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I believe I’ve mentioned previously my problems with parsimony. Now, my penny-pinching ways have led to an embarrassing predicament. (And that’s quite enough alliteration for one post.)

One of these days, I’ll get around to building a proper tool chest and bring home my pine bench so I can set up shop in my study – but until then, my good block plane, along with the rest of the small set of woodworking tools that I keep at home, is stored in the dining room in my china cabinet. My basement is simply too damp and unpleasant for a shop, or for storage of pricey tools.

Well, it turns out the dining room is also too damp, too, when one refuses to turn on the A/C until the inside thermometer hits 85°, and the humidity is hovering in the 80 percent range. Yes, I discovered rust. On the sole of my Lie-Nielsen block plane. And on the edge of a Blue Spruce Chisel. (Thomas and Dave, my abject apologies; I don’t deserve to own your tools.)

I got the rust off the chisel fairly easily; an hour-long soak of the blade in a jar filled with Evapo-Rust did the trick. The rust wiped right off. But I’ve not yet tested Evapo-Rust on a painted surface, so I was loathe to soak even the sole of the block plane, afraid the solution would get on to the painted plane bed.

Then I remembered the “magic rust erasers” – Sand-Flex blocks – that used to live with Chris Schwarz’s extras sharpening stuff. But alas, they too went home with their owner. So I ordered a set of my own blocks in coarse, medium and fine (from Lie-Nielsen, though they’re available through other suppliers as well). These blocks feel like a grittier version of the big pink erasers I used in grade school (and like those erasers, they leave a lot of detritus behind, so it’s best to work over a piece of paper or cardboard that you can toss in the recycling bin when you’re done).

A few swipes with the medium block, then the fine block, and the rust was gone. I wiped the residue off the sole, then wiped the tool down with camellia oil (I should have ordered another bottle of oil while I was at it – oops).

The A/C and dehumidifier are now on full-time…and will stay on until the heat and humidity are in a non-threatening range. Or until I replace my china cabinet with a dessicator cabinet – which would look fabulous in the dining room, no doubt.

– Megan Fitzpatrick

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Showing 24 comments
  • 4glshaw

    Interesting – I have had similar rust problems with my Lie-Nelson planes/irons and none with my Lee Valley planes. All are about the same age and in a similar environment. None are neglected – rub down with oil at least twice a week and/or whenever they are used.

    I love my Blue Spruce tools so much they get a rub down every day – so never a problem.

    Just an observation.


  • shadowfax001

    Just picked up some sand-flex this afternoon at Woodcraft. Surprised to see it on the shelf.
    I place my LN planes in their plane socks after a rubdown with Camilla oil. It works great in the norther Illinois heat/humidity. Nock on wood!

    Underutilized chisels or additional plane irons are quickly stored in Uni-wrap. It also works wonders.

  • woodbutc

    The folks at Lie Neilson put me onto the sandflex blocks and jojoba oil, as I too was derelict in caring from my planes. Also I’ve picked up a oil applicator that Tools For Woodworking or Japan Woodworker offer

    Might even help protect your nails!!

  • wb8nbs

    Somebody try those Sandflex blocks on an old Disston saw. I’d like to know if they damage the engraving on the blade.

  • whitefoxmillworks

    Bad..BAD YOU!!! You live in Ohio. It gets hot. Really hot. Humid. Really Humid. Spend the money on the AC, you only go around once, but you want those tools to go around at least a few times longer….

  • digger100

    These blocks work great. Great at removing rust and no swirl marks that you would get using sandpaper.

    Awesome stuff.

  • galoot35

    How can you gripe about weather problems, when it is only 85? We are looking for our 19th straight day of 100 degree or higher temperatures today – with more coming. I don’t worry about my tools rusting; I worry about them melting!

  • Dusty

    I’ve been using paraffin wax from the grocery store, it’s a whole lot cheaper then camellia oil.

  • tman02

    I have used Evapo-Rust to restore all of my old hand planes and the only time I have had it effect a painted surface is if there happened to be rust underneath it, otherwise no problems.

    Also, I have been using Jojoba oil and recently some rust appeared on the side of my small LN block plane, though it could just be that I did not get it applied well enough. And the problem I have after applying it is how to handle the tool to put it away – am I removing the oil by handling it or not?

  • tman02

    I have used Evapo-Rust to restore all of my old hand planes and the only time I have had it effect a painted surface is if there happened to be rust underneath it, otherwise no problems.

  • Peggy

    Thank goodness I’m not the only one who is guilty of letting the sole of my expensive plane get rusty……

  • Andrew Yang

    I had a small spot on one of my planes as a result of some blood splatter (not mine, and he’s ok). I cleaned it up with a combination of WD40 and some #000 synthetic steel wool. Using strokes running the entire length of the plane, it maintained the surface appearance and removed the spot.

  • Richard Dawson


    “… abject apologies …” (And that’s quite enough alliteration for one post.)

    One of the many reasons I keep coming back for more from you and Chris is the need to use my dictionaries, Urban being a frequent second choice.

    Sandflex, Butchers, camellia oil, and/or jojoba should be a part of every kit.

    Please note I completed this post, sans alliteration.


  • georgebclark

    Megan, I love your prose, but you’re forcing me to read a woodworking blog with dictionary in hand. For the truly frugal, Johnsons paste wax is unbeatable and a can lasts forever plus five years. Just smear it on, no need to buff.


  • Gary Roberts

    There is an ancient, secret recipe for protection against rust. I’ve been hesitant to reveal the secret due to the restrictions of a certain secret society but now it must be exposed.

    Wax. I use Butchers or Red Diamond wax that doesn’t contain any silicone. Smear it on, let it dry, buff it and you’re good. One can will last a very long time. You could also make your own by combining carnuba and beeswax if you want to be that way. I made up a quart of 1/3 carnuba to 2/3 beeswax, poured it into an open top plastic kitchen container and have been using it for years. I hear it’s also good on mustaches.

  • Fred West

    Megan, When you ordered your Sandflex blocks from LN why did you not also order a bottle of Jojoba? I have used both T-9 and Jojoba. I think that T-9 lasts longer but Jojoba smells much better and does not need a MSDS.Fred

  • djgaloot

    The sandflex blocks work well on chisels also Megan. Probably easier than soaking for an hour. I have them in my production and assembly area for cleaning up small areas on blades. I have now moved many of my hand tools from a controlled environment in my basement to the garage shop and I am very worried about rust. I now have two suggestions from comments above to try out: camellia oil and T-9. Thanks. Dave

  • Julius

    I live in the humid east Virginia. If you have rust problems, also check for mildew on cabinet doors. We have a house on the water close by Chesapeake bay and have several 6 inch pot sized containers of “Damp-Rid” set around the rooms. Once a week we lift out the strainer (upper half) and pour outside the accumulated liquid (room moister sucked out of the air) and refresh the strainer with the “Damp-Rid” crystals from a sealed bag. No more mildew.
    In our main Richmond home, AC covers the 1st & 2nd floors. My basement shop had a humidity of 80% to 85% until I bought a Sears dehumidifier which reduced the humidity to 52%. It runs for 4 hrs on and 4 hrs off. I put a watt meter on it and found it eats 480 watts when on (pricey).

  • Mark

    I was sold on using T-9 rust inhibitor about a year ago. I sprayed it on all my machine beds and haven’t seen the slightest blemish since then and I live in the humid south. Once every six months seems to be about right for me. Easy on, easy off. No silicone or oily residue. It works just as well on hand tools too and I’ve not seen it harm paint in any way. As a bonus, it makes the sprayed surface slick as goose s***

  • J. Pierce

    My god, I love these things. I’d heard them mentioned before, but never understood why folks liked them, until I realized Sandflex was a brand name, and that this was different than the foam sanding blocks you see in the hardware store.

    A local store that supplies the carpentry trade (where I drool over bandsaws I can never afford) carries Klingspor products, and I saw these as I was picking up some nice sandpaper to lap an old plane sole. I grabbed a couple and when I got them home I was blow away.

    They weigh about twice what you think they should; and they’re amazing! They work great at cleaning old handsaws.


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