is anywhere near the water, ensure it can't fall in if anything comes apart.  I tried using rebar as an anode for a while, but it ended up being clumsy and rusted so quickly its resistance went up and cut the current I could pass.

The electrolysis references I found on the internet all gave particular receipes for the bath.  I promptly ignored them and started by setting up the bath and adding baking soda until current was flowing.  Given a choice, I'd use some laundry detergent with sodium carbonate in it, if you're cleaning something oily you'll want some kind of detergent in the mixture- the soap will help with the grease, which otherwise makes a nauseating mess on the surface.   More won't hurt, so just keep adding & stirring till you get a nice chunky head of soap suds.

The bath seems to work best after its been in use a couple days- don't change out the water when it gets nasty, the fresh bath will be noticably slower, even if the current through it is considerable.  The reaction will slowly use up water, you'll probably add water from time to time and more detergent when the grease/oil wears out whats in there.

The above part was cleaned to bare metal on both sides after 4 hours or so, my only involvement was to check on it from time to time.  I cleaned many pieces by leaving them on overnight, then rotating new parts into the bath next morning.  After rinsing the cleaned part, most of the residual paint can be removed with a wire brush and putty knife, stubborn pockets can be cleared with a screwdriver blade.

The gear cover had particularly good paint on it- even the oddball paint was doing well, unfortunately I forgot to get good beforehand shots.

Here is the gear cover after an overnight bath, right after a brisk scrubbing with a wire brush and putty knife.  The oddball paint is pretty much gone, so is the grease.  You can still see bits of old SB paint, which is tough stuff- but it all comes off.  The wire suspending it is new, I refreshed it so I could put the cover back in for another few hours.

Nice and clean; after the 2nd bath, the final cleaning was about 5 minutes with a wire wheel on my power drill.

I also arc welded the belt tension handle which was broken off right down at the base of the handle.  After grinding, I used JB Weld to fill the gaps and irregularities.  After drying, it filed down to fairly smooth finish.

But at last, you have to get down to it and clean the big stuff;

The bed stand was painted by the previous owner.  I think it was plain latex, the bath cleaned it off in an hour so.

Since I had to shift to a different container, I restarted the bath with 2 extra electrodes- namely 2 stainless steel springs.  Since the bed was too long, I had to do it a quarter at a time- really annoying.  The nasty mess of oily belt rubbings on the bed right below the headstock cleaned right off, which was great- by hand it was as hard to clean as roofing tar.

This tub was big enough for the chip pan, which took a while to clean.  However, while it was cooking, I was able to clean a number of odds and ends (belt tension spring, bolts, etc..) by just dropping them into the submerged pan.  As it became cleaner, the little objects contacted better- so they were cleaned just fine and I didn't have suspend them all individually.  Very handy.

I did the base last; all 200 lbs of it, one half of one side at a time.  The bed was easier...  The block & tackle rig was invaluable, you can get the pulley blocks at Ace Hardware.  HD and Lowes won't have them.  You can see the gear cover and one of the base panels primed.

I switched to Trisodium Phosophate for the gearbox, for fear of eroding whatever bearings it might contain.  It works nicely, just keep the water warm.  Setting up a hot TSP bath on the kitchen stove is good for a few geek points from the wife.  Don't use a good pan.

update 1/2005 - in the course of fixing up the threading chart I finally gave the gearbox a good cleaning.  Its quite easy to work with if you remove the leadscrew.  Inside the gearbox you can see the head of the leadscrew, with 2 nuts holding the gear onto it.  Remove the nuts and out comes the screw.  The gearbox then can be dunked in diesel fuel and scrubbed to clean out the crud.  If one is really motiviated, a full disassembly would be best, but gearboxes are fussy assemblies.  In retrospect, I should have just pulled the leadscrew and electrolized the gearbox.  There are no brass bushings I could see in there and it would have reduced the oily crud by quite a bit.  The felt wipers should be replaced wherever possible, the old ones will certainly be worn and packed off with sludge- if nothing else just pick out the old stuff and work some heavy felting back in.  Ideally, the shafts would be pulled and new felt laid, which I ended up doing for two of the gearbox shafts.  There are several little oil passages around the gearbox & shafts, probably filled with crud, so its a good idea to clean it all if you're going to the trouble.  If the top gear range selector doesn't have a solid feel to the detents, remove the setscrew visible on the traveller gear which the selector pushes back and forth and remove the spring & ball.  Don't lose the spring... ;)  Open up the spring a little, only a bit, then reassemble for a much better detent action.  As was pointed out to me, its also a good idea to cook up a little brass plug to stick into the oil hole at the base of the range selector handle which otherwise will fill with crud.