Everyone has a recipe for cleaning rust off tools!
“WD-40 and green scrubbers”
“Electrolysis is the one true savoir on the rust wars!!”
The fact is, there are many approaches that work. Honestly, if you just use a tool regularly that rust will somewhat clean itself just by wear. (bracing for an attack from the rust warriors)
Now, it should also be mentioned that I live in a part of the world with low humidity and thus we get pretty light rusting out here in California. If you live in a place where it gets hot and wet, or heaven forbid they have to salt the roads on a regular basis, your mileage may vary!
I love rust.
That is to say, rusty tools have saved me loads of money. “I’d love to buy this” I say while pushing it with my foot, “but it’s super rusty. Tell you what, knock some money off your price and I’ll do you a solid and haul it off.”
And that’s how I picked up this 12″ band saw for $35.
Take another “for instance” in this 6″ jointer.
2 hours. Now that includes the time involved in bolting together the stand and assembling the jointer in my shop. So, from the before to the after shot was two hours and I had a clean and usable jointer for just $45!
Okay, man we get it. So how do you remove surface rust?!
Super Simple Rust Removal
This is not the process for cleaning rust off small parts, or hand planes or drill bits. Most of those require a soaking or more one on one time. This method is what I use for cleaning large surface areas in a short amount of time. If you’ve got an hour (or less), you can do this.
Step #1 is a razor blade. A simple one sided razor is a valuable asset in the tool belt when cleaning rust off the work surfaces of your power tools.
Just hold it at an angle and scrape off large amounts of rust. Think of this like your glue scraper.
In just a few short minutes huge amounts of rust can simply be vacuumed up with almost zero work. Honestly, the surface you’re left with might be good enough for most tools.
If you don’t want to risk it, skip straight to Step #3.
Step #3, at this point we have invested about 7-10 minutes in the clean up. You might be more than happy with the results but if you want to go a step further, then lets talk about expending some actual effort.
I use WD-40 and 800 grit sand paper. Many people prefer green scrubbers, steel wool, brown paper, rubber duckies or whatever else. As I said, there are as many different options as you like. This method is what works for me.
I use light pressure as I am simply polishing the surface. The last thing I want to do is make a rut or wear away too much cast iron. Once the rust is gone, move to a different spot. It took about 10-12 minutes before I was happy with the results. The bigger the surface, the longer this step. My jointer from above was 40 minutes and my table saw took longer still.
For me, it is much easier to start and finish a project in an hour than it is to wait 12 hours for a soaking, or a solvent to do it’s work. The process has nearly instant gratification, and you will find it quite surprising how little effort you have to invest in the cleanup.
As a inherently lazy man, that makes me happy.