Professionals and Amateurs Together

Rust Free Machines & Raw Wood


What is the best way to keep machine metal surfaces rust free, bright & non-contaminating when you slide raw wood over that surface?—Harvey Best


Peter James replies: I have tried many different methods and products, but still find that Johnson’s Paste Wax works best. I am really fanatical about keeping the surfaces of my machines rust free and this has provided the best results. When dealing with wood that might not be perfectly dry like a bowl blank or first pass of a board through the planer, I smear a heavy coat of wax on the metal surface and do not buff it off. Normally, a quick coat of the wax and buffing it off every now and then is all it takes.

Richard Oedel replies: Plain old butchers wax works well for both, but if you insist on buying something from a store, Dri-Cote (now called BladeCote) and GlideCote are both good products and I have used both successfully.

Tony Immorlica replies: I’m glad you mentioned “non-contaminating,” because you shouldn’t use anything containing silicones, which can cause fish-eye when finishing.

There are many commercial products on the market (Top-Cote is one) and some woodworkers use paraffin, or even talc, although I wouldn’t use talc which absorbs moisture—exactly what you do not want. But I prefer paste wax which I rub in with fine steel wool, and buff out thoroughly. I looked into this a while ago, and the only wax I found that has no silicones is Behlen’s Blue Label Paste Wax—a one pound tin has lasted years.

I also wax the ways of my lathe so the banjo slides easily. You could wax the tool rest as well, but this is one spot where I prefer paraffin, which is quicker and more handy—a tip I got from Jon Siegel.

Mike Korsak replies: I generally use Minwax paste wax to lubricate and protect cast iron surfaces on machines. It also sees use as a lubricant for screws and to protect surfaces from glue squeeze-out. If you are concerned about keeping cast iron surfaces bright and fresh-looking, you can periodically clean them up with steel wool or even wet/dry sandpaper lubricated with mineral oil.

Bob Couch replies: I apply a good coat of old Johnson’s Bowling Alley wax to all of my machined surfaces two to three times each year. It has always worked well for me but is now getting very hard to find. They have a new wax that is much softer and easier to apply but I don’t think it works as well. Material slides nicely over the surfaces without picking up any wax residue.

Dave Emerson replies: Wax them often!

Joe Barry replies: Bowling alley paste wax. Apply with 0000 steel wool or a red scotchbrite pad. Allow it to dry.
I usually do all my machines at the same time so by the time I finish it is dry on the first machine. Buff off the excess with a clean piece of 0000 or a red pad. I apply a really generous coat without buffing in the fall when I am shutting down for the winter. My shop is in an unheated barn and that keeps everything rust free until Spring.

Tags: Rust