Tool Review: Blade and Bit Cleaners
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. It affects the quality of your work by requiring more feed pressure to make the cut and burning the edges. In fact, cutters and blades with excessive buildup are sometimes mistaken for dull. A thorough cleaning often can rejuvenate a cutter's performance faster (and cheaper) than sending it to the sharpening shop. Keeping your cutters clean has another less obvious benefit. 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. Such deterioration hastens dulling.
Commercial blade and bit cleaners and home remedies run the gamut from mild to dangerous. Pay special attention to those that are flammable and/or corrosive: Those products can cause bigger problems than a dirty blade if mishandled or misused. Even if a product label doesn't specifically instruct you to do so, protect your hands and eyes. The fumes from some products are strong enough to catch in the back of your throat. With these products, wear a respirator and work in a well-ventilated area.
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. Before cleaning the bit, spin the bearing by hand to ensure it turns freely. If it spins easily, remove it and set it aside; otherwise discard it and get a replacement. When the bit is clean, reinstall the bearing and treat it with a high-speed router-bearing lubricant.
After cleaning your blades and bits, inspect the cutting edges for cracks or chipping, and discard any cutter showing such damage. When in doubt, toss it out. Finally, protect them with a coating of a rust-preventative product, such as those reviewed in WOOD magazine, issue 154. Boeshield T-9 (boeshield.com, 800/962-1732) earned top honors in that test.
Top Cleaner: Empire Blade Saver
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.