A Stinky Solution for Soiled Saws - Popular Woodworking Magazine

A Stinky Solution for Soiled Saws

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

While pegging the joints in a Shaker stepback I built for the February 2009 issue of Popular Woodworking, I used a $100 flush-cut saw. It’s a darn nice saw. Unless one clogs the teeth with glue.

Now, I didn’t intend to make it look as if I were trying to cover up my crime. I meant to ask Christopher Schwarz how best to clean the yellow glue out of its tiny little teeth. But he was out that day, I got distracted with other stuff, and the saw ended up back in the rack, gunk and all.

About two weeks later, it was summarily brought to my attention that this pricey saw was now unusable. But Chris suggested a solution (short of buying a new saw), and it worked. I poured white vinegar into a shallow Pyrex pan and soaked the gunked-up teeth for a half-hour or so, then I went to work with an old toothbrush. It took some serious scrubbing, but the vinegar softened the dried glue enough to allow me to scrub it out, tooth by tooth. To speed up the process, you could heat the vinegar in a microwave, but that would increase the aroma. (After a visit from our human resources department during the last time we sprayed a finish, well, we try to avoid stinky things as much as possible.)

After the teeth were cleaned, I rinsed the vinegar away and wiped the blade with jojoba oil. The blade lost some of its shiny luster, but the teeth cut, and that’s $100 I can spend on shoes. Or on a couple new Hock plane blades.

– Megan Fitzpatrick

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Showing 19 comments
  • wb8nbs

    One of the guys in the local woodworking club (dupagewoodworkers.org) recommended Home Depot has an “Industrial” strength cleaner called Zep. I bought a bottle, it’s cheap. And it does indeed loosen up the pine pitch on a saw blade. Also takes the grease off my bicycle sprockets as good as Gunk degreaser. Might be worth a try on dried PVA. I recall reading vinegar dissolves steel wool making a good black dye. Did your saw blade turn dark?

  • woodctr51

    Are you married? If yes, do you have an unmarried sister? Oh yeah, Simple green works well for me and seems pretty safe.

  • xjjb4x4

    On another note,
    With the teeth of those japanese saws being hardened as much as they are, I don’t think a small brass wire brush should be a problem to use in the cleaning. Should really speed things up. Just stroke down with the rake of the teeth.

  • xjjb4x4

    OK, I haven’t really tried this, but:

    Being fair skinned I burned very easily in the sun and learned that vinegar took the sting out easily (yes, sunblock would have been a much better idea). But the smell, as you mention, well, I couldn’t stand myself, let alone having others do so.

    Some very good friend suggested lemon juice. It worked just as well as vinegar and smelled soooo much better.

    Now, I don’t know if the same ingrediant reactions apply to softening glue but… this blog has made me curious enough to try when the time comes. Granted, it may not be as cheap as vinegar.

  • Pilgrimm

    Gents and gentesses:

    In the name of humanity, I earnestly request that you take some effort to save a life!

    I admit I am a fan of your magazine to the point of distraction, but I live in fear of “dying at the switch.”

    When reading your monthly articles (which I invariably find useful, if I dare to click on a link to a diagram or SketchUp file, or PDF, I find myself seriously in need of a shave by the time the page loads!!!

    No fooling, folks! This is a new laptop. Got all the bells and whistles. I even shorted out some of the acceleration retarders that Old Bill Gates and his minions put in there….. But it “just takes forever — I mean, FOREVER” to load a page or a link or a PDF…..

    You just gotta get them guys that hold on to the pennies to spring for a faster file server. Like maybe one that was spec’d out and built around 1990, not the one based on the 8086 chip you guys have been using.

    I’m retired, disabled, live alone, and not even Doctor Koop’s little Alert gadget is gonna help if I croak before my finger hits the button!

    C’mon, guys…. have a heart… get some new equipment.


    Joel Berhmann

    • tnoll

      I agree. You site has more hangs than any I’ve used. You need a new web designer or a new server or a new isp.


    • Ausieswede1

      And I thought that the poor response to your web site was because I lived in Sweden and all the electrons have to swim all that way under the sea. Please PWW everything else you do is great but your server response is apalling.

      Noel Hayward

    • Chas2K

      I have FIOS and run Linux on a old cranky laptop. Everything loads fast with never a hiccup and 100% compatible with M$. Looks more like an end terminal problem from here.

  • jimt2099

    When I have to clean pine pitch and other sticky nasties from my table saw blades, and others, I always use “Mean Green”, or “Simple Green”, same thing but one is the generic of the other. Soak the blade about 10 to 15 minutes then wash under hot water faucet. Most all comes off upon rinsing, but the real hard stuff will brush off with a soft bristle brush with no effort. No rust worries as the tap water is very hot and evaporates immediately upon drying with a towel or rag. Works for me every time.

  • crmitchell

    The first thing I try when trying to remove any type glue is to put the tool in the freezer for a couple of hours. Most will simply peel off. another benefit over the vinegar is there is no corrosion, other than the condensation when it is removed from the freezer.

  • Jed Dyke

    Simple Green has always come through for me. A light soaking maybe a very light bruching with a brass brush, done deal. I have cleaned everything off every saw blade, plane iron and fingers with it without rust to the metals or my fingers falling off.

  • Bruce Evans

    A product called Contractor’s De-Solv-It is another safe and effective cleaner for saw blades and router bits.

    And it has the aroma of fresh oranges…ahhhhh!

    This is not your garden variety orange oil base cleaner, but a real aggressive multi-use product that will tale roofing tar off of tools with virtual no soaking – just spray, wait a couple of minutes and wipe.

    Full strength it will soften latex wall paint and take it right off the wall. But it is a shop and environment friendly product.

    To remove blade or cutter pitch takes a soaking and sometimes a little brass brush scrubbing – but I’ll trade a little time for harsh chemicals.

    When your done it rinses off of the tools easily and you can rust proof as you like.

    Did I mention it works on carpenter’s glue?

  • Alexander Grrigoriev


    The saw is more likely to corrode in vinegar, than in plain water.

    There is stuff to remove yellow/PVA glue, which is basically vinegar thikened with something. You could use that, as well.

  • Don B.

    I have always used spray oven cleaner on all my saw blades to remove pitch and resin. It works for me.

  • megan

    Chris says he’s tried both, and vinegar softens the glue more effectively. Plus, soaking a blade in water for a half hour scares me. I’m afraid I’d then be pulling out the steel wool, too!

    • tnoll

      You’re making the case for replaceable blades. I would never put a $100 saw anywhere near glue.


  • Blaise Pascal

    As a control, you should try the same experiment using just water instead of vinegar. Does soaking the clogged up teeth in water work as well as vinegar? If so, it’s probably the water in the vinegar doing the work. Water is less stinky than vinegar, and easier to heat, as well.

    Of course, you might want to try the experiment with a pair of saws that don’t cost $100.

    • d_lamb@shaw.ca

      Oooo, I sense a new experiment/article in the making – a comparative experiment with glue removal from tools! Your variables are:
      – the glue used
      – the thickenss of the glue on the tool
      – the solvent used
      – the length of time ‘soaking’ the tool in the solvent
      – the method of ‘scrubbing’ the tool
      – the metal of the tool (probably of lesser import than the other variables)

      If you keep all the variables except the glue and the solvent, you would have a very useful set of results tallied up at the end of the experiment, and a start on a great and useful article for a future issue!

  • Al Navas

    Funny! But glad it worked to restore that little saw. Antoher trick in the bag, for sure.

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