Table Saw Rust Removal





Introduction: Table Saw Rust Removal

About: Jack of all trades and (soon to be) Master of Transfusion Medicine! When not finding blood for patients in need, I'm busy keeping busy. Woodworking, programming, grad school and the like... I ALWAYS have t...

I recently inherited an old Delta table saw from my Grandfather, but had no good place to put it other than in a ruddy old shed. In a short time, the cast iron top of the saw started rusting. I had tried the quick rust fixes... vinegar... using a tarp to protect the table... but the rust came back.

Rust is cancer! It spreads, and to stop it you must kill all of it! Rust killed my first car and my parent's above ground pool. I wasn't going to let it take my grandpa's saw too!

This requires no special tools, and can be done rather quickly, and was much easier than I had thought!

Step 1: Manual Removal

Access the amount of rust you actually have. If there is only surface rust with some minor pitting (When the rust has eaten into the table top) then clean up won't be so bad. The best thing you can do is catch it early!

If your metal object has been sitting out for years and has major rust damage, it may not be worth anything when you get the rust off... :-(

For a table saw to be effective, the table needs to be flat. In my case, My saw was covered in rust, but only had minor pitting.

Begin working with a stiff metal bristle brush. (like these from Harbor Freight:

Take your time knocking off the larger chunks of rust and scour the whole surface. Be wary of how much rust dust you're kicking up in the air, it might be a good idea to wear a mask and eye protection!

Finally wipe the surface clean with some paper towel. If you do a good job here, the following steps will be easier.

Step 2: Chemical Removal

Skip the Vinegar and go for some good old-fashioned Naval Jelly (6 to 8 Bucks at your local Hardware store)

This stuff works quickly and does a great job. It's a thick, gloopy jelly made of mostly Phosphoric Acid. WEAR GLOVES when handling this stuff.

Brush, or glob on to your rusty surface and spread it around. Allow a thick layer to sit and work for 5 to 10 minutes, then wipe it up along with the rust. It can be thinned and sprayed with a paint sprayer if you have a large area to cover.

After removing the surface rust, apply more jelly to the pitted areas and use some elbow grease and a rag to work it into the rust. Use a clean metal brush if you need to. The rust comes up in no time!

Step 3: The Details

In the first image you can really see the difference that jelly makes!

To get the last bits of rust off the table, and from within the miter slots, a little hand sanding will be needed.

I take some 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper and use the Naval Jelly as a lubricant for some set sanding. Here, a little goes a long way.

For big flat areas on the table top, I attached some of the sandpaper to a flat board with some spray adhesive. This makeshift sanding block covers a lot of ground quickly.

I used a dab of jelly and a small scrap of sandpaper for the finer details and hard to reach areas like the miter slots, and the walls of the "throat" where the throat plate and blade reside.

When finished, you need to rinse the surface with water to remove any residual acid. Rinse with a water soaked rag and dry thoroughly.

Step 4: Protect It!

After all the Cancer is removed, protect your metal to prevent it's return.

Once the surface is dry I covered the surface with WD-40, and spread it thin with a rag. Then, I used some more! Protecting your metal tools with WD-40 is a great thing to do if you store them for a cold winter like I do. (For those of you who don't know, the WD in WD-40 stands for Water Displacement. Rust prevention and removing water from mechanical systems was the original designed purpose of this product, but now it has hundreds of uses)

Alternatively, you can protect the surface of the table with a coat of paste wax or paraffin wax. These waxes also smooth the surface of the table saw so wood can more easily glide across it. There are also specialized products like Bostik Top-Cote ( that are meant for this purpose.

DISCLAIMER! Only use WD-40 if you aren't planning to use the saw for a while. If you use the saw after it has been freshly lubricated, WD-40 can be picked up by the wood you are using and cause major issues when you are trying to apply a finish to the wood.

I hope that this instructable helps you out. Now get to work with that saw!



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    26 Discussions

    wax. Lay a thick coating of car wax on the top if it's going to be stored for a while. when you're ready to use it, just buff it out. I have the same saw you have (I think, old Delta contractor saw). I took it Guam while in the Navy, and now it sits in an old barn. 24 years old and not a speck of dust on it.

    1 reply

    Rather than remove rust entirely you might consider using a rust
    neutralizing paint. This stuff is AWESOME as it converts rust to a
    black coating which is itself resistant to further rusting. There are a
    number of brands but example

    1 reply

    I was actually thinking about doing a full restoration and painting it. I'll keep this in mind! Thanks!


    1 year ago

    MURIATIC ACID much cheaper faster just neutralize, brush, regards

    1 reply

    Wouldn't Hydrochloric acid also eat at and dissolve the useable iron?! that would produce Ferric Chloride. could do more harm than good if you're not careful.

    I just used those green scrubbing pads and a little mineral spirits. After scrubbing and cleaning with rags. Let dry then some Turtle wax ( For waxing cars). After about 10 years it's still going good.

    I wouldn't do this to any surface I need to be plane. A few repeats and your table saw will be slightly wavy - not enough to see it, but enough to have you wonder why your cut pieces no longer come out perfectly straight.

    2 replies

    correct. I mentioned this. thats why I did most on my sanding with a plank of wood.

    The top of your saw should be more planar than any board can be. Granted, an old saw is probably a little warped anyway, especially the "contractor's" style since the motor and arbor hang from the top. And anything 220 or higher will take a LONG time to make a difference. But keep it in mind.

    Wax will be far superior to WD-40. Even better are products like Boeshield T-9.

    I've restored several old woodworking tools over the years. I'm currently rocking an 80's Craftsman I picked up for next to nothing. Here's my cman writeup: And an old Rockwell combo TS and jointer:


    1 year ago

    I bought a tablesaw with a pretty thoroughly rusted top, not pitted, just allover rust, & coated it with a grease called Fluid Film, let it set for a month or 2, then took an angle grinder with a cup wire wheel to it. Looks great, & the wire wheel is much less likely to abrade, gouge, or damage the able top.

    From 40 years of tool and die making experience I find IMHO WD-40 has no place in the shop. It fish eyes any thing painted anywhere around it. Gums up when it dries plus when used for long time storage it attracts dust and you end up with a messy film on your tools . I used LPS to some success. On my table saw I use Johnson past wax applied with some scotch brite. On the milling machines I use just a light machine oil, marvel mystery oil, 20 wt non detergent works well. The old gentleman that ran the shop would not allow a can in the shop. But then we only used lard oil and kerosene for cutting fluid so go figure.

    2 replies

    thanks for the feed back! I knew that the WD-40 was only a temporary fix. I bought myself a can on the Bostick top cote that I mentioned In the Instructible. any one have any experience with it?

    good pointz but the stuff does have uses.. this just ain't one o fthem.

    there are some good surface protectants for saw tops that protect and provide friction reduction to help guide material through the blade.

    The orbital sander idea works but takes a lot of time and paper - I've done it. Another method, dangerous and not recommended is a 10" grinder with a recessed center hole totally flat on the metal surface, do not use the edge of the grinder. Dusty as hell! I've mitigated the dust by using a small amount of flowing water over the (removed) top. The result, because of the use of the 10" disk, is a 'like new' top - bright and shiny. And flat because of size of the disk. I've also used a cup grinding wheel with outstanding results. Last project I worked on I used a diamond cup wheel and copious amounts of water to keep the diamonds cool and eliminate dust. You will get messy.

    why bother with Naval Jelly when you can purchase a Fallon of phosphoric acid for $10 to $15. My Ace store sells it for $15 and HD for $10.

    I agree with the others that WD-40 has many uses but preventing rust is not one of them. If you believe in the stuff use it to clean oil or grease off a piece of steel (that doesn't have mill scale on it) and see how long it takes that piece of steel to rust.

    When I've had a surface rust problem I put a medium grit sandpaper on my orbital sander and it does a great job removing the rust.

    the WD will evap pretty quickly.
    I spray mine down with cheap clear enamel and light sand it before a 2nd coat.


    1 year ago

    Steel Wool also is a good way to break the rust loose. After the top is completely done and it is nice and shining use some Johnson paste wax on the top. This will help keep the rust away and makes for a nice slick surface to slide the material across when cutting. I enjoiyed the post.