Introduction: Clean Your Cast Iron Tools Easily

Picture of Clean Your Cast Iron Tools Easily

Ok, put your hand up if you've ever used your table saw as a bench to work on or glue up on.

Yep nearly everyone huh.

I'm probably a bit worse, I use it when painting as well...

The cast iron was not looking in absolute tip top shape after a year of this abuse, so I decided it was time to spruce it up.

All you need is a can of WD-40, some sandpaper, and a spare hour of your time.

All the steps are in here, but I have some more photos and a little more info on my website as well.

Give it a go, you'll love the results.



Step 1: Prep the Surface

Picture of Prep the Surface

The first step is pretty simple, scrape the top down to a sort of smooth finish.

I used a metal paint scraper to get rid of the bulk, simply run it back and forth over the top until all glue blobs and dried on crud is flicked off.

Then I put a new 120grit sanding disc on my Random Orbital Sander and went to town with it. Make sure you go nice and slow and cover the entire top; the better job you do here the better the end result.

I then took that sanding disc and wrapped it around a plywood offcut to sand the mitre tracks.

Step 2: Drench It

Picture of Drench It

Absolutely drench it in WD-40.

Then get yourself a new 120 grit disc and HAND sand the entire tabletop including the mitre tracks again.

This is the time consuming part. You can use a power sander here, but I don't think it is worth the mess; the WD-40 and iron dust creates a slurry that you don't really want flicked all around your shop.

Make sure you go over the entire top, then when you're happy with it use paper towel to clean it up.

Step 3: More Sanding? More Sanding.

Picture of More Sanding? More Sanding.

Now that the top is cleaned up, we can move on to a higher grit. I fitted a 240grit disc to my sander and had at it.
You can see just how gunked up it gets, I used two new discs on this pass alone.

Step 4: Finish It Off

Picture of Finish It Off

You should have a pretty nice looking cast iron bench top by now, to keep it that way you'll want to rub a finish in.

A specially formulated paste wax is the better way of finishing the iron, but in a pinch, you can use WD-40 here as well. I have no wax so it was WD-40 for me. Drench the top again, and buff it back with clean paper towel by hand.

It is amazing how much better it looks after all this.

My table saw top in particular looks better than when I bought it brand new.

So there you go, a nice easy project that can make a big difference to your tools.

Best of luck!


padbravo (author)2015-03-30

The WoodFather ?
Great! LOL!

TheWoodfather (author)padbravo2015-04-20

haha yeah, I 'named' myself that simply cos I find it funny every time I hear it :-)

oceannavagator (author)2015-04-06

OMG! A constant problem in an unheated shop. I use scotch pads and non silicon wax to avoid finishing problems, but if you don't keep after it, you're in for heartbreak.

Ninzerbean (author)2015-04-01

I just cleaned my tools last week cause I am going to sell them - but I used Navel Jelly. It is a rust dissolver. There was still a lot of sanding with wet/dry 400 grit, they look good now, and I coated them in a mix I made of beeswax and coconut oil (someday I will do an ible on my finish recipes) but my question is why did you use WD40 in stead of Navel Jelly? Is WD40 better?

slo5oh (author)Ninzerbean2015-04-06

Navel Jelly is for rust removal. OP did a "wet sand" of his table saw using WD-40 instead of water. I don't think I would advise coating your cast iron with navel jelly then sanding it with an electric sander, likely slinging it all over your clothes and garage/shop. If there's heavy rust, perhaps start by cleaning it with navel jelly, then clean it, then follow this method to polish it.

TheWoodfather (author)Ninzerbean2015-04-01

There are quite a few products you can use for the same purpose; I simply had WD40 on hand and didn't have or want to spend any money. I don't doubt that this Navel Jelly product is better, but for my purposes there was no need to go out and get the best product available. All I needed and wanted was something that would work, WD40 fit the bill nicely.

Ninzerbean (author)TheWoodfather2015-04-01

Thank you, I just didn't know. I just do what people tell me, or use what they tell me to, so I didn't know if... whatever, thank you.

Mak5 (author)2015-04-02

I just acquired an old cast iron 14" bandsaw that needs some TLC, this method seems excellent! Kudos!

kwhit190211 (author)2015-04-02

I never used wd-40 when i cleaned up my tablesaw workbench. I use silicon oil, myself.

studleylee (author)2015-03-31

Love this!! I have the very same table saw and I laid something on it that made it very unhappy. Will try this on several things around the shop!!!!

TheWoodfather (author)studleylee2015-04-01

Awesome, best of luck! On a slightly related note, have you done anything to your saw to improve its dust collection? I plan on boxing the metal frame up on mine pretty soon to try and contain the dust.

studleylee (author)TheWoodfather2015-04-01

I haven't implemented the dust collection system yet. that's a whole other project ;-)

longwinters (author)2015-03-31

Ok so I tried it first, wow very nice result on the edge sander, next is the table saw and drill press, I'm wondering if tongue oil would be acceptable, have you ever had a finish contamination problem using WD?

I've not noticed any issues but I did research it online beforehand. While it's not the best product out there to use for the finish coat, it still does a decent job at protecting the metal. I would just jump on google and find out if the type of oil you have on hand is safe to use by someone who has already done it.

Thor Hunter (author)2015-03-31

I know what I'm doing today. Thanks

Haha, no problem, have at it!

steve.marlin.547 (author)2015-03-31

Nicely done! One suggestion: don't use WD40 for the final coating - it can rub off on wood and may cause "fisheyes" when applying a varnish. Boeshield T-9 was developed by Boeing for use in mothballing planes. Really superior rust prevention, and doesn't rub off on wood. Available at most hardware stores.

I would use a paste or special finish if I had one, but WD40 does seem to work well. I was worried about marks on the wood but I've run a fair bit through the saw since and have spray lacquered the wood afterwards (after sanding of course), I didn't notice any defects from the WD40.

tytower (author)2015-03-31

And be careful on the channels or it wont be accurate any more

TheWoodfather (author)tytower2015-04-01

I imagine being near the sea must be hard on the tools, they'd be trying to rust up as soon as you finished cleaning. I'd struggle to ruin the channels with this method I think, the metal is a lot tougher than a sanding disc for one, but having said that, I don't plan on doing this as in depth each week or month, it will be a one or two times a year thing tops, so I don't think I'll hurt it too much.

Mindmapper1 (author)2015-03-31

Great use of WD40!

one of millions of uses I think

BeachsideHank (author)2015-03-30

I don't have a tablesaw anymore, ditched it in favor of a radial arm saw, but when I did, I pretty much restored and maintained the top as you describe. My finish of choice was boiled linseed oil; cheap, tough enough, and most every woodworker has some on hand. Old timers used a dusting of talcum powder for filling the cast iron pores, but pure talc is now hard to come by, most of it is just corn starch sold as "baby powder"- too bad, it was a great finish too.

I'm still yet to buy my first can of boiled linseed...soon though!

tytower (author)2015-03-31

After all that work you should have sprayed it with lanolin spray . Let it dry and there is a thick film left which stops any of that muck from sticking . Doing delicate stuff - wipe over with kerosesne rag and dry then respray when finished . I live next to the sea and its the only way.

centipedeoff (author)2015-03-31

Thats stunning...

lovevomer (author)2015-03-30

Thats awe-inspiring

About This Instructable




Bio: Father, Woodworker, Youtuber.
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