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179 – How to Clean Blades & Bits

Added on August 1, 2012

If you find that your blades and bits just aren’t performing like they used to, you might not need to send them out for a sharpening. They might just be in desperate need of a good cleaning. Over time, pitch and resin builds up on cutting surfaces and causes them to cut less effectively. If the buildup isn’t removed, the increased friction and heat will accelerate the dulling of the edge and eventually the blade or bit will be toast.

Cleaning Agents

The cleaning agent I use is a water-based formula from Rockler called Pitch & Resin Remover. I don’t know exactly what it’s made of but it has a pleasant citrusy smell that is reminiscent of citrus cleaners. I have also heard of folks having good luck with another cleaning product called Simple Green. There are plenty of more caustic cleaners and degreasers out there but I don’t find that the extra cleaning power is necessary nor is it fun to work with. In a pinch, I have used soapy water with good results.

Cleaning

For router bits, I like to use a small plastic cup to hold the concentrated cleaner. I then drop the router bit into the liquid and let it sit for at least five minutes. More stubborn pitch and resin may require a longer soak. After the soak period I use paper towels, acid brushes, and scotch brite pads depending on how much scrubbing power I need. Take care not to work the sharp edges too much, not only for safety but to avoid unnecessarily dulling the bit. For saw blades, I like to do the same soak method only using a wide shallow plastic bowl.

Once clean, I like to rince the blades and bits with water, followed by a thorough wipe-down with a dry paper towel. Since water likes to hang out in the little nooks and crannies, I like to blow dry the blades and bit just to make sure they are bone dry.

Lubrication

The cleaning process no only removes the pitch and resin, but also any beneficial oils that were previously lubricating the tooling surface. In order to help the blades cut cleanly and also prevent rust buildup, we need to lubricate and protect the metal. I like to use Bostik DriCote for this. This aerosol dry lubricant is very easy to apply. After a light coat is applied, I use a paper towel to buff it into the surface.

Simple routine maintenance can save you a lot of time and money. If your blades and bits are clean, they cut more effectively and that translates to better quality results. And without all the pitch and resin on the cutting edge, the edge will stay sharper for longer. That translates to few sharpening sessions. I send my blade and bits to a professional sharpener so anything I can do to lengthen the time between sharpening is welcome!

I’m curious what materials and methods you use to keep your blade and bits nice and clean. Comment below!

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