Lubricating Sawmill Blades

Further discussion of soap-and-water or oil-based blade lubricants and lubricating devices. June 27, 2006

Does anyone have any horror stories about using plain water when sawing lumber? I use diesel at times, or vegetable oil, and so far no complaints, but I've heard of people using just water. Would that not promote rust on and around the band wheels?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor J:
I use just water and a touch of detergent. Lucas mill. Yes, if you let it sit on the blade, it will rust. I spray the mill down with light penetrating oil when putting it away for the evening. Moisture will condense even when the water is turned off in advance of shutting down. Something about hot equipment and cool surroundings. Haven't tried oil or diesel fuel for lubricant.

From contributor P:
I use water with Pine-Sol or windshield washer fluid in the winter. The blades do not rust as long as the blade is dry at the end of the day. If you make the last cut with the water turned off, the blade is usually dry enough to not rust. I have had problems sawing eastern white pine in below freezing temps, where the pitch/sawdust mixture seems to freeze to the blade. I will sometimes take a putty knife and scrape this off (running the bandsaw at a slow speed, holding the putty knife stationary). I did try a squirt of WD-40 and it helped remove the pitch, but I was concerned that the WD-40 would degrade the rubber-like substance that the band blade rides on (on the pulleys). The Hud-Son mill has a warning label not to use oil or any flammable lubricants.

From contributor A:
I did start off using water. In the winter it would freeze. I started to cut Douglas fir with lots of sap in it. I was told to use diesel. I was unsure about this because of the belts. I could go through 5 gallons of water in a day. Now 5 gallons of diesel lasts for a month. Plus, it doesn't freeze and doesn't hurt the belts. If it has a felt to brush against the blade when it is moving, 1 drip per second seems to work the best for me. I use this for all woods that I cut.

From contributor U:
I saw lots of SYP and found orange cleaner mixed in the water works well against pitch buildup. A concentrated gallon jug lasts me a long, long time.

From contributor T:
I found this works very well (I have a 5 gallon lube holding tank).
Freezing conditions:
-1/2 gallon (possibly more) windshield washer fluid (not a lube, just keeps the mix from freezing)
- 4-1/2 gallons of water
- 3 shots or so of dawn dishwasher detergent or 1/2 cup of Pinesol
Warmer conditions:
- 5 gallons of water
- 3 shots or so of dawn dishwasher detergent or 1/2 cup of Pinesol

To remove pitch buildup on blades, mix a 50/50 ratio of chainsaw bar chain oil and diesel fuel in a spray bottle and spray onto blade every minute or so. I have heard stories of using an old car windshield cleaner pump to deliver the solution to the blade. It works very well and I have no pitch remaining on the blade. Also, it cuts down on the noise the blade makes to an extreme!

I really would love to hear what anybody else thinks about Pinesol vs. dish detergent, or other lubes. Found this info from Timberwolf (Suffolk Machinery) blade company, tech support. They are very helpful and make the best blade I have found.

From contributor I:
Guess that's why I like this Turner Mill. No lube. Tires take care of the blade.

From contributor R:
That's the reason I got a Turner mill, also.

From contributor T:
I did a lot of research before buying my Timberking 1220 mill. I never came across the Turner sawmill brand. After reading the above responses, I checked it out and read that the mill doesn't need coolant or lubricant because of double roller guides, and air filled tires. From my understanding, in order to have a reasonably increased blade life, you must use lubricant. I have never had a need for coolant, because I have never had a hot blade. How do you take care of pitch buildup? What exactly are the wheels on this band mill? Car tires? If so, wouldn't it be hard to track the blade properly? Sounds like when tension is set on the blade properly, on car tires, you are gonna need double roller guides, to keep the blade on the tires?

From contributor R:
The tires are trailer tires and pitch doesn't build up because the blade doesn't get hot. One wheel is adjustable for tracking and the tension is with a bolt that tightens up the blade. The tension is really no big deal and the double roller guides are made with bearings you can buy just about anywhere.

From contributor T:
Sounds like the exact setup as my mill besides the tires, and double roller guides. Still don't understand why you don't get pitch buildup. I get pitch buildup (comes right off with the diesel and bar chain oil 50/50 mix) and my blade doesn't get hot.

From contributor V:
I run a Wood-Mizer and have thought about diesel but wondered if it would effect the belts the blade runs on.

From contributor O:

I use Pinesol and water. I'm in South Carolina and really haven't had to deal with the freezing problem. With a reasonably soapy mix of Pinesol I don't get any pitch buildup and blade runs much quieter. I run a steady small stream over the blade. It's cheap, so why not use enough to keep the blade clean? Also, my mill lubes before the log and has a rubber wiper that brushes the blade past the log. I also spray lightly with penetrating oil when finished for the day to prevent rust. Although I've never had much problem with rust even on blades removed without a coat of oil.

From contributor E:
I'm new to sawmilling and about to buy a mill - perhaps a chainsaw mill, because they are inexpensive, nails, etc. Is anyone here using a chainsaw mill and could one cool the blade and lube it with water/Pinesol mix most of the day, instead of bar oil every 15 min., perhaps by setting up a drip device? Also, have any of you seen an automated chainsaw mill available? I think we will try to build one in my shop.

From contributor Z:
I use the old windshield wiper spray method 50-50 diesel and chain oil on my Wood-Mizer. (I am on my second pump.) Keeps the blade nice and clean with a squirt every few minutes. A gallon of mix lasts about 7-10 days of sawing. I think that the belt life may be shortened somewhat but I'm willing to live with this.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor Y:
Iíve had a Turner Mill for eight years now and have never had to use water. The saw runs very clean with no build up.