Removing Rust from Cast Iron Table Tops Like Table Saws, Router Tables and Other Woodworking Equipment
Anyone that owns woodworking equipment for their shop knows that rust is inevitable on the cast iron table tops. Let me show you how I like to remove rust from cast iron table tops and apply paste wax to keep them looking and operating like the day they were new.
A clean and waxed cast iron table top is smoother than a baby’s bottom. However, if you don’t take care of your shop equipment the shiny looking cast iron table top it will soon start to rust and get pitted. Above and to the right are photos of a cast iron table top for a router table. I was in the process of updating the table and the first step was cleaning up the rusted cast iron and getting some wax on it. Below are some tips and the method I like to use when removing rust from cast iron table tops.
Products You’ll Need
There are literally an endless number of ways to remove rust from a cast iron table top. My method is one I’ve used for years since learning how to do it from my dad and grand father. First off you’ll need to pick up a few supplies including:
- Mineral Spirits – This is the best cleaning solution for removing the rust form the cast iron. I know some people also like to use WD-40 but I prefer the mineral spirits.
- Steel Wool – Steel wool is perfect for removing rust without causing surface damage to cast iron table tops. I prefer the synthetic sheet versions of steel wool as shown above (plus these allow for a great trick noted below).
- 500 Grit Wet Sand Paper (Optional) – I prefer not using sand paper but occasionally it’s the only product that will remove really deep pitted rust from cast iron. Use it only as a last resort.
- Paper Towels / or Clean Rags – You’ll need a good quantity of clean rags and/or paper towels to clean up.
- Paste Wax – After the cast iron is cleaned you’ll want to condition the surface with a good quality paste wax. I like Trewax which contains Carnauba Wax. This stuff makes the surface nice and smooth which helps wood slide better across it and it helps keep the surface from rusting as soon.
Step 1 – Clean Cast Iron Surface Liberally with Mineral Spirits
Use a rag or paper towel to apply liberal amounts of mineral spirits to the surface of the cast iron. It’s important to clean off all the dirt, grime, saw dust and surface rust. This step will likely take a few attempts in order to get all the bulk grime off the surface.
Step 2 – Use Steel Wool to Remove Surface Rust
The next step involves some elbow grease…or it used to! IMPORTANT TIP: Several years ago I read a tip in a woodworking magazine that said you could use the synthetic steel wool pads under your random orbit sander to speed up the process and produce amazing results. Guess what…..it really works! As you can see below I simply place the steel wool pad between the cast iron and my sander (I leave a sanding disc on the sander to create more friction to help hold the pad in place).
As you “sand” the surface with the steel wood pad it’s important to keep applying mineral spirits to the surface with a rag. The mineral spirits really help the steel wool remove all the rust. After only 10 minutes I was able to almost completely restore this cast iron table top back to it’s original shine.
Step 3 – Clean Surface and Apply Quality Paste Wax
Once you’ve finished scouring the surface with steel wool you’ll want to clean it very well to remove any access dirt and mineral spirits. Then you should apply a liberal coating of paste wax to the surface. The wax has two functions. First and foremost it makes the surface very smooth and slippery which is important so that wood easily slides over the surface. And secondly, it helps protect the newly cleaned surface from rusting again.
As you can see the cast iron router table top looks like new and it’s clean, smooth and ready for lots more action in the wood shop. This method of removing rust from cast iron table tops can be used on table saws, band saws, jointers, planers, router tables, and just about any wood shop equipment with a cast iron table top.