A reader just got a new contractor saw, and there is brown gunk all over the table. The instructions tell him how to clean this off, but he can’t seem to get the stuff out of the miter slot. Kerosene isn’t working. Can/should he use steel wool?
Michael Dresdner: Of course. I routinely rewax the table of my saw with 0000 steel wool and Slipit or paste wax. He can also use a slightly stronger solvent such as lacquer thinner or toluene or a mixture of alcohol and lacquer thinner to help move the brown gunk. Most power tools are powder-coated these days, so lacquer thinner should not harm the paint. He should, however, test that first in an inconspicuous place. By the way, the brown gunk is usually tung oil. They dip tools in it to keep them from rusting on the long trek from the manufacturing plant to your home.
Ian Kirby: You won’t harm the cast iron of the table with steel wool or Scotchbrite?, but there is a solvent that will remove the protective coating. Call the saw manufacturer and find out what will work. Alternately, try other solvents: paint thinner, lacquer thinner or M.E.K.
Rick White: It sounds like he’s being too careful. I’d use a fine steel wool or sandpaper. I understand that he’s concerned about damaging the miter slot, but I don’t think that’s much of an issue if the abrasive is fine enough.
Manufacturers put oil on the surface of tools to prevent rust. That makes me wonder if the brown stuff isn’t oil, but rather rust that formed where they missed applying the oil. If it is rust, it would explain why the kerosene isn’t working. But again, the steel wool will reveal very quickly if it is rust.