Gardeners know that it's a good idea to spend a little bit of time preparing their tools for the winter months, to ensure that the tools are in good working form come springtime. Should you winterize your woodworking tools, even if you use them primarily in a woodshop?
Unless you are lucky enough to live in the tropics, where the winters barely register a blip on the radar, winter weather can be dramatically different from summers, with the level of harshness depending on where you live and the local climate. This difference between the normal temperature and humidity levels of summer versus winter can cause all kinds of expansion and contraction of wood, which is most often noticed in doors that are difficult to open and close or sticky drawers.
These temperature and moisture extremes can also cause problems with your tools, with some more than others.
If you use an air compressor to power your framing nailers, finish nailers or brad nailers, staying on top of your air compressor maintenance is vitally important in the winter months. Air tanks need to be bled on a daily basis to remove moisture build-up within the tank which can lead to rusting within the tank. While most air compressors are oil-less, if your compressor utilizes any oil to lubricate the pump, check your maintenance schedule within the compressor's owner's manual to determine any winterizing requirements.
Additionally, many portable air compressors commonly used on remote jobsites use a gasoline-powered engine to power the compressor. In such a case, if you plan to use the compressor throughout the winter, likely the only maintenance you may need to perform is to change the crankcase oil to a different blend better suited to cold weather.
However, if you plan to store the gasoline engine powered air compressor, a few additional steps are necessary.
First, if you plan to store the unit in a tightly-enclosed space such as your basement or woodshop, you'll want to run the engine until it is out of gasoline. This will allow the gas tank to dry and prevent condensation build-up within the tank that can cause rusting. If you choose to store the unit in your garage or other well-ventilated space, fill the gas tank and add some fuel stabilizer to keep the gas fresh until spring. A full tank has no room for moisture build-up, and thus, your gas tank is protected from rusting.
Additionally, it's a good idea to change the oil, clean the air filter and check (or replace) the spark plug to be sure that the engine is in good working order when it's time to get back to work in the spring.
Tools with Cast Iron Tables
Woodworking machines such as your table saw, band saw, drill press or jointer that may have a cast iron table top are quite prone to rusting during the heightened moisture of the winter months. To start, clean and inspect your saw table for any rust that may already exist, and remove it with a rust remover especially-designed for power tools, which you can pick up at your local hardware store or fine woodworking supplier. Then, once you are certain that the table top is clear of rust, apply a protective coating also specially designed for saw tables such as Boeshield T-9. This type of protectant will not stain the surface of any wood you run through the saw, and it will act as a bit of a lubricant in addition to a protectant.
Power tools that have AC power cords such as a router, power drill or circular saw may need some maintenance as well. Cold weather and time can cause the rubberized sheathing on the power cables of such tools to become brittle. Inspect each of your power tools' electrical power cords for damage. If you find a damaged cord, replacing the power cord in a portable tool is a relatively simple procedure. If you are uncomfortable changing a power cord, take the tool to an authorized repair center to have to cord replaced.
Should you decide to replace the cord, first be certain that the cord is not plugged into the electrical outlet. Then, locate the screws that hold the housing or handle with the power cord and strain relief and remove them with a screwdriver. Lift the housing or handle off of the unit, and locate what should be three colored leads from the power cable. Loosen the screws or nuts holding each of the leads in place, taking note of each color of wire and the location in which that wire is connected, and remove the cable and strain relief. Replace the strain relief onto the new power cable, connect the colored leads to the same terminals from which you removed them, and replace the handle or housing.