If cleaning your saw blades and router bits sits near the bottom of your "to-do" list, you may be shortening the life of your carbide cutters. The crud that inevitably builds up behind the carbide teeth and cutters on your saw blade and router bits is more than just an unwelcome nuisance. Bear these tips in mind for piloted bits: Blade and bit cleaners can rob router-bit bearings of their lubrication, which leads to premature bearing failure. After cleaning your blades and bits, inspect the cutting edges for cracks or chipping, and discard any cutter showing such damage. Products tested include: Boeshield Blade and Bit, CMT Formula 2050, Empire Blade Saver, Lenox Wood Pitch Cleaner, OxiSolv, Pitch RX, Sprayway Saw Cleaner, Woodcraft Resin Remover, carburetor cleaner, citrus-based cleaner, Formula 409, oven cleaner, and Simple Green. I've actually had the Rockler kit in the shop for over a year, but haven't gotten around to trying it. The Rockler kit contains the actual cleaner, which is a concentrate and needs to be mixed with water 3-1, so the one-quart concentrate makes a gallon of cleaner. The kit also has a nice rubbery tub to soak the blade, a small container for soaking router bits, and a brass-bristle brush. Since I needed my blade back, I went ahead and hit it with some Empire Bladesaver, which removed quite a bit of the remaining pitch although not all of it. Overall, the Rockler cleaning solution seems to be quite effective without assaulting my olfactory senses. The new tub has shown none of the warping problem, I've had the solution sitting in the tub for at least a month and it remains tightly sealed, no distortion of the lid at all.
To ensure continued quality project time and avoid downright dangerous situations, cleaning and inspecting the blade regularly is a good habit to get into. An apparently dull blade will generate heat that will ensure it becomes so more quickly than necessary.
But much more than this, cleaning the blade enables you to inspect it for flaws, taking careful note of the condition of the carbide tips. Products like detergents and orange oil cleaners actually attack the metal of the blades themselves and damage them. Another important factor is a proper bit cleaner will normally have a rust inhibiter in it as well. Despite a wide range of assorted nuts and bolts, I was a little surprised to discover I did not have a bolt the diameter of the arbor. Having let the solution soak for a time, I use a soft workshop cloth to carry out the clean, nothing else.
Because cleaning the blade involves getting up close and personal, this is the perfect time to take note of the blade’s condition.
You want to make sure that the face of the tooth is clean and also that the gullet is clean. Any resin that’s left in the gullet or on the tooth is going to increase resistance on the blade. If the binding agent that holds the carbide together is attacked by the resin badly enough it makes the teeth even more brittle and it makes them more likely to chip off. You can clean the face of your blade with your workshop paper towels but for cleaning the teeth you really need a rag.
It was surprisingly difficult to spot, actually, since there was quite a build-up of dust and resin on each. The blade you see here has been cutting a lot of cedar and pine, which has resulted in quite a coating of pitch. In choosing which cleaners to test, I set some criteria to fit the way I'd like to see a cleaner perform. Note that several sources say that very caustic cleaners like lye and over cleaner can weaken the brazing that holds carbide teeth to the steel body of the blade. Each cleaner was sprayed heavily onto a small section of the blade and allowed to soak for five minutes. To rank the cleaners, I looked at how well they cleaned overall, with a somewhat heavier weight given to the sides of the teeth.
The CMT cleaner had problems with the heavier deposits, leaving quite a bit on the tooth sides and some faces. Vinegar is quite a versatile cleaner, my wife uses it as a floor cleaner and it's better than any commercial cleaner we've ever tried.


In the final analysis, I give the edge to Empire Bladesaver, but only barely over Boeshield Blade & Bit Cleaner. Two essential tools: WD-40 to make stuck things loose and duct tape to keep loose things stuck. After I posted my video on sharpening carbide tipped saw blades by hand, I had a lot of comments about what I used for cleaning the blade. Sign up for convenient email updates to stay on top of the latest projects and build articles. It affects the quality of your work by requiring more feed pressure to make the cut and burning the edges. Ultimately, I found the best job was done by two products: Empire Bladesaver and Boeshield Blade & Bit Cleaner. It fills the tub a couple inches deep and gives off a nice odor that reminds me of oranges. While the blade was definitely cleaner and shinier, there were still pitch deposits, especially on the back side of the blade (I don't know why the deposits would be heavier there). As you can see from the closeup of the teeth, the Bladesaver got quite a bit of what Rockler cleaner missed. Even the Bladesaver had left some pitch, perhaps the blade had been unusually gunky and an unfair test?
I decided to try again with the Chopmaster from my miter saw, not quite as icky but still far from clean. I wasn't sure what they'd do, since I had ordered the kit and then let it sit around over a year before trying it out. It’s going to create more heat more resistance and generally just not be good for your blade or your machine.
That just hasn’t cleaned off properly so it just needs a little bit longer to soak and another wipe over. That will create more heat and, potentially, the resin can actually attack the binder that holds the carbide teeth together. Using the rag you can apply tension to both sides and therefore variable pressure on the tip and in the gullet. Spinning through an organic material at well over 100 mph can generate tremendous friction and consequently heat. I decided to use several cleaners I have around to do a somewhat controlled test of how well they do. Prices vary quite a bit, but even the most expensive amounts to pennies per cleaning, so I've not factored that into my review at all. While it removed the sawdust stuck to the blade, it mostly left the large pitch deposits and the overall coating of pitch. I was somewhat surprised, I had expected it to perform just like the Boeshield because they smell exactly the same! It's a bit slower, but it's gentle and won't affect the finish of whatever has the sticker on it. While definitely better-smelling than Simple Green, it has a unpleasant undertone that makes me a bit sick to my stomach.
The tooth sides and gullets were quite clean, but it left some minor deposits on the tooth faces.
I use Saw Kleen, distributed by J Tool Express, which, according to the manufacturer, works better when heated. A stiff wire hanger suspending each individual saw blade from a rod across the top of the open drum will allow you to soak more saw blades at a time without the weight when removing them. I use a very concentrated solution of NaOH (sodium hydroxide) to loosen it, and then wearing long rubber gloves, I scrub the blades with a stiff plastic bristle scrub brush. A 16oz bottle costs about $ 4.00, we used to get it at Lowes but not every store carries it. I've always used straight lacquer thinner to remove the resin and gunk from my blade, just using a rag. Even if a product label doesn't specifically instruct you to do so, protect your hands and eyes. If it spins easily, remove it and set it aside; otherwise discard it and get a replacement.


Finally, protect them with a coating of a rust-preventative product, such as those reviewed in WOOD magazine, issue 154. After my experiences with the horrible smells from the other specialty cleaners, the citrus-like scent of the Rockler cleaner was a pleasant change.
A nice touch is the raised bead in the middle of the tub, which lifts the blade off the bottom allowing the cleaner full access to both sides and makes it easy to get you finger under the teeth to lift it out. I soaked the blade for five minutes (the directions say 3-5 minutes), then laid the blade up on the side of the tub and scrubbed it a bit with the brass brush. Would the Bladesaver have worked any better if it had started with the original level of pitch?
This time, I let the blade soak in the Rockler solution for fifteen minutes instead of just five.
The warp is so bad that it's almost impossible to get the lid sealed and when you do, it pops back open in a matter of a few seconds. Then, hopefully, get enough time in the shop to cut some wood and get quality project time. That gooey stuff gets heated up by the blade and come out of the wood, which then welds onto the blade. While some manufacturers recommend an overnight soak in kerosene, I just don't have the time for that. The result is shown with each cleaner, you can click any of the photos to see a larger version. It is, however, relatively effective on pitch, although not quite as good as the best products.
Two problems with that method are that it's not as efficient as it could be, with the rag flopping around. A thorough cleaning often can rejuvenate a cutter's performance faster (and cheaper) than sending it to the sharpening shop. When the bit is clean, reinstall the bearing and treat it with a high-speed router-bearing lubricant. The tub is also plenty deep, so if you put small spacers between them, you could easily do three or four blades at once.
The only question I have is how long the cleaning solution will last before it needs to be replaced. When I originally looked into the Rockler kit, I saw several people complaining of the same problem.
I'm a little confused as to why it had so much trouble with the pitch in the gullets, but that's probably not as important as the teeth, where it did a pretty good job.
I searched E Bay for a few weeks until I found a unit that could handle 12" blades laid down or 14" stacked on an angle.
The second is that I would want to wear a nitrile glove to keep the thinner off of my hands as much as possible. The lid appears to seal tightly so you can just store the mixed solution in the tub and not worry about it evaporating. This time, the blade came out completely pitch-free, no need for a followup with the old stinky Bladesaver. However, the reviews were older ones and I hoped that Rockler had corrected the problem, but apparently not. I also decided against cleaners that are flamable, produce noxious fumes, or are otherwise dangerous, so kerosene, naptha, acetone, oven cleaner, etc were left out. I put my saw blades on a galvanized carriage bolt with washers in between and can fit several stacks in at the same time.
Left unchecked, resins and pitch from wood and adhesives from man-made products (such as plywood and MDF) can corrode the blade or router-bit body and deteriorate the carbide. Remember, the kit was over six months old before I ever tried it, but the lid fit perfectly until it sat for several days filled with the cleaning solution. Spending a dollar or two per year for optimum performance with no chance of damaging your blade seems like a no-brainer.



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