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Removing Table-Saw Rust

After a year in storage, the cast-iron table needs some TLC

The This Old House crew
Photo by Webb Chappell

I own a wonderful 1954 Craftsman table saw, which I put in storage for a year. In that time, the cast-iron table developed some rust spots. What can I do to restore it?
— Brett, Pittsboro, IN


Norm Abram replies: Cast iron is a great surface for table saws, but it does tend to rust if not cared for, or if it has been stored where the humidity levels are high.
The best way to remove minor rust is to scrub with a Scotchbrite pad and mineral spirits. Then wipe off the residue and apply a lubricant to the top, including the miter-gauge slots, and the side of the saw's rip fence. I use SLIPIT Tool Lube ( on my saw, but various other paste waxes will also work. Don't use automotive waxes, which contain silicones. If silicone gets on wood, it will cause problems when you apply the finish.
Lubricating a table saw has another advantage: Wood slides across it easier, particularly when you cut sheets of plywood. That means less effort and greater safety because the wood isn't as likely to hang up during the cut. I don't have a rigid schedule for lubricating my saw's top. I just wipe on more lubricant whenever I feel the wood seems to be dragging.


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