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How I Clean My Blades & Bits

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Blog entry by thewoodwhisperer posted 749 days ago 4376 reads 7 times favorited 29 comments Add to Favorites Watch

If you find that your blades and bits just aren’t performing like they used to, you might not need to send them out for a sharpening. They might just be in desperate need of a good cleaning. Over time, pitch and resin builds up on cutting surfaces and causes them to cut less effectively. If the buildup isn’t removed, the increased friction and heat will accelerate the dulling of the edge and eventually the blade or bit will be toast.

Cleaning Agents
The cleaning agent I use is a water-based formula from Rockler called Pitch & Resin Remover. I don’t know exactly what it’s made of but it has a pleasant citrusy smell that is reminiscent of citrus cleaners. I have also heard of folks having good luck with another cleaning product called Simple Green. There are plenty of more caustic cleaners and degreasers out there but I don’t find that the extra cleaning power is necessary nor is it fun to work with. In a pinch, I have used soapy water with good results.

Cleaning
For router bits, I like to use a small plastic cup to hold the concentrated cleaner. I then drop the router bit into the liquid and let it sit for at least five minutes. More stubborn pitch and resin may require a longer soak. After the soak period I use paper towels, acid brushes, and scotch brite pads depending on how much scrubbing power I need. Take care not to work the sharp edges too much, not only for safety but to avoid unnecessarily dulling the bit. For saw blades, I like to do the same soak method only using a wide shallow plastic bowl.

Once clean, I like to rince the blades and bits with water, followed by a thorough wipe-down with a dry paper towel. Since water likes to hang out in the little nooks and crannies, I like to blow dry the blades and bit just to make sure they are bone dry.

Lubrication
The cleaning process no only removes the pitch and resin, but also any beneficial oils that were previously lubricating the tooling surface. In order to help the blades cut cleanly and also prevent rust buildup, we need to lubricate and protect the metal. I like to use Bostik DriCote for this. This aerosol dry lubricant is very easy to apply. After a light coat is applied, I use a paper towel to buff it into the surface.

Simple routine maintenance can save you a lot of time and money. If your blades and bits are clean, they cut more effectively and that translates to better quality results. And without all the pitch and resin on the cutting edge, the edge will stay sharper for longer. That translates to few sharpening sessions. I send my blade and bits to a professional sharpener so anything I can do to lengthen the time between sharpening is welcome!

I’m curious what materials and methods you use to keep your blade and bits nice and clean. Comment below!
You can also leave a comment on our website.

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out http://www.TheWoodWhisperer.com



29 comments so far

View Sirgreggins's profile

Sirgreggins

292 posts in 862 days


#1 posted 749 days ago

thanks marc. I’ve always used simple green b/c i always have it around the house. It’s amazing how much simply cleaning a blade can help cutting.

View Kjuly's profile

Kjuly

302 posts in 1912 days


#2 posted 749 days ago

Hello Marc,
Great video.
I use Boeshield, blade and bit cleaner. It cuts the grime fast.
To scrub the grime off I use an old tooth brush. It won’t harm the teeth and it does a good job cleaning out the gullets. I tried a new tooth brush but my wife complained about the funny taste.
Keith

-- Keith, Charlotte, MI www.julyswoodworks.com

View HalDougherty's profile

HalDougherty

1820 posts in 1863 days


#3 posted 749 days ago

Marc,

I’ve used simple green with great results, but the bits need to soak overnight to soften all the grime. When I’m in a hurry, I use oven cleaner. I spray the cutting surfaces and set them in a small plastic cup. After 30 minutes, I was them in hot water and dry the hot bits with paper towels. The heat helps all the water evaporate quickly. Then I wipe them down with Hopes gun cleaning solvent. It’s a non oily solvent that keeps them from rusting and they aren’t slick from oil when I chuck them in the router to carve a gunstock. I’ve heard stories that oven cleaner will damage the joint between the carbide and the steel, but I’ve done this for years with the same set of bits and they are still going fine. I send them out to be sharpened about once a month and between sharpenings, I use a small flat diamond knife hone to help extend the time before I send them out for sharpening.

-- Hal, Tennessee http://www.first285.com

View lumberjoe's profile

lumberjoe

2829 posts in 874 days


#4 posted 749 days ago

I also use the old toothbrush method with some CMT Formula 2050 Blade & Bit Cleaner. In reality this is probably identical to the stuff from Rockler you posted. Non-toxic, and citrus scented. The Rockler stuff is a few bucks cheaper. When I finally run out I will have to give that a shot. I have been skipping a crucial step though. Looks like I need to locate some Bostik DriCote.

-- www.etsy.com/shop/KandJWoodCrafts

View thewoodwhisperer's profile

thewoodwhisperer

601 posts in 2810 days


#5 posted 749 days ago

I’ve been hearing good things about both Simple Green and the CMT cleaner. Gonna have to try them out!

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out http://www.TheWoodWhisperer.com

View lumberjoe's profile

lumberjoe

2829 posts in 874 days


#6 posted 749 days ago

I’m a little weary of using concentrated simple green on blades/bits. It’s “green” but it’s a hardcore cleaner. I can’t really find a lot of supporting info, but I’d be curious to see what it does to the brazing over time.

-- www.etsy.com/shop/KandJWoodCrafts

View TheOldTimer's profile

TheOldTimer

222 posts in 1712 days


#7 posted 749 days ago

Very nice video Marc:
I also use CMT 2050 on my blades with a old toothbrush. Works very nice for me.

-- TheOldTimer,Chandler Arizona

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

3321 posts in 1439 days


#8 posted 749 days ago

Hey Marc,
With regards to the Simple Green – I spoke with their company rep, and they recommend the purple Simple Green. The standard simple green can erode carbide. I only mention this because some people like to soak their blades and bits. The purple colored Simple Green is a different formula that does not effect carbide.
I have tried it diluted 50/50 with water and it works great! It will easily erase months of pitch and resin.
It is available at Home Depot in 1 gallon size for less than $20.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View thewoodwhisperer's profile

thewoodwhisperer

601 posts in 2810 days


#9 posted 749 days ago

So Simple Purple. Got it. :)

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out http://www.TheWoodWhisperer.com

View Jake7212's profile

Jake7212

27 posts in 1284 days


#10 posted 749 days ago

Oven cleaner will clean bits and blades like you wouldnt believe. Just be careful because it will clean your skin off the bone and do some pretty nice damage to your lungs as well. I typically just give em a quick spray, let it soak a few minutes and wipe it off. Works like a charm.

View lumberjoe's profile

lumberjoe

2829 posts in 874 days


#11 posted 749 days ago

Oven cleaner does work exceptionally well. So well in fact it cleans the brazing right off the carbide. You should never use oven cleaner to clean blades and bits

-- www.etsy.com/shop/KandJWoodCrafts

View Jake7212's profile

Jake7212

27 posts in 1284 days


#12 posted 749 days ago

Ive been doing it for years and havnt had a single problem yet.

View lumberjoe's profile

lumberjoe

2829 posts in 874 days


#13 posted 749 days ago

You are lucky, and a lot of people use it. Oven cleaner DOES etch the brazing though. Possibly not enough to cause damage, especially on a well built blade, but I don’t want to take a chance when there are readily available substitutes that are a lot safer (for you and your blades)

-- www.etsy.com/shop/KandJWoodCrafts

View Jake7212's profile

Jake7212

27 posts in 1284 days


#14 posted 749 days ago

Good to know.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14721 posts in 2302 days


#15 posted 749 days ago

Thanks pintodeluxe I need to clean a couple blades. I’m the kind of guy that throws them in to soak and might not get back for a couple of days! I have some green, but I will not be using it!

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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