Chris Schwarz's Blog

Scrape Your Saw Clean

I have always been fastidious about keeping rust off my tools. I have to be. My shop is partially underground and we live in a humid river city. Blink, and your tools will turn to iron oxide.

The most difficult tools to keep rust-free are the machines, especially my Unisaw for some reason. The cast iron in my old Powermatic jointer is almost impervious to rust, and I don’t have a good explanation. The iron appears very finely grained, or at least is finished to look that way.

Anyway, a couple months ago we had a party at our house, and a lot of non-woodworkers ended up in my shop, drinking beer and hanging out.

The next morning I cleaned up the house and found several beer bottles sitting on my Unisaw. And each had deposited a nice rusty, crusty bloom on the iron top.


I took some steel wool to the rust. No luck. Then I tried a variety of other chemical and abrasive treatments that had worked before. The iron was still stained and coated with some nasty, nasty rust.

I looked around and wondered what to do. My eyes alighted on my Benchcrafted carbide Skraper. I use this tool all the time to scrape dried glue off panels (when I leave glue behind). It is an awesome piece of equipment.

I thought: Carbide is way, way harder than iron.

So I gingerly stroked the Skraper across the iron top, and a layer of rust came off. I used a little more pressure and the top was clean, as in “new” clean — and the milling marks from the Blanchard grinding faded a bit.

Now, I don’t want to upset the machinists here. I know that scraping an iron top by hand will take it out of flat. But I contend that your table saw top’s flatness does not have to be like a machinist’s granite plate for your saw to work really well.

Once I scraped the top, I looked at it with a straightedge and feeler gauges. It was still really darn flat. The rust is gone, and the saw works fine.

I’d do it again. But then, I’m not a machinist.

— Christopher Schwarz

Yup, I Have Power Tools
“Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” I believe Socrates first said that. I do have power tools, but they are few and they are in subservience to the hand tools. But if I did want to abandon all my power equipment, I’d read Jim Tolpin’s “The New Traditional Woodworker,” which is a book about one man saving his soul through hand tools. It’s a great book.

31 thoughts on “Scrape Your Saw Clean

  1. vinfonet

    No qualms about taking the scraper to the machine, a little surgery now saves the amputation later. But how on the green earth could you standing the screaching sound of that!!!

  2. weride

    if you have time to read these i just wanted to say thanks. bought my first jointer yesterday, just a 6.5″ Craftsman. At $50.00 it needed the rust cleaned off and this was a life saver.

  3. Lenny B

    I, a 43 year, now retired maintenance machinest, admire your thinking to use a carbide scraper. It is far better to have a 1/2 thousand low spot on your table saw top than to have a .002 thousand high spot from rust that puts a stain mark on everything it touches. Great Idea.

  4. JoeDes

    Had similar problem with nasty stain on my table saw. I was on tour when water partially flooded my basement. The friend I had watching my house called in some cleaners to clean up the mess. Unfortunately one of them put two of my metal tool boxes on the table saw…still wet. You can picture the mess that did. Being machinist I used a combination of scotch brite (red) and 600 sand paper with my palm sander. It took time but I managed to get rid of all the rust. I do like “BLZeebub” rubbing wax paper does an excellent job for rust prevention.


  5. Gary Smyth

    I’d be interested in seeing a picture of the scraper. I have several carbide scrapers, but on mine the width seems a bit small for what you used yours for on the table. How about a picture of the tool?

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick

      Chris probably doesn’t have his with him (he’s teaching at Marc Adams’s this week, and mine’s at home). And I’ll add my approbation to Chris’s, though for paint removal in corners on some stuff I was stripping, rather than rust removal from tools – I haven’t tried it for that. One of the things I appreciate about the “Skraper” is that the carbide tip is a solid bar, so there are eight sharp edges – which means if you work in a corner, you can simultaneously clean gunk off two surfaces (assuming they meet at 90°, of course). You can see the tool on the Benchcrafted Blog here.

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