Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Workshop Maintenance Made Easy

Tell me if you can relate: once I get going on a project, I kind of slip into tunnel-vision mode.
"The Zone", if you will. I don't like to get distracted because I'm totally immersed in designing, building, and problem-solving.  That's the kind of stuff that got me into woodworking in the first place.  And once I'm done, I usually jump right into the next project.  This is a really rewarding cycle, of course, because it maximizes the amount that I can get done, but there's a downside- a dirty little secret, let's say.  After all this time, I'm ready to come clean about it:  I'm not so hot at tool maintenance.  I blame it on being busy, but that's not really a good enough excuse.  Just because it isn't sexy doesn't mean it isn't important.  We all know, intuitively, that time spent maintaining tools will most likely prolong their lives, help them to function better, and actually even increase our enjoyment.  And yes, you read that last part right: a well-tuned tool is simply easier and more fun to use.  So why don't some of us give maintenance its due? 

For me, I think there are two answers, and maybe you can relate: 
           1) I'm just not in the habit of it and
           2) I never thought about exactly what to do, and when and how   

In this post, I'd like to tackle both of these issues, specifically as it pertains to the issue of lubrication, which all woodworking machines need to varying degrees.  Periodically lubricating tools also provides an opportunity to inspect for other possible problems, like loose or worn drive belts.

The heart of my newly adopted system- which I'm excited about, because it seems like something I can actually stick to!- is something that I'm calling the "Monthly Maintenance Spree".  It really only takes about 10 or 15 minutes, but it gives me a chance to take a look at each of my major machines and lube up anything that needs it.  It is a pretty intuitive process- common sense dictates that just about anything that slides, threads, or moves against something else probably needs some lube.  That said, I don't generally concern myself with bearings, because my machines are newer and incorporate sealed bearings, and a bad bearing is most likely to be identified by uneven movement, vibration, and noise.  I mostly think about the daily "wear and tear" spots that need attention.  And in a woodshop, this means that there's usually plenty of sawdust around, so I make sure to choose a lube that goes on dry to the touch- this ensures that is isn't a magnet for sawdust.  Check the labels, because they're not all created equal.

Have a look at your bandsaw- I bet there are a bunch of
places that could use some love.  I could barely turn
the tensioning knob before I lubed up the threads.
Afterward: cha-ching!
The first time I maintained the sliding rails on my
compound miter saw, I was humbled- how had I
been so neglectful before?  Soooooo worth it.
Most planers have a set of threaded rods that the cutting head raises and lowers
on.  Overtime, they tend to get covered in sawdust, so a quick clean-out
works wonders.

It isn't pretty, but my drill press keeps on ticking.  I
need to remove some surface rust (that's a whole
'nother story) but a few seconds spent lubing it up
will prevent things from getting any worse.

My jointer has a million little bolts and rods that control the position of the fence.
Go ahead and give them a little lube, too.

Jointer fences usually slide in and out on a keyed casting of some sort.  Anytime
you have a situation like this where two surfaces slide against each other, that's
a good place for some lubrication.
Disclosure: I received, for free, the 3-in-ONE oil that I used in this blog post.  That said, every word of the post comes from my own experiences in the workshop.  I love this stuff and will happily buy more once this container runs out. 

For more information on 3-in-ONE oil (they've got a larger range of products than you might realize) click the link below:

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