If you’re not familiar with
Josh Clark of Hyperkitten then do
yourself a favor and surf on over to his site. Josh is without a
doubt the coolest damn antique tool dealer this side of the
Case in point is the recent package of tools I got from Josh… he
knows I am an avid saw-freak and always manages to find the nicest
scratch for my particular itch. Josh can find just about anything,
and his prices are extremely fair… even bordering on ridiculous at
As it were, this latest package of booty from Josh contained a
couple very nice older English saws, and some saw parts… take a
A tisket, a tasket, a mid-19th century English sash saw and other
One of said goodies was a decent 24 inch Disston #7 saw plate with 8
points that was begging to be cleaned and re-united with a proper
tote. So I figured this would be a great opportunity to blog about
my methods of cleaning an old rusty saw plate and use the #7 as my
Over the last year or so, I’ve been experimenting with lots of
different ways of cleaning saw plates, and recently, I have settled
on a method and materials that are efficient and readily available.
To get started, you really only need two basic items… Simple Green
cleaner and 400 grit abrasive paper….
If you were to conduct a survey of those who clean saw plates
regularly, you will find that most use mineral spirits as their
abrasive lubricant, and no doubt MS works well on cleaning rust and
grime, but it also excels at causing neurological damage… a fact
that motivated me to find an alternative.
That search lead to all sorts of things, some petroleum distillates,
some other types of solvents. Eventually, I found Simple Green. I
recalled a member of WoodNet mentioning that he had used window
cleaner with good results, and I thought how great it would be if I
could find a regular cleaning product that would work on my saws,
AND would have the added benefit of not shortening my life.
picked up a bottle for $5 and had at it… with outstanding
results!!!! This stuff has pleasant minty scent and cuts grime and
rust just as well as mineral spirits… I truly cannot tell the
difference in its ability of to dissolve rust and grime, nor in the
lubricating properties of the S.G. nor its ability to prevent
clogging on the abrasive paper. This stuff rocks! So, save your
precious brain cells for beer drinking and retire your mineral
The other item you’ll need is 400 grit abrasive paper… automotive
wet/dry paper will hold up better, but Norton 3x aluminum oxide
paper is also good. I use both, but tend to use more of the Norton
stuff ’cause I can buy it in bulk from Woodcraft.
Now that we’re ready to start the saw cleaning, there’s just one
more thing…make a paper pad for the saw plate….this is an important
step that I recommend.
What is a paper pad and why should you use one? Well, a paper pad is
basically just a piece of heavy craft paper cut in the shape of your
saw plate, and you should use one because of this simple reason: as
you’re sanding away on your saw plate, the abrasive breaks up and
gets carried away by the slurry from the cleaner, and this loose
abrasive invariably ends up getting all over the bench top you’re
The last thing you want is that loose abrasive getting
embedded into the work surface you are pressing down on so that when
you flip the nice clean saw plate over to work on the other side,
you grind all that abrasive back into the fresh steel on the clean
side and scratch up your saw. I used to go crazy trying to figure
out complex ways of cleaning my bench top between sides until I came
up with this little “saw pad” trick.
To make one, just lay your saw plate on an over sized piece of brown
craft paper or resin flooring paper. Place your saw plate on the
piece and trace around it with a razor.