Maintaining clean and sharp tools in your woodshop can be the difference between a successful woodworking project and a piece with poor cuts and bad overall quality. And, not only will keeping clean and sharp blades maximize the tool’s performance, performing these chores regularly will also make your woodworking much safer.
If you work with mainly softwoods or oily hardwoods, your tools will quickly develop a buildup of pine and pitch. These can limit the life and value of your blades, making you work harder to get good use from them and force you to replace them more often. Especially around the tooth areas of saw blades, grime and grease can minimize the effectiveness of even the most expensive tools.
The easiest way to protect your blades is to keep them clean by regularly scrubbing them. There are many products available to you when scrubbing your blades, but many woodworkers agree that the cheapest and most effective product is good ol’ WD-40.
Spray the tool with the WD-40 and then use a brass bristle brush to thoroughly coat and clean the blade. Take care to only scrub with the direction of the sharp parts of the blade. For instance, on a circular saw, brush from the center of circle outwards, moving outwards in straight lines with the circle’s radius. To complete the scrubbing, carefully wipe the excess oil off the blade with a clean rag.
The next step to caring for your woodshop blades is to sharpen them. While there are companies who can be hired to sharpen your blades for you, for a woodworker with many tools or someone who uses their tools frequently, this sort of professional maintenance can quickly become very expensive.
Your other option is to sharpen the tools yourself. With proper instruction and care this can be done either manually or with an electric sharpening tool. An excellent example of a do-it-yourself sharpening tool is a jig fashioned from an angle grinder with a four inch tile-cutting bit. The angle grinder and bit can be purchased at local home improvement stores.
If you do choose to sharpen your blades yourself, begin by practicing on cheaper tools. It will likely take you a couple of tries before you can sharpen proficiently, and you don’t want to waste your money sacrificing expensive tools to your novice. Nor should you sharpen your blades too often. Most blades can only stand to be sharpened two or three times, the better quality tools as many as five times. Check your tools periodically as you are sharpening them to be sure your are sharpening below the old metal line. You don’t want to spend time sharpening tools and not actually making them any sharper!
After you have finished cleaning and sharpening your blade, apply a coat of wax to it. You can find specialty waxes, such as Minwax Paste Finishing Wax, at local woodworking supply stores or home improvement centers. You will be surprised by how well a blade will work after coating it wit a little bit of wax.
Consider cleaning and sharpening your tools to be a necessary condition of woodworking, and make it a habit to inspect all of your tools regularly.