Cold Weather Bandmill Blade Lubrication

Advice and observations on blade lubricant and cooling fluids for sawing in way-below-freezing weather. June 30, 2007

I saw occasionally once a month or so. In warmer weather I use Dawn dish detergent mixed with 5 gallons of water. In weather just below 32 degrees F I mix in windshield washer fluid to keep it from freezing. Now that it is 15 degrees out, this isn't working. I tried diesel mixed with bar and chain oil, but this doesn't seem to work either. I tried hot water, but it's too cold and still freezes. The bar chain oil/diesel 50/50 mix seemed to make the band wheels so slick the blade slips off after exiting the cut. What are you full time sawyers doing to deal with this?

I don't know what you guys are putting into your drip systems, but is it meant to be a coolant (I've heard this, but the blade is never really hot), a lubricant, or a cleaner for pitch buildup? What works best?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor P:
I run straight windshield washer fluid. I tried mixing water with it, but chunks of ice seemed to form and clog up the line. It was -5 deg. F this morning and it worked fine. The only problems I seem to have at these temps (sawing W. pine) is that the band gets a buildup of frozen sawdust that I occasionally end up scraping off.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for mentioning about the pine. That's exactly what I'm doing. As soon as I'm done sawing about 8 spruce logs I have some nice walnuts I want to cut. I'm hoping the walnut won't cause any problems in this cold.

How toxic is it to run straight windshield washer fluid? Not that it is any healthier than diesel, oil, Pinesol, or dish detergent. I imagine the sawyer does breathe in a small percentage.

From contributor B:

The drip is not designed to directly cool the blade, nor lubricate it to slide through the cut. It is meant to prevent pitch buildup on the blade, which if allowed to build would cause friction and heat the blade. I use straight diesel year round and don't experience any problems. And let's not even get started on the water vs. diesel debate.

From contributor P:
I think windshield washer fluid must be fairly non-toxic. Unlike gasoline or oil, it's designed to be spewed out into the environment. With the weather lately in NH, every car on the road has probably squirted a gallon out on the roadway in the last couple weeks. I would suspect breathing the exhaust smoke and sawdust would be more harmful to the sawyer than the few drops of washer fluid I use on each cut.

Sometimes I wonder whether I need any lube this time of year anyway. With the snow on the logs and frozen wood, the blades don't overheat anyway. But I still give it a squirt every so often.

From the original questioner:
So why are my blades slipping off? I know my mill well, and have been sawing for a long time, but I don't ever remember sawing in weather colder than 25. The only different things going on are that I am cutting pine that is only frozen half way to the core and I just started using diesel and bar oil in the drip vs. water and dish detergent in warmer weather. Any ideas?

From contributor T:
I use water or water mixes so I'm no expert on diesel/oil lubes. But from what I've heard from others who use diesel/oil mixes, I suspect you are putting it on too heavy. The second problem this can cause is eating the crowns off the belts prematurely. The drip rate should be ~1 per minute or less.

From contributor E:
The diesel fuel and bar oil should be mixed 1 to 1. Drip is way too much for this. I use an electric windshield pump and have the jets spray both top and bottom at the same time. If I saw ewp and the log was 8 feet long, I would hit the button maybe two or three times in that length of cut. Each spray is about the same amount as you would use when you hit the spray on your windshield. I have used a spray bottle like an old Windex bottle and spray it only two or three times for that 8 foot length. The key is to use just enough to make the blade clean or no pitch buildup, more than that and you produce a slippery mess. I have thrown blades by using too much. In pine make sure your blade set is correct. I sawed some larch last summer and I really got into the pitch, so then I increased the amount by quite a bit since the blades were just loading up. The blade cleaned right up. That is nice wood and has strength specs like DF. You guessed it - my mill is four years and built it myself.

From contributor E:
I would use a spray bottle in cold weather and keep it inside until you're ready to use. Don't use the mixture on a blade when it is not cutting, for this will make it slippery enough to throw blades. I like this lube because the bar oil makes it stick to the blade and the lube doesn't get thrown off so easily. That is why you use much less.

From contributor S:
I have been wrestling with this issue a lot this year. I finally decided to try diesel with a bit of chain lube mixed in. I put it in a squirt bottle and sprayed it once in awhile. It worked but I didn't like the mess. I then took a long stick, attached a green scrubby pad to the end and sprayed that with the solution. Now I just reach out and hold it on the top then bottom of the blade while it's running. It works great and no mess.

From contributor W:
Like your experience, water plus windshield fluid mixes froze up in my saw once the weather turned cold. I went to straight windshield washer mix. No more freeze up. If water plus Dawn was working okay for you before the cold weather, I would expect straight windshield fluid should work okay. Not the cheapest option, but eliminates the freeze up.

From the original questioner:
Thank you for your answers. I'm running straight windshield washer fluid when I can. It's 10 degrees out and I'm staying inside for now! Keep warm and happy sawing!

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor R:
I use Propylene Glycol/RV antifreeze for a coolant base mixed with Pinsol or Dawn for lube. Propylene Glycol protects to -50 degrees, is biodegradable, and unlike ethylene glycol can be found as food grade version RV antifreeze.