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Table of Contents

  1. Dust and Grime
  2. Paint and Glue
  3. Waxes and Polishes

Dust and Grime

Tack Cloth, or An oiled rag

This can be an effective way to remove dust and grime from your acquisitions.

Soap and Warm Water

Sometimes, it is necessary to remove grime that adheres a bit more firmly. Do not soak! The intent is to wet and wash the surface, not to get water into the wood. This can be very effective with old hide glues.

TSP and a Scrub Brush

Warning: Tri Sodium Phosphate (TSP) attacks skin. Wear gloves and eye protection. Read the warning label on the package!

There are phosphate free versions of TSP, usually based on sodium meta-silicate. These too attack exposed skin. Read the warning label!

Again, do not soak! The intent is to remove minor crud and the like from the jaws, and the handles of the spindles. You may well lose the patina when you remove the glop. Work gingerly and gently, a little at a time.

The usual starting strength is 1/2 cup of TSP to 1 quart of hot water, but you may choose other proportions. The used solution may be left to settle, so the clear fluid can be drained off the sediments, and re-used. Keep the solution in a safe place, with proper labels and safeguards!

Paint and Glue

As a consequence of being next to wood that is being finished, painted, or glued, it often happened that a clamp got covered with spatter, or drips, or spills. Most collectors prefer clean. The trick is to remove the glop without reducing the clamp to "bare wood". The same techniques that remove grime, if pursued with more vigor, will often remove paint.

If they don't then the next step is the use of mineral spirits, or paint thinner. The problem is that this often removes the original finish, if there was one.  This may also get you to "bare wood" with no patina.   

Waxes and Polishes

When you have succeeded in removing all the obstacles that kept you from seeing the wood, then you may want to put a good polish on the clamp. I can recommend Tony Seo's Old Time Refinishing Formula for cleaning and polishing jaws and handles (but keep it off the threads).  If you experiment with it, remember to substitute only other drying oils for the linseed or tung oil. Non-drying oils, as the name implies, will remain sticky, and may support the growth of molds - yucky (DAMHINT, or Don't Ask Me How I 'Now This).  

There are two schools of thought on waxing the threads of the screws. Some feel that beeswax and other soft waxes invite saw dust to stick and clog the threads. Others believe that the benefits of lubrication outweigh the inconvenience of having to wipe down tools when the project is done.

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