Boules and rust

Let’s talk about boules and rust.

I have a set of La France SB boules, which are relatively soft carbon steel (acier au carbone) boules. During the summer, I lost one of the boules. About 4 months later, I found it under the edge of the carpet that I use to pad my shooting pit.

The boule appeared to be in horrifying condition. Outdoors in our monsoon rains, the carpet had kept the boule covered and moist. The Tucson summer heat will quickly rust anything that is outdoors and the least bit wet. By the time I found the boule, it was completely covered in a thick coat of orange rust.
Click to view larger image.

Despite appearances, this was not a disaster. A few minutes with a wire brush, and a few more minutes dragging the boule around on the ground to simulate a few days of play, and the boule was restored to playable condition. Here is a picture. The boule on the left is the rusty and restored boule. The other is another boule from the same set that was kept out of the weather and played with occasionally.
Click to view larger image.

There are differences between the two boules. The restored boule is darker in color, somewhere between black and dark-brown, and I expect the color change is permanent. It also has a noticeably rougher surface than its sister boule. Personally, I like the changes.

The moral of the story is— if you come across some rusty old boules, don’t write them off and throw them away. They can easily be restored to playable condition. Depending on your taste, they may even be better than they were before they got rusty.


2 thoughts on “Boules and rust

  1. I have the same boules! Our terrain is by the sea and our climate is very humid and warm to hot all year. We play twice a week every week but only if we aren’t getting the rain this region is famous for. Suffice to say rust is a consideration.

    I keep a Ziploc bag with a lightly oiled microfibre cloth in it. I give my boules a very quick wipe over with this cloth before stowing them away and especially if they got damp at any stage.

    Did you know you can make your SB boules black again and very easily. A soak or wipe over with a very weak acid solution (vinegar, lemon juice, dilute hydrichloric acid etc) will change the outer molecular layers of your boule to magnetite (black colour). Quickly wipe with an oiled cloth afterwards to help seal in the colouring

  2. Hi kimbo (Kim Badcock, of the Mission Beach Petanque club in Australia), Thanks for the tip!

    I bought a jug of white vinegar and left the other two boules to soak overnight. In the morning they were really black. When I washed them off, a lot of black came off on my hands. The boules were left with a deep uniform matte gunmetal grey color. There was a small shiny spot on the bottom, where they had been sitting on the bottom of the container. If I do this again, I’ll try sitting the boules on something porous like a bit of sponge or a wad of paper towel.

    In this picture, the rusty boule is in front, and the two vinegar-blackened boules are at the back. The boule at the left has been played with more than the boule at the right, so it is more scratched-up.
    Click to see larger image.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s