Posted: May 19, 2011
Updated: May 31, 2011 - Added section on lid warping; Jan 21, 2012 - Updated with new lid information
Rockler Saw Blade/Router Bit Cleaning Kit
The best cleaner I've found
Available as a full kit including cleaner or Concentrated Cleaner only from Rockler
UPDATE: Rockler exchanged the warping tub with a new one, which has worked perfectly. See the end of the review for details.
Last year, I looked at several different products to clean my saw blades. Ultimately, I found the best job was done by two products: Empire Bladesaver and Boeshield Blade & Bit Cleaner. However, neither one did a perfect job and both were unpleasantly smelly, to the point of making me feel a bit queasy.
I've actually had the Rockler kit in the shop for over a year, but haven't gotten around to trying it. When I opened the box, the first thing that struck me was the odor. It was quite pleasant, kind of citrus-y. I was hoping that it was from the cleaner!
The Rockler kit contains the actual cleaner, which is a concentrate and needs to be mixed with water 3-1, so the one-quart concentrate makes a gallon of cleaner. It fills the tub a couple inches deep and gives off a nice odor that reminds me of oranges. After my experiences with the horrible smells from the other specialty cleaners, the citrus-like scent of the Rockler cleaner was a pleasant change.
The kit also has a nice rubbery tub to soak the blade, a small container for soaking router bits, and a brass-bristle brush. The 14" tub is large enough to accommodate 12" blades easily. A nice touch is the raised bead in the middle of the tub, which lifts the blade off the bottom allowing the cleaner full access to both sides and makes it easy to get you finger under the teeth to lift it out. The tub is also plenty deep, so if you put small spacers between them, you could easily do three or four blades at once. The lid appears to seal tightly so you can just store the mixed solution in the tub and not worry about it evaporating.
My first test was with the Woodworker II from my tablesaw. It was a bit gunky and needed a cleaning badly. I soaked the blade for five minutes (the directions say 3-5 minutes), then laid the blade up on the side of the tub and scrubbed it a bit with the brass brush.
The results were a bit disappointing. While the blade was definitely cleaner and shinier, there were still pitch deposits, especially on the back side of the blade (I don't know why the deposits would be heavier there).
Since I needed my blade back, I went ahead and hit it with some Empire Bladesaver, which removed quite a bit of the remaining pitch although not all of it. As you can see from the closeup of the teeth, the Bladesaver got quite a bit of what Rockler cleaner missed. However, I was now feeling a bit nauseated from the stench of the Bladesaver and I still didn't have a really clean blade ...
After putting my blade back on, I began to wonder about the results. Even the Bladesaver had left some pitch, perhaps the blade had been unusually gunky and an unfair test? Would the Bladesaver have worked any better if it had started with the original level of pitch?
So, on to round two. I decided to try again with the Chopmaster from my miter saw, not quite as icky but still far from clean. This time, I let the blade soak in the Rockler solution for fifteen minutes instead of just five. Wow, what a difference! This time, the blade came out completely pitch-free, no need for a followup with the old stinky Bladesaver.
Overall, the Rockler cleaning solution seems to be quite effective without assaulting my olfactory senses. Just don't let your blades go too long or let the blade soak longer if you do. The extra cost of the kit is well worth it for the tub alone. The only question I have is how long the cleaning solution will last before it needs to be replaced.
(please make sure you read the update that follows this one) After a week or so, I noticed the lid of the tub popped open. As you can see in the photo, the lid had developed a warp commonly called "potato-chipping". The warp is so bad that it's almost impossible to get the lid sealed and when you do, it pops back open in a matter of a few seconds. When I originally looked into the Rockler kit, I saw several people complaining of the same problem. However, the reviews were older ones and I hoped that Rockler had corrected the problem, but apparently not. I'm wondering if it's related to storing the solution in the tub. Remember, the kit was over six months old before I ever tried it, but the lid fit perfectly until it sat for several days filled with the cleaning solution.
I contacted Rockler about the warping lid problem. I wasn't sure what they'd do, since I had ordered the kit and then let it sit around over a year before trying it out. However, they promptly replaced the defective tub with a new one, no hassle at all. In fact, they sent an entire new kit, with the cleaning solution and everything. All my dealings with Rockler have been just as terriffic as this one.
The new tub has shown none of the warping problem, I've had the solution sitting in the tub for at least a month and it remains tightly sealed, no distortion of the lid at all. I once again highly recommend getting the full kit.