De-Rust Your Old Table Saw




Introduction: De-Rust Your Old Table Saw

I'm a born tinkerer who's always enjoyed hands on activities. I'm into 3D printing, CNC carving a...

I purchased an old rusty table saw from the local classifieds. It was a great deal, but it was very rusty - rusty enough that it was hard to use and desperately needed help. Here's how you can remove the rust from your old table saw and give it a new lease on life as a useful tool!

Step 1: Cut the Rust

The first thing to do is to remove your blade insert, the blade itself, your fence, miter gauge, etc. If you're so inclined, you can also remove the rails that your fence rides on. In my case, they needed little TLC anyway.

Use a putty knife or similar scraper to knock down the high rust spots and to make everything flat. You're not trying to cut into the metal or to scrape really hard, you just want to knock off the loose rust. Be careful not to gouge the surface, you want it to be as smooth and as flat as possible.

Step 2: Apply a Rust Remover

Now that you've got the loose rust removed, it's time to apply a rust stripper. I used a product from Rust-Oleum, but many other products exist. Traditionally, this sort of product is called 'Naval Jelly' and can be found at most automotive and home improvement stores.

Wear gloves and safety glasses! These chemicals can burn your skin. You also want to work in a well ventilated area. Open a door and set up a fan to keep the air moving, you don't want to breathe the nasty fumes from these chemicals, trust me.

Apply enough rust stripper so that you can slather on an even, wet coat of it with your gloves. Don't forget about the miter slots and edges. Make sure to coat everything while being careful to keep the stripper out of the inner workings of the saw.

Follow the instructions on the product that you end up using - mine said to let the chemical work for about 20 minutes before removing it. After the allotted amount of time, wipe the rust remover off with a rag or paper towel. The grime that you remove will be brown with rust. Reapply another coat of rust remover and repeat this process until there isn't any more visible rust and the chemical that you wipe off is gray with steel instead of orange with rust.

Step 3: Clean the Bare Metal

After removing the orange and brown rust from your table saw, the table still may not be clean and smooth. To knock down the rest of the rough spots, use an automotive rubbing compound or metal polish and a buffing wheel. You can use an orbital buffer or a polishing arbor in a drill.

Make sure to use products that do not contain silicone. Silicone will stay on the table and contaminate the wood that you cut, causing imperfections in anything that you paint. If you're not sure whether or not the product you're using contains silicone, look up the chemical's MSDS sheet and see if it contains "siloxanes".

Step 4: Apply Wax

After you're finished polishing the table's surface, wipe it down with a solvent like acetone until your rag comes off of the table clean. This will remove any chemicals that may still be on the table and ensure that there isn't anything left on the surface that might interact with the wax coat. Again, don't forget about the miter slots and edges.

After everything is clean, apply wax to seal the table's finish and to lubricate the surface. Most woodworkers will tell you to use Johnson's Paste Wax. I found it at my local hardware store. The product is sold as a flooring wax.

Apply the wax just like you're waxing a car. Apply a full layer, allow it to dry for 15-20 minutes (you'll see the wax haze over) and wipe it off. Since you're applying the wax to bare metal for the very first time, repeat this process at least one more time to make sure that all of the machining marks and surface imperfections are filled with the wax.

Step 5: Reassemble the Table

After you've applied an nice coat of wax to the surface, you can reinstall everything on your table. It's a good idea to clean everything as you put it back on. I used the same rag that I waxed the table with so that everything ended up with a thin coat of the slick wax.

Reinstall your fence, insert your blade insert, etc.

Step 6: Enjoy!

After everything's back together, your saw is ready for service again. Take a step back and admire the awesome job that you've done!

To keep your saw from rusting over again, avoid exposing it to moisture. This is difficult to do in the average garage or workshop, but you can take steps to reduce exposure. Avoid setting drinks and other tools on top of the table that might contain moisture. You should also periodically reapply a coat of wax to protect the surface.

Your saw's new finish, if properly maintained, will last for the life of the tool and serve you well. Enjoy!

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142 Discussions

KUDOs to

jimustanguitar for this informative instructable. With a kind smile on my face, and courteous demeanor, I say that your detractor-criticizers have all labored under cumbersome deviations. Do you see what I mean? While we all argue to use our preferred method, our equipment corrodes and rusts due to inattention. When someone else uses their precious time to show us A way to survive in this expensive world, we need not turn his kindness into litigious frivolity. Thanks again, Jim. Keep the ideas coming.

3 replies


You are not always the first owner on a piece of useful machinery!

My son has found many a decent and working tool at the junk yard that continues to serve us well for years after a bit of cleaning.

Yeah, I had no idea that I was opening a Pandora's box full of WD-40... I merely intended to share 1 possible way to do things, 1 of many.

Thanks for the support - more Ibles coming soon!


Opening a rusty Pandora's box filled with WD-40. The iron-y.

Or do this for free by balling up aluminum foil, dipping it in water a few times as you rub the rust away. The key is to keep the aluminum wet. Free, simple and rust is gone! Works on chrome, cast aluminum and so on...

Johnson's paste wax is the standard of high end wood working, mill-working and cabinet shops. Wax-on, wax-off. If you are thorough in wax-on, you'll never have rusty tools again. If you are thorough in your wax-off, you won't have wax residue interfering with finishing.

Also, use it on wood... jigs, fences, etc...

7 replies

a more modern and better way to lubricate a tool table is with a Molybdenum Disulfide Spray. These are dry lubes that bond to the iron surfaces and last years. They do not impede finishes and preserve the metal. They are used as release agents for molds too, sand can be found in industrial supply sources like (I was a special effects modelmaker for 25 years at the top of the industry. This is for real, friends.)

Thanks again for the tip. I'd definitely say that Moly is a winner.

On your advice, I ordered some Moly film lube, and used it on my new (to me) wood lathe. I ended up getting the CRC branded stuff because it was on Amazon... Anyway, the finish is beautiful. So far, no flash rust at all, and it's just gorgeous to look at. My lathe ways look like they're machined out of graphite. Here's bare gray iron vs the moly treated surface.

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That's great advice, I'll have to get some! In the months since I published the Instructable I've gotten some flash rust, even through the Johnson's Wax, so a more permanent solution is in order. Are there any specific search terms that I should use to help me find the right stuff?

You will have to re-apply paste wax, frequently at first, but after a few applications less frequently. I have an old Craftsman cast iron table saw that I bought with heavy surface rust, I sanded the rust off with a D/A, and the wax lets material glide smoothly across the surface as well as preventing rust. It's as smooth as glass now.

Here is a link to the stuff:

Let's hear it for good ol' Johnson's Paste Wax! My dad had a can of it that was older than me which he used on woodworking projects. When I got him into working with me restoring antique spinning wheels, we quickly finished off that can and bought another. I currently have his approximately 70 year old Craftsman table saw in storage, which is why your Indestructible caught my interest. I had never thought of using Johnson's on metal. Maybe the next time I go to the storage facility I'll give it a good coat to prevent it from rusting.

These rust strippers contain hydrochloric acid. This acid will fume and cause resting of all iron/steel in the shop, so do outside or ventilate thoroughly. After using the acid-containing product and wiping off (and immediately carrying used rags outside), I would wipe with damp rag containing some dilute ammonia/water. This neutralizes any residual acid, both on the surface and in the air. Then apply a liberal application of WD-40 to the surface of this, and any other tools in the same room, to get rid of any moisture.

Do not store the bottle of rust remover in the shop! Its fumes will cause rusting of all tools in the shop.

Here is a link to the dry lube spray I like. It's a Molybdenum Disulphide spray and it will last a long time! Doesn't interfere with any finishes.

To help protect against the elements, after waxing I made a cover using 1/2" MDF and covered the bottom with felt. I added two stops on either end to hold the cover in place. I use this cover as a worktop for glue ups sharpening my tools, whatever I need it for. I also use a similar cover for my bandsaw but I use 1/8" or 1/4" plywood with the felt glued on. I live close to Houston, Tx where humidity is fairly high. The second pic you can see part of the top of my saw. It has been over 2 years since I waxed it. Used to live in Juneau, Ak where it rains about 95% of the time. I used the same thing there with equally good results. Also save those silica bags from shipping boxes to put in with your small hand tools.

2 replies

nice one! See my comment above about table covers. The felt is unnecessary though and can attract moisture. It is also far more fragile than a nice plywood surface which can also be waxed.

I thought as you did on the felt absorbing moisture but unless you pour water on top of the surface you won't get moisture absorption. I used the mdf because the plywood alone had a tendency to warp. But there again I didn't seal it with wax. I've been using the felt for 15 years without incident. I use the felt in my planes cabinet for my planes with the same result and as an added feature it protects the blades too so I don't have to retract the blade and then reset it when I want to use the plane a little further down the road. Both of our techniques have merit, well done.

My mother always had a garden. Every couple of years she would hand us kids the can of Johnson's wax & some old rags. It was our job to first clean all her garden tools -- hoe's, rakes, spades & shovels. We then had to use our hands to rub the wax over every nook & cranny of every tool, let it dry, & polish with the rags she gave us. I am 68 yrs. young and I still have some of her tools. Anything metal that stays or is used outside, my metal leg picnic table, gazebo, lawn mower, snow blower, even the axle's & wheels of my garbage cans gets a coat of Johnson's or Butcher's paste wax. Over the years I've saved a ton of money by not having to replace these items. Because most everything today is made with cheap pot metal or god knows what, I try to maintain my older tools and believe me , the paste wax works!

TIP : I have had this same Sears Table Saw for over 20+ yrs. I have cleaned the Rust off of it Several times. I Suggest using a Belt Sander with Fine Grit #100 or so. Sand lightly to remove the Rust,Wipe with a Clean Rag, then Wipe with WD-40 & Wipe it off. This will leave no Residue,but will fill the Pores in the metal, Retarding further Rust ! Rust Remover is an Acid and no matter how well you try to Remove it, it will get into the Pores of the metal, Thus encouraging more Rust !