Rust. We all know it. It’s probably damaged something of yours in the past. It’s a nuisance and something you definitely don’t want to eat away at your tools. So how do we get rid of it?
In the backs of sheds and the damp corners of garages, rust can bloom and proliferate on any number of items. There are probably some things you don’t mind finding have turned a shade of brownish orange over the years (bent nails lying forgotten in a puddle aren’t any huge loss) but when it comes to your tools – your expensive table saw – this is not an ideal fate.
Unwelcome as rust might be in these situations, it still manages to find a way in sometimes, and it won’t discriminate; if your tools are made of metals capable of rusting, which your table saw probably is, then rust they shall!
When this happens, how do you remove the rust? How do you go about giving your table saw new life?
There are several different methods for effective rust removal that are commonly used for saws, and it’s important to handle all blades with the utmost care whilst putting these methods in action.
Before jumping into the rust removal process, however, let’s get a bit more insight into the infestation that is rust.
What is Rust?
Put simply, rust is a form of oxidation. For those of you who’ve forgotten the high-school chemistry mnemonic device OIL RIG, here it is:
Oxidation Is Loss Reduction Is Gain
It’s the first part of this - or the OIL, if you like – that we’re interested in now. Oxidation is the loss of electrons. What this means in terms of rust, is that the item that is rusting is losing electrons to whatever substance is causing the rusting to happen, in many cases this substance is water.
Rust occurs in iron and its alloys (such as steel) and is caused by a reaction between the metal and oxygen. We usually associate rust with water rather than air, but because water contains oxygen, the principle is the same.
Unfortunately, this is bad news for your table saw, as majority of table saws will be made of steel.
Table saws are generally pretty hardworking bits of equipment, so it stands to reason that they need to be made of something tough. Whilst raw iron on its own is not all that strong when compared to other metals, once an alloy is created by adding carbon and other elements, the resulting metal is much stronger and more hard-wearing.
Steel is one such alloy and is a combination mainly of iron and carbon, along with a variety of other elements depending on the particular type of steel.
Steel also gets its strength from the process by which it is created. Iron ore is heated in a furnace to eliminate impurities, and as with most things, the purer the substance, the higher the quality. This pure iron ore then has carbon added to it which strengthens it further.
How exactly does the addition of carbon make steel stronger than iron?
While raw iron is actually fairly soft (contrary to what many people believe), its alloy, steel, is as we have already discussed, much stronger. In iron, because all the atoms are of the same element, they are able to slide over one another when force is applied which essentially makes iron quite malleable.
In the case of steel however, the added carbon means that there are several different kinds of atom at work, meaning they are less likely and less able to move past one another under pressure. This makes steel stronger, more durable, and less ductile than iron.
The Nitty Gritty: How to Remove Rust from Your Table Saw
Now to tackle the reason that you’re here in the first place: ridding your table saw of rust.
Despite steel’s strength and durability, it is still susceptible to rust (at it again with the bad news!) and this means your table saw is not immune to that flaky, red film. Once it gets hold, it can spread quickly and if left unchecked, it can seriously damage the quality of your blades and other saw components, leading to more dramatic corrosion and breakage.
It’s not all doom and gloom though as there are some simple remedies you can use to save your table saw!
Before attempting any rust remedy however, it is imperative that you thoroughly assess the damage caused by the rust. This is necessary because depending on the extent of the problem, you might be able to use different treatments.
If the rust is minimal and doesn’t seem to be affecting the function of your table saw (ie if the rust is more cosmetic than anything), then you won’t have to go to such extreme measures to remove it. A common and highly accessible remedy for light rust is some good old WD-40.
This is probably a name you’re very familiar with as WD-40 can be used for loads of functions around the house including taking the squeak out of door hinges, and lubricating gates, locks, and more.
For light rust removal, use a synthetic scouring pad (NOT sandpaper or steel wool!) and apply some WD-40 to the affected areas on your table saw. You can be quite liberal here as WD-40 tends to evaporate quite quickly – it might even be a good idea to apply the oil to the table multiple times during the cleaning process in order to keep the scouring pad well lubricated.
Rub the WD-40 with the scouring pad using circular and back-and-forth motions to ensure thorough rust removal and keep rubbing until the rust has dissipated completely. Once you’ve done this, give the table a wipe with a clean dry cloth until all visible remnants of the WD-40 are gone.
There will be a thin protective film that remains even after this step but because WD-40 evaporates quite easily, you may find that some rust blooms return after some time. For added preventative security, wiping your table saw with WD-40 every so often will help to protect it from oxidisation.
Mineral oils can be used in much the same way as WD-40 with the added benefit that they’re usually thicker and longer-lasting than WD-40, not evaporating as quickly. Although you can be quite liberal when applying the mineral oil to your table saw, you don’t want to go too overboard as this will make it more difficult to wipe off after the rust has been sufficiently removed.
Once wiped away, an invisible oil film will remain that will protect the metal from oxidisation by sealing it away from air and moisture. Mineral oils provide a slightly longer-term solution than WD-40.
For more stubborn or aggressive rust, you’ll need to take a firmer approach. Before applying anything to the surface of your saw, you need to first try to level the surface of the rust by scraping off any large or chunkier flakes. You can do this using a putty knife or paint scraper, but just be very careful not to scrape into the metal itself or damage the surface underneath the rust.
Once you’ve scraped off the excess rust and have a somewhat smoother surface, you can apply your naval jelly. Naval jelly comes in many different types and brands, so make sure you follow the instructions exactly as it is very powerful stuff and can damage your surface if used incorrectly.
Because naval jelly is so strong, it’s important to carry out your rust removal in a well-ventilated area, taking additional care to ensure your own health and safety. This means wearing protective gear such as gloves and safety goggles.
Following the instructions for whatever brand of naval jelly you use should result in the rust being stripped right back. Remove the residue with a cloth and repeat if necessary, until your table saw is rust-free. Applying a lubricating wax after this treatment will not only polish the fresh surface of the table saw, but also help to protect it from further rusting.
Now You Know
You’ve now seen what rust is, why steel is a common material for building table saws, and how to remove rust from your table saw. There might be other remedies out there, but the ones listed above are widely tried and tested and have been proven to get excellent results.
These techniques will also help you to ensure your table saw remains rust-free after the rust removal process, hopefully saving you money, time, and effort in the long run.
Although the goal is to remove rust from your table saw and hopefully keep it in pristine condition, it’s also so important to keep yourself save while doing so. Wear the necessary protective gear as directed by the instructions on all chemicals used, and make sure you clean your table saw in a well-ventilated room. One other thing to bear in mind is to be weary of the saw blade while you’re cleaning too – no one wants to lose a finger in the process!