Keeping Your Blades Clean
I get it. As woodworkers, we want to spend our days working with wood. But, in order to do that effectively, efficiently, and relatively stress-free, there are some inevitable chores in the shop. Sharpening, sweeping up, and cleaning are a few. There are a lot of good reasons why you should keep the blades on your power tools clean. When pitch and sap are allowed to build up, the blades will heat up more because of the increased friction in the cut. The additional heat generated can destroy a saw blade. Chances are, if suddenly, your saw is not cutting well, this baked-on filth is the culprit. When a blade starts to get dull and burn, often times it doesn’t need to be sharpened, it just needs a good cleaning. This crud doesn’t come off itself and the longer you leave it, the more difficult it is to get off. Here is how I clean my power saw blades.
There are many products that are made specifically for removing the crud that builds up on saw blades. They range in price and some of them are pretty nasty when it comes to toxicity. I don’t think you should have to mask up and wear a bunch of PPE to clean your blades. My favorite product that I’ve used for almost 20 years is oven cleaner.
Most oven cleaners today are not the smelly caustic stuff that generations before us used. I use the fume-free stuff and I don’t even have to wear gloves. I do wear goggles just in case there are some splashes when scrubbing a stubborn blade to get it clean.
The key is to not let the crud build up to the point that you need to do a serious deep-clean. I look at my blades often and give them a light cleaning rather than letting the pitch bake on. Oven cleaner works on any type of cutter, from table saw and mitre saw blades to router bits and bandsaw blades. All these cutters benefit from being clean and you’d be shocked by how much more you can get out of them.
I have an old pizza pan that I put the blades into when using the oven cleaner. For light cleaning, it only needs a minute or two to work its magic. I will normally spray the blade, wait a couple minutes, then wipe it off with a clean paper towel. It takes no time at all! If the blade has been left for a while or you lent it to someone for too long, let the blade sit for an hour or two then use a nylon or brass brush to remove the stubborn crud.
Cleaning blades is just like sharpening and other shop chores, if you do it often and don’t let things get too bad, the job is done quickly. Leave it for too long and you’ll be working hard to get things up to snuff. Ultimately, keeping your blades crud-free will allow you to do better work. Your blades won’t be burning edges and the saw will cut through the wood like a hot knife through butter.