Stepping up to a poorly maintained machine can create a spectrum of emotions from apprehension to frustration. When the handwheel on your table saw forces you to one knee, requiring two hands and all of your strength to raise the blade, and when the machine screams and smoke billows as stock is fed through, face it: It’s time to do a little maintenance!
Perhaps the most straightforward part of shop maintenance is the obvious reason behind it: safety and efficiency. It is very important to keep cutting implements sharp. More accidents occur with dull tools because more force is required to operate the tool.
You’ll need a few tools to get you started, including a grease gun, an oil can, WD40™, graphite, silicon spray, and paste wax. It is also convenient to have a set of wrenches, sockets, hex wrenches, and brushes for cleaning gears. Finally, pick up some abrasives such as steel wool, fine silicon carbide paper, and a mill file for deburring shafts and nicks in tabletops.
Cutters such as saw blades, knives for jointers and planers, shaper cutters, bits for routers and drill presses and turning tools must be kept sharp and free of pitch and resin in order to cut cleanly. Pitch and resin on cutters and saw blades, which can cause kickback, can be removed with spray oven cleaner. Some in-house sharpening can be done to carbide tools with a diamond stone. High-speed steel cutters such as turning tools and shaper knives can be sharpened on a bench grinder or honed with a bench and slip stones.
Alignment of tables and fences is also important. The position of a tabletop is important especially if it has slots cut in it for miter gauges. The slots need to be parallel to the cutters. The same is true for fences.
Lubricate gears and ways that raise and lower arbors and tables. Lubrication of exposed gears and ways should be done with graphite, spray silicon, or paste wax. These dry lubricants prevent build up of sawdust that would occur if the parts were greased or oiled. Bearings with grease fittings or oil caps should be attended to periodically with the appropriate lubricant.
The tables and beds of all machines should be inspected and, if necessary, filed flat. These surfaces should be kept free of rust and paint splatterings and should be cleaned with steel wool or fine silicon-carbide paper. Once clean, an application of paste wax will help prevent rust and allow stock to slide across the surface with less effort.
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