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Protecting Tools in a Humid Shop
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It doesn't take long in damp air for corrosion to appear on your expensive woodworking tools. Below, Michael Dresdner and Rob Johnstone offer a few words of advice on dealing with the adverse effects of a humid shop.

Q. I am in the process of setting up a woodworking shop in my basement. The basement is dry, but can get humid on occasion. Should I be concerned about my woodworking equipment rusting? If so, what can I do to prevent it?

A. Rob Johnstone: “There are several products on the market that protect against rust. It pretty easy to prevent surface rust on the exposed areas of your equipment, but the hidden (or more accurately enclosed) areas are a bit trickier. It would not hurt one bit to invest in a de-humidifier: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

A. Michael Dresdner: “Congratulations, and welcome to the club! You are about to embark on a long and very satisfying career of perpetually yearning to buy new tools, and trying valiantly to shoehorn them into your shop.

“There are two things you can do to keep them from rusting, and I would suggest doing both. First, coat all the exposed (unpainted) surfaces with either paste wax, or one of the many rust preventative coatings (Boeshield, Slipit, etc.), all of which work even better than wax. Second, invest in a good dehumidifier and run it during the wet season. (See, I told you this would lead to buying new tools!)”

From the Woodworker's Journal eZine archives

A dehumidifier is the most logical solution for a damp shop, and there's more than one reason to  invest in one. Excessively humid air not only speeds up corrosion, it affects the moisture content (and thereby dimensions) of any lumber you store in your shop. Build something with lumber that's been sitting around in a damp basement - you'll be in for a surprise when the wood dries out.

Bringing the humidity down in a damp shop doesn't eliminate the need for tool maintenance, on the other hand. Corrosion still takes place in "normal" ranges of relative humidity, although at a slower pace.  Along with the effects of moisture, dust and grit routinely produced in a woodshop get into working parts and cause wear, and buildups of resin on blades and tool surfaces causes increased friction and poor tool performance.  The small amount of time and money involved in taking care of your tools and protecting them from the elements and excessive wear is a very worthy investment. Read more about what's involved in Rockler's article, "Tool Maintenance Made Easy". And if that inspires you to step-up tool care program, you'll find everything you need in tool maintenance supplies right here at Rockler.

posted on December 19, 2006 by Rockler
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4 thoughts on “Protecting Tools in a Humid Shop”

  • Bill

    Frankly I dont see the need for any of the highly touted (and expensive) boeshields, etc when johnsons paste was is ALL you should ever need. Not only does it last MUCH longer than the "lubes" at keeping rust away but it keeps the surface much smoother than the lubes. I have been working in a "heated-only-when-in" fast paced shop in the clammy northwest for over 5 years and have ONLY seen rust ONCE on my table saw after goin on vacation and forgetting to wax. I only apply was about every 6 months and yet to see any problems whatsoever. The wood is another story. :) that stays where the heat is perpetual. Merry Christmas!

  • Blog Editor

    Thanks for pointing that out. Using <a href="" rel="nofollow">paste wax</a> as a protective coating and lubricant for tool surfaces is a popular choice – many woodworkers swear by it. Paste wax has the advantage of serving a dual purpose: You can use it on your projects, unlike, say, WD-40.<br /><br />Others think they get better results from products designed for metal surfaces. <a href="" rel="nofollow">Boeshield T-9</a>, for instance, was originally developed as lubricant/protectant for aircraft and according to the manufacturer, is formulated to “penetrate metal pores and dissolve minor corrosion, then leave a resilient waxy coating that lasts for several months.” Wood Magazine tested several cleaners and rust inhibiting products a while back (including Johnson’s Paste Wax) and gave both Boeshield and the TopSaver System the highest marks. There’s a link to the article on the Boeshield website (

  • Jesse Merino

    There is only one problem with the dehumidifier...<br /><br />If you dont keep your "shop" over 60 degrees in the Winter time, then the dehumidifier will not be effective. <br />(As in Basement shops, or attached garages).<br /><br />The humidifier will "freeze up" and become useless, and yes, you can still get humidity in the winter also.<br /><br />I wish you well...<br /><br />Jesse

  • I use a spray on dry lubricant. Such a PB Blaster, It goes on wet and after a few minutes you wipe off the excess if there is any. The advantage to this dry lube is that you can spray it on the chuck as well as all the parts that you cant get the wax on. IT DOES NOT ATTRACT DUST

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