To Restore or not to Restore?

If you’ve been watching the blog for a while, you may recall that I have a relic-grade VG1-5 rifle – I found it at a gun show in Belgium and brought it back home in my suitcase. It is far beyond salvaging into any sort of functional firearm, but I thought it was too interesting of a piece not to buy.

Relic VG1-5
Looks like an artifact recovered from the Titanic…

Well, I’ve been toying with the idea of using an electrolytic bath to remove the rust and see what it looks like underneath…but I’m not really sure if I should. There are some areas that are totally worn away, like the rear of the receiver and the trigger:

Relic VG1-5

I’m not sure if an attempt at restoration would be wise. On the one hand, it would be really neat to get the rust off and see the original material – and that would prevent it from decaying further. However, it is a pretty cool artifact as-is, and I would hate to have it fall to pieces in an attempt to improve it. Of course, some of the metal is pretty thick (barrel, slide assembly, etc)…but other parts are really thin, like the sights.

VG1-5 relic
Looking into the magazine well

For those who aren’t familiar with it, an electrolytic bath is a simple ionized solution (water and baking soda) with a low voltage charge running through it. You immerse your rusty material to act as the cathode, and a piece of scrap ferrous metal to act as anode. The electrical charge causes material (rust) to dissolve off the cathode and adhere onto the anode. It’s the opposite of the process used to electrically plate objects. Here’s a practical example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4NmM47XUPs

What do you folks think? Should I make an attempt at improving this thing’s condition at the risk of it coming out worse for some reason, or leave it as-is? I’d be especially curious to hear thoughts from anyone who has used the process before (I haven’t), but I would like to get everyone’s opinion:

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