Cleaning and Lubricating Router Bits

people sometimes reach for the wrong stuff when trying to loosen up a bearing. August 14, 2007

I take very good care of my router bits. I clean them after every use with pitch remover and lubricate the bearings with WD-40. Even with this, the bearings always go bad and seize up after a very short time. Am I doing something wrong, or is this normal?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
Premature bearing wear is common in circumstances like yours. The problem is that both the pitch remover and the WD-40 are solvents that dissolve the grease that is put in shielded bearings at the factory. The solution is to remove the bearings and wire brush them only and you can clean your bit as you normally do. This way the factory grease stays in the bearing.

From contributor T:
Just blow the dust out and add 1 drop of air tool oil before each use - every time - every time! Clean outside of bearing as needed. Our bearings always outlast the edge.

From contributor A:
I wish I could meet the guy who invented WD-40. He is responsible for utterly destroying billions of dollars worth of different products. It is really great at cleaning things in order to re-lubricate them. It is an awful lubricant on its own. That's why they sell so much of it. People have to keep lubricating the same item over and over again.

I use Marvel Mystery Oil around the shop all the time for things like seizing bearings. Like others have mentioned, only a little drop is required to re-liquefy the oem grease. I believe some company actually sells a specific router bearing lubricant.

From contributor M:
I have found that one of the easiest ways to clean the outer surface of router bit bearings of crap like contact cement is to run the edge of a razor blade or chisel against them with the router turned on.

From contributor W:
I don't think I will be letting my shop guys do that.

From contributor I:
WD-40 has caused me much grief over the years. WD-40 is not a lubricant! Everybody is quick to pick up some WD-40 and just start spraying. Big no-no in my plant.

From contributor C:
We have a couple of lubricants specifically designed for use in router bit bearing lubrication and for freeing seized up bearings. One is Bostik Bearling Lubricant and the other is Empire's RBL Router Bit Lubricant. Other products are available for your application as well.

Contributor L is right on about what using WD40 and pitch removers will do to the grease in the bearings.

From contributor P:
That WD-40 became well known as a lubricant is due to a bit of a misunderstanding. Yes, it will stop squeaks in certain applications, but this is due at least as much to the petroleum based evaporative carrier as the formula itself. It was originally developed in the 50’s for the Atlas Missile program by Convair scientists looking to protect the thin (.0025”) missile skin from the damaging salt laden air of (then called) Cape Canaveral. Success came on the 40th trial version of their “Water Displacement Formula,” hence the name.

From contributor I:
After reading this post about WD-40, it brought back memories (bad ones) of the tire guy who used it to try to seat a new ATV tire. I didn't catch him in time and the damage was done. WD-40 softens the rubber he says... More like eats or dissolves it. That was the only tire that leaked.