One of woodworking’s biggest bummers has to be a table saw with blade wheel and tilt gears that are so caked with sawdust that they become difficult to turn. Especially if you’re a hobbyist who has been waiting all week to get into the wood shop to work on a project.
The problem that most woodworkers have stems from the use of “wet” or sticky grease that most table saw manufacturers use in the factory. They slather this grease on thick and it works beautifully for a time – until your blade wheel only turns with a hammer.
Some woodworkers claim that grease of this manner is never a problem, that they get years of great turning out of their blade and tilt gears lubricated just as they come from the factory. For these folks the chances are good that they are both light woodworkers – that is, they don’t log many hours in the wood shop – and that they use dust collection. Which every woodworker should be doing by the way for safety purposes.
For the hobbyist with dust collection though it’s still advisable to keep a close watch on those blade and tilt gears to make sure they’re not gumming up too bad.
If you’re having a problem with turning your gears – or want to preemptively maintain your gears with a non-sticky lubricant – you’ll need to first clean off the grease and sawdust.
Read your manual first before attempting any sort of maintenance – that should always be your first guide to keeping your gears cleaned and rotating smoothly.
In addition to, or possibly following what your manual recommends you could clean off the gunk first with a rag, and then use an old toothbrush to clean off the remaining gunk and grease.
Finally – if you have it – use compressed air to really clean the gears of any remaining sawdust.
Then you’ve got to spend some time deciding which lubricant you’re going to use.
There are a number of non-greasy, non-sticky lubricant options that tend not to attract saw dust.
Perhaps one of the most popular is simple bees wax – the kind often used for sealing toilets. Use that tooth brush and brush on a good healthy coat of wax. Paraffin wax – the kind often available at grocery stores for use in canning – is another alternative to bees wax.
Lithium grease is another popular option for lubricating your table saw gears. Lithium grease comes in two varieties – spray on and lubricant in a tube.
The spray on variety dries to a light coat and typically penetrates well and even cleans the gears a little. One issue you may find with the spray on lithium lubricant is that it doesn’t leave a thick coat. This may be fine for certain applications but may not give you the ultimate in smooth turning.
The lithium grease that comes in a tube is dense like grease. Apply it liberally in a good thick coat to achieve the levels of smoothness and motion that you’re used to in brand new machines.
Another popular lubricant found at most bike stores is spray-on graphite lube. It dries to a nice powder that doesn’t collect dust, though doesn’t give you the density of application that lithium grease does.
One expensive and highly-lubricating alternative is AntiSeize cpd, found in auto supply stores and used on spark plugs. This metal-added lubricant sticks in a manner similar to paint and works extremely well at high temperatures. It’s more expensive but like the other lubricants mentioned does not attract dust.
Other Lubrication Points for Your Table Saw
The bed of your table saw needs regular maintenance too. Scrub it off regularly and spray it with a teflon based dry lubricant to keep the wood from binding.
Consider lubricating your saw blades as well with a Blade Lubricant Stick. The oils and waxes in the stick make your blade cut more cleanly through your projects and helps extend the life of your blade.
Bearing lubricant is another important lube to investigate for your table saw – a good, penetrating lubricant that will protect and seal the bearing’s inner workings and extend the overall life of your saw.
Read Your Table Saw Manual for More Tips
As with any after-market tips or tricks you should always consult your tool manual before you start any maintenance applications. If your manual lacks appropriate information then consider contacting the manufacturer directly, or the experts at the store where you bought the saw.
And most importantly – be safe and have fun (and ALWAYS in that order…).