Maintaining Machine Surfaces on Woodworking Tools

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Forum topic by SteveGaskins posted 05-08-2011 05:39 AM 2825 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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748 posts in 2616 days

05-08-2011 05:39 AM

I have recently relocated my woodworking tools from storage to my new shop and have noticed the machined surfaces of my equipment have a light rust coat from being in storage. I plan to clean up these areas with WD-40 and fine sandpaper/steel wool, scotch brite, etc. Any suggestions on how to keep the machined surfaces on my equipment from rusting in the future? I live in SC and my shop will not have HVAC until some time in the distance futue. I thought about cleaning as stated above and then purchasing renaissance wax to protect the machined surfaces after the rust is removed, but wanted to get feedback from you guys here on LJs.

Any information would be appreciated.


-- Steve, South Carolina,

14 replies so far

View Rxmpo's profile


268 posts in 3774 days

#1 posted 05-08-2011 05:56 AM

There are plenty of rust remover and top savers on the market, but from what I have been told by much more experienced WW’ers than I is that WD-40 is not a good choice for woodworking tools. WD-40 can cause finishing problems called “fish eyes” which you won’t realize until you start the staining process. These “fish eyes” are areas that have absorbed the WD-40 and will not take a stain, period. Ruining all of your hard work. True or not…I don’t know but not worth finding out.

View bigike's profile


4052 posts in 3317 days

#2 posted 05-08-2011 06:05 AM

I use minwax floor wax on my tools this is what I hear works best plus your wood will slide very easy on the surfaces and it causes no finishing problems that I experienced.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View cabs4less's profile


235 posts in 2791 days

#3 posted 05-08-2011 08:03 AM

use laq thinner to clean with and paste wax is wat i use just cause its cheap and every hardware store carries it and if you already cleraned wit WD-40 the laq thinner will clean off the oily residue and keep ya from contaminating your finish down the line

-- As Best I Can

View bubinga's profile


861 posts in 2697 days

#4 posted 05-08-2011 08:20 AM

Here is an article on this ,

-- E J ------- Always Keep a Firm Grip on Your Tool

View philip marcou's profile

philip marcou

264 posts in 2626 days

#5 posted 05-08-2011 11:48 AM

Sc Eng: Here in New Zee I know something about moisture, condensation and rust, for sure.
The WD40 is good to use with whatever abrasives you employ to bust the rust -not good for much else and certainly doesn’t prevent rust.
I favour a lanolin oil based product such as CRC Lanocote which should be available in the States. It comes from sheep. Naturally New Zealand sheep are better so the local equivalent is even better (;). This oil will not affect the wood , cause finish defects etc and is easily wiped off . Doesn’t smell great but it works. Google “CRC Lanocote” and “Lanotec in NZ” for further information

View SteveGaskins's profile


748 posts in 2616 days

#6 posted 05-08-2011 09:26 PM

I have not removed the rust at this point, and from reading the feedback from fellow LJs, I am glad I waited. I certainly appreciate the feedback and I will stay away from the WD. Thanks for taking the time to post your comments.

-- Steve, South Carolina,

View Jeff's profile


440 posts in 3223 days

#7 posted 05-08-2011 09:46 PM

I live in NC and my workshop is in garage. We enter through the garage door so I’ve got lots of humidity all year long. To remove rust I use Naval Jelly, plastic Scotch Brite type pads and lots of elbow grease. Naval Jelly is phosphoric acid in a stabilized jelly so it doesn’t drip. It’s available at the big box stores. Clean up with plain water then dry with paper towel. Then to protect the clean surface I use plain old Johnson’s paste wax. No problems with transfer to wood surfaces and just needs a re-application about once a month. I’ve never had rust formed on my machine surfaces except when I ran a board over my table saw where the glue wasn’t quite dry.

View bigkev's profile


198 posts in 2657 days

#8 posted 05-08-2011 10:04 PM

I live in central SC and I use the same thing Jeff in NC does – good old Johnson’s paste wax. I always keep it handy and usually apply every couple of months or after doing a lot of sawing. It does the job for me.

-- Kevin, South Carolina

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 2634 days

#9 posted 05-08-2011 10:52 PM

WD-40 does not cause fish-eye. It is perfectly safe to use on all your machine surfaces (I use it on mine when restoring old machines and have no problems). It is silicone that will cause fish-eye. A lot of modern polishers (mostly those used for cars) will have silicone inside them. This is why you need to be careful about what polishing agents you use and why so many woodworkers are using one primitive form of wax or another and not car wax.

There are some products out there that can be rather expensive and supposedly do a better job then plain old Renaissance wax or paste wax. I honestly have not given them a try because I use Johnson’s Paste Wax on all of my machined surfaces and I am quite happy with it’s performance. My shop is in Maryland and we have similar humidity to you down in South Carolina. My shop also has no heating or air condition, heck its not even properly sealed up (it’s a barn) and the Johnson’s Paste Wax works great. I apply it about 3 times a year and have never had any trouble.

View rum's profile


148 posts in 2615 days

#10 posted 05-09-2011 12:39 AM

For removal, I’ve had good luck with Evapo-Rustâ„¢ (available at lee-valley, elsewhere?) and their “Rust Remover Concentrate & Gel” which works on the same principle and is a smidge cheaper (other folks sell chelation based rust removers, I just haven’t used them, I suspect they may all work about the same).

Upsides: easy rust removal without all the work, and it doesn’t remove any extra metal and leaves the surface with something darn close to the original polish. Much friendlier to work with than alternatives I’ve tried (naval jelly, etc..) as it just rinses off with a wet cloth and isn’t caustic. I haven’t used this on any large tools but have recovered a few old planes and chisels with it (despite – true – claims that it won’t hurt hardware, it will discolor wood handles, etc.. so I always remove those.. plastic isn’t a problem).

Downsides: leaves a very thin grey/black layer (basically converted some red iron oxide to black as part of the chelation process, as we know black iron oxide prevents red iron oxide formation… ain’t chemistry great :D). This polishes off easily with either super fine sandpaper (like 1000+ grit) or comparable and is much easier to clean up than the original rust.

For preventative, Boeshield T-9 on moving parts, TopCote or paste wax on flat surfaces (I think everyone else covered that nicely).

View BTKS's profile


1986 posts in 3493 days

#11 posted 05-09-2011 04:48 AM

Rum got it just right. I use both T-9 and pastewax. Both work but T-9 seems to last longer and is quicker to apply. Heavy coat for storage, light coat for regular use.
I also put a foam board cover on all the horizontal cast iron surfaces in my shop when the weather is anywhere close to a cold to warm transition. The covers are cheap! I use 3/4 blue foam board for the table saw and jointer because I had it as scrape from something else. Some tools I use 1/4 in fan fold siding underlayment. Even cheaper if you can find some scrapes. All you need is enough to keep the warm moist air off the cool cast iron. I got onto this when I found all my freshly polished and floor wax coated tools covered in a light film or red rust. A wrench was lying on the jointer and it left a perfect outline. T-9 seems to help in this condition better than paste wax and it goes a long way. A large can will last for a looonnnggg time.
The table saw cover stays on real well because I run the riving knife or blade into a pre cut slot and slid the rip fence up to the right edge.
Hope this helps and prevents future problems. When I found all my freshly cleaned tools rusted I nearly stroked out. I was so furious I was seeing spots. We had just had some freak weather. Went from around 0 to near 50 with huge amounts of humidity and fog. It was a worst case scenario! I haven’t had a problem since implementing these protective measures.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3677 days

#12 posted 05-09-2011 06:37 AM

At one time I had a shop with some of my bigger machines under cover,
but outdoors and not too far from the beach. I used these:

HTC machine blankets. They worked quite well for non-rainy nights
with normal nighttime humidity for the area. When it rained, I would
put one or two plastic tarps on top. After the rain ended I would
sometimes have to whisk off a few rusty spots but it only took a
minute or two and I was back to work.

Regular cleaning off of rust spots and waxing the tops can help make
it easier to get to work in humid areas. Just make it part of your
regular working habits to clean the cast iron.

Also, a soft brass wire brush and a “Wunderbar” rust eraser (available
through Garrett Wade) make spot-rust removal go quick and won’t
scratch the iron as much as sanding or steel wire brushes will.

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2662 days

#13 posted 05-09-2011 08:54 PM

For light rust, I’d just give it a quick rub down with fine steel wool. Then wipe clean with denatured alcohol. Then apply some johnson’s paste wax to prevent future rust. All three of these products can be found in any lowes/HD for about $5 each, and should be enough to treat about 50 machines.

I try to avoid WD-40, harsh solvents, and mechanical devices when dealing with rust (when possible). Denatured alcohol evaporates quickly, has minimal effect on painted surfaces, and does a good job removing gunk from metal. You can use rubbing alcohol too with the same result.
There is really no reason to buy a bunch of speciality products until you’ve tried the cheap/easy route first.

View SteveGaskins's profile


748 posts in 2616 days

#14 posted 05-10-2011 02:46 AM

Thanks LJs for all of the feedback and comments. I appreciate your help.

-- Steve, South Carolina,

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