Introduction: Cleaning Off Pitch & Resin From Router Bits and Saw Blades

Picture of Cleaning Off Pitch & Resin From Router Bits and Saw Blades

Pitch builds up on cutting surfaces on router bits and saw blades. This may cause burning of the finished cuts or them to behave like a dull blade. Removing the buildup may restore performance and is easy to perform at home. I cleaned three saw blades and about a dozen router bits in about 30 minutes.

The local wood working store had pitch and resin remover for about $15 per quart. I looked at the MSDS sheet and found sodium metasilicate as one of the ingredients, the others were anti-foaming agents and fragrance. Powdered Brewery Wash (PWB) from Five Star is a safe cleaner used in home brewing which is 30% sodium metasilicate. A pound of the stuff costs about $10 at the brewing store and makes several gallons of cleaner which I use for other purposes around the house.

Tip: PWB works great for loosening carbonized crud and burned on grease on removable drip trays for stoves. I soak them overnight in a sink then give them a scrub. The stuff comes right off unless it was super thick which needed one more soak. As a bonus the stainless steel sink was really clean when I drained the water out.

You could also the pitch and resin remover from the store. The cleaning process is the same, only the cleaning solution changes.

Materials & Equipment

  • Powdered brewery wash
  • Plastic container to soak bits in
  • A flat tray that can fit your saw blades
  • Brass wire brush
  • Paper towels
  • Nitrile gloves (optional)

Step 1: Mixing PWB

Picture of Mixing PWB
  1. Mix about 2 tablespoons (30g) of PWB in about a pint of warm water.
  2. Stir for a few minutes until it dissolves, it dissolves fairly slowly
  3. Pour into a plastic container if cleaning router bits or a flat tray if cleaning saw blades.

Step 2: Preping Router Bits

Picture of Preping Router Bits

Some router bits have a follower bearing which needs to be removed before soaking. Skip this if no bearing is present.

  1. Remove the retaining screw that holds the bearing on. My router bits had a 2.5mm screw.
  2. Remove the bearing. It should slide off but may require gentle prying with a small flat blade screwdriver.
  3. Remove the small washer that is below the bearing if present.
  4. Set aside the parts for reassembly later.

Step 3: Soaking the Router Bits

Picture of Soaking the Router Bits

Soak for 3-5 minutes in the PWB solution. The pitch and resin should loosen up fairly quickly.

Step 4: Brushing

Carefully brush the router bit with a brass wire brush along the length of the cutting surfaces with light pressure. The pitch and resin should come off easily, there is no need for excessive pressure. I used only a pound or two of pressure.

You may want to consider using nitrile gloves since PWB can remove oils from your hands making them dry.

Note: Be careful when handing the tool. The carbide surfaces may be very sharp and can easily cut you. The bit may also be slippery due to the soap solution.

Step 5: Rinse and Dry the Router Bits

Picture of Rinse and Dry the Router Bits
  • Rinse the router bit in the sink then carefully dry with paper towels.

Note: Be careful since the carbide edges may be very sharp.

  • Allow the bits to finish drying before storing.
  • Soak the bit again if it needs a bit more cleaning.

Step 6: Reassemble the Router Bit

Picture of Reassemble the Router Bit

This is step is only necessary if the router bit had a bearing attached.

  • Slide the washer on with the domed surface facing toward the bearing.
  • Place the bearing on top of the washer.
  • Replace the screw and tighten with the hex key.

Step 7: Soaking Saw Blades

Picture of Soaking Saw Blades
  1. Pour the PWB solution into a flat tray.
  2. Soak the saw blade for 3-5 minutes.

Step 8: Cleaning the Saw Blades

Picture of Cleaning the Saw Blades
  • Scrub the blade with the wire brush from the back of the saw tooth toward the front. The resin should come off quickly.
  • Work your way around the saw blade working in the direction of the arrow.
  • Scrub the area below the gullet of each tooth, resin builds up in that area too.
  • Flip the saw blade over and repeat.
  • Scrub along the edge of the blade if needed.

Note: Be careful of the carbide tips they can be rather sharp.

Step 9: Rinse and Dry the Saw Blade

Picture of Rinse and Dry the Saw Blade
  • Rinse the saw blade under clean tap water.
  • Carefully dry the blade with a paper towel.
  • Wait for the blade to be completely dry before reinstalling on the saw arbor.

Step 10: Dispose of the Dirty Liquid

Picture of Dispose of the Dirty Liquid

The PWB solution can be disposed of in the sink since it is an environmentally friendly cleaner. The dirt is mostly pitch and resin from the wood.

Comments

gm280 (author)2016-10-21

I have to try this. But I do have a question, since this doesn't harm the metal at all, why remove the bearings? Wouldn't it also clean the bearing out with wood debris as well and then you can re-oil them before putting the bits away.

ericsnis (author)gm2802016-10-21

I don't know if it is technically necessary. The bearings on mine aren't sealed so I'm a little wary of saturating them with water. The guy at Rockler also suggested pulling the bearings, so I went along with that.

srilyk (author)ericsnis2017-09-14

I guess it depends on how confident you are in your bearing re-oiling. I know that for bike chains there are a lot of people who find that trying to re-lube the chain like it came from the factory just never works so well. I suspect that shielded bearings fall under a similar kind of thing.

iSuat made it! (author)2017-05-15

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iSuat (author)2017-05-04

I can not believe that I could not think of it. I am surprised how much the sink metal shines when I wash bottles every time. I can not wait to bring some from home and try. Thank you so much.

Involved Observer (author)2016-10-21

Thanks for the instructable - never would have run across this product. One question - do you know if it is okay to use on aluminum parts/pans?

The manufacturer's product info sheet says it should be okay with aluminum.

The info sheet is at http://www.fivestarchemicals.com/wp-content/uploads/PBWTech2.pdf

tytower (author)2016-10-21

Good info thanks

BeachsideHank (author)2016-10-21

About 2" cut off the bottom of a typical scrap 5- gallon plastic bucket will nicely hold a 10" diameter sawblade for cleaning. ☺

I use brake cleaner spray for my bits and blades only because I have it, works fine but one has to rinse off immediately when done as it darkens the body if left on too long.

ericsnis (author)BeachsideHank2016-10-21

That's a good idea for the bucket. Most home centers seem to have them good and cheap. I have a stack of empties in the garage.

Brake cleaner does work on quite a few things. Unfortunately the fumes gave me a horrible headache for hours.

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Bio: I am a microbiologist and geneticist by education who does home woodworking projects in my spare time. I also dabble in Raspberry Pi and home ... More »
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