Calgon take me away!

The Monger is calling it a short week and heading to the Gauley River in West Virginia. It’s become an annual pilgrimage to one of the best rivers in the US that only release for a short time in the fall.  So knowing my mind would be on all things rocky and wet I’ve pre-blogged and with any luck you’re reading it.

The first time I read about wood bleach it was suggested as a solution for aged dirty wooden folding rulers.  I guess I filed that bit of trivia away till I started restoring hand saws and a friend was looking for a solution to some oil stains on a backsaw.  I passed along the tip and he had wonderful results.

Since then I’ve used it quite a bit both to lighten weathered, darkened handles and to deal with local stains. The use is quite straight forward but I’ll offer up some suggestions.

Wood bleach or oxalic acid sold under a few brands  and the box in the picture is from my local hardware store but a quick google search will show its readily available.

Read the label for any warning.  I’m not a chemist or a health expert, but I wear gloves when working with it; use your best judgment.

Depending on your needs you can mix small batches in a plastic cup or larger ones in a bowl.  I use an old plastic tupperware container and brush for application.  Again follow directions but I’ve found 2 tablespoons to 8 ounces of hot water works best.  Double if you need to submerge the handle and use a rock to hold it down.

Most wood I find reacts in a few seconds.  I leave it on for a minute or so, wipe off, reapply if need be.  Once happy, rinse with water and let dry.  I’ve tried with mixed results to reapply after drying.  Some woods will lighten a little more but the first treatment has the biggest effect.

If your issue is a local spot like in my picture, I find it helps to “wet out” the wood with water before applying the bleach.  This allows a more even application over dry wood.  Once done, wash with water and let dry.

My pictures aren’t the best (we’ve had a lot of rain this week) but you can see the results on this Disston No. 12.

The last and best piece of advice, experiment first!

Saw advocate – at large
Joe Federici

4 thoughts on “Calgon take me away!

  1. Depending on the restoration you do it works greats. One thing to keep in mind that I didn’t point out is, going this route your tied into refinishing the entire handle. I bring that up as I may let a dark spot go if the rest of the finish is good.


  2. The counter/sink cleaner Bar Keeper’s Friend is also oxalic acid — not sure of its strength, tho. ( Don’t use it on marble.)

    BTW, have you tried spray-on oven cleaner to remove oil, pain shellac etc on badly grimy wooden handles? I was skeptical at first ( and would only use it on really bad finishes) but its fast ( 3-4 miinutes) with easy water clean-up, and a good prep for the oxalic acid treatment for black water/rust stains.

    • I’ve used over cleaners on some older plans but never on saw handles. I’ll test some of the parts saws I have and give it a go! thanks for the tip.


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