Lubricants

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This article is from Issue 58 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Lubricants

Products you need to stay unstuck

By Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk

 In woodworking, “running like a well-oiled machine” is more than just a figure of speech. As we all know, rust, sawdust, and nameless gunk threaten to seize up everything that rolls, slides, or turns in our workshops. Many woodworkers don’t realize that keeping things moving should mean more than reaching for the first can on the shelf. A quick spritz might seem like a reasonable spur-of-themoment solution, but the wrong stuff can do more harm than good. By using the right product, you’ll lubricate less often, avoid damaging costly components, and ultimately save time and money by sidestepping repairs. To help you decide what works where and why, here’s an overview of specialty lubricants. Once you grasp the basics, turn to the examples on page 72 to see where you can apply each product to keep your shop humming.

Lubricants

Penetrating and All-Purpose Oils

This lube duo is often treated as jacks-of-all trades, but they should be reserved for specific tasks. Penetrating oils contain solvents to help them flow into tight cracks and under rust to free up seized parts such as frozen nuts on bolts. They’re also handy for dissolving adhesive residue, grease, and gunk. However, as lubricants go, they’re super-lightweights. Penetrating oils break down quickly under wear or temperature, so don’t expect long-lasting slip. Heavier-bodied all-purpose oils offer longer-term lubrication plus decent defense against corrosion. The problem is that they don’t stay put. Because oils tend to fly off moving parts or simply wear off through casual contact, oiled parts require regular care and feeding. On the other hand, too much oil can act as a magnet, attracting dust and dirt.

Lubricants


White Lithium Grease

These heavy-bodied lubricants stick and stay stuck, making them the go-to lubes for components that sustain medium- to highloads, including gears, axles, springs, and shafts. For easily accessible areas, use the tube: apply a thin coat of grease with a small brush. Use the spray to get the spots that you can’t reach without major disassembly. Although it sticks around longer than other types of lubricants, grease isn’t a cure-all. Besides being messy and difficult to apply, this lubricant’s tacky nature makes it notorious for collecting debris. Once a part becomes caked up with sawdust, you’ll need to clean off the crud with a degreaser and re-lubricate.

Lubricants


Dry Lubricants

Most so-called “dry” lubes actually go on wet; however, once the solvent evaporates, they leave behind a slippery thin film that doesn’t attract dust. Because dry lubes stay where they’re sprayed and don’t stain wood or affect finishes, they’re used on machine tops and saw blades. (To control overspray, use the stick lube on scrollsaw and bandsaw blades.) By reducing friction and repelling pitch, these lubricants can extend blade and bit life and help produce smoother cuts. Compared to other lubricants, most dry lubes are lightweights. Although they don’t stand up to loads as well as other products, they’re easy to reapply when workpieces start to stick. By themselves, dry lubes repel moisture but don’t resist rust. Some manufacturers spike their products with anti-corrosion additives. Check the can.

Lubricants

Slippery Specialists

Some products are just too slick to sti ck in a general category, but deserve special menti on. Adding one or both of these multi taskers to your arsenal might help you free yourself from a variety of sti cky situati ons. Slipit is an odorless, nonstaining, silicone-free lube that works on wood, metal, and plasti cs and is safe for incidental food contact. Developed in the 1940s for the elevator industry, it has established healthy track records in a wide variety of applicati ons, including plane soles, wooden vise screws, drawers, and window sashes. Listed as a thixotropic gel (one that liquefi es when sti rred), Slipit can be applied with a brush, rag, or fi nger, much like a soft wax. Like a grease, it doesn’t dry out; however, unlike sti cky lithiums, it doesn’t att ract dust. A newcomer to the woodworking world, PG2000 was intended for bicycle chains, but this petroleumbased dry lube’s ability to bond to metal and create a slick, dust-repelling coati ng makes it equally suited for the workshop. Although it doesn’t contain special solvents, PG2000 successfully penetrates rust and grease, making it parti cularly handy for loosening gummed up gears, such as tablesaw trunnions. (It doesn’t last as long as lithium, but it’s easier to reapply.) Used wet, the heat-resistant lubricant can also be used as a cutti ng fl uid for drilling metals.

At-a-Glance Lubrication Guide

Use this visual guide to quickly determine whether you have what it takes to keep your shop humming or if it’s time to stock up.  


Machinery


Hand Tools


Blades and Bits

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