Cleaning a Rusty Table Saw

Tips for getting rust off a table saw surface. April 30, 2009

I have minor rust spots on my tablesaw top from my cats walking on it. Whatís the best way to clean and remove the rust? Should I sand it with very fine sand paper or Steel Wool with WD-40? Suggestions would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
Put down the WD-40 and step away from the table saw! Using an oily lubricant or silicone will cause finishing problems down the line, especially in the first few pieces that you run. I am a big advocate of using paste wax. Get some steel wool and use a bit of paste wax and buff the table. Work it a bit harder over the rust spots. You may even try a 3M Scotchbrite type pad on a jitterbug or 1/4 sheet sander if the surface rust is starting to get deep. Apply the wax with the steel wool/scouring pad, and then buff it like you would your car with a terry towel or more steel wool (if you got really heavy with the wax). Re-apply as you start to notice friction as you are using the saw or if you are noticing surface rust again.

From contributor K:
Unless you actually remove a thin amount of material off the top, you won't get rid of the shadow caused by the rust. I have gone as far as using my random orbital sander in my tops when the roof leaked on one of the shapers and the jointer. I never could remove enough material to completely remove the shadow using a 180 disk. I got over it and just maintain them well enough to work well and I keep them lubricated with Top Coat.

From contributor G:
I use a maroon Scotch-Brite and put it on my RO sander. First scrub it by hand and then use the RO. You will still see the shadow but it will be smooth. Use a good paste wax afterwards.

From contributor P:
I've always used 600 grit and mineral spirits for rust removal. Then Mother's brand caranuba car wax (no silicone) and buff it off with a white Scotch-Brite on a RO. I've found the car wax lasts longer than furniture paste wax, just make sure if you use a car wax that it has not silicone. Most of them do.

From contributor G:
I find that TiteBond II will make a table much shinier. Don't know why. I glue doors up on it and sometimes I get glue drops on the top. When I remove them there is a very shiny spot left.

From contributor F:
I use Topsaver. It does not remove all the shadow but the surface is flat and wood moves over it well, and thatís all that counts. Sure, I'd like it to look pristine but hey, itís a tool not a decoration!

From contributor S:
Every time you take an abrasive such as sand paper to your top you remove a small amount of the surface. The once in a while touch up probably wonít matter if you have deep rust or have to do this repeatedly you will affect the accuracy of the saw. I have used mineral spirits or on the rare occasion kerosene and a Scotch-Brite pad. It gets rid of the surface rust but doesnít always get rid of the stain. Then I put one or two coats of butchers wax on the top buffing between coats. Over time I have found that the stains seem to fade or disappear altogether with repeated coats of wax.

Case in point my bandsaw, shaper and jointer were stored in a trailer for a year when I moved. The tops were completely covered in rust. After working them with the Scotch-Brite and mineral spirits then buffing with the wax it brought the tops back and now after two years in my shop the stains that were left are mostly gone.

From contributor K:
I agree, and don't sand the tops of my machines as a rule, only to fix those spots from roof leaks and such. I would also add that the only machines I have in my shop that I trust to be flat are the Tanniwitz and an old 20" Yates jointer which I had to have ground when I purchased it. One should always sand the entire top equally when removing rust spots this way.

From contributor E:
I've used the old fashioned wire bristle on a drill dry seems to work for me.