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I have a nice mortise press that rarely gets use. It's a full sized standing unit made by General.

It's located in a basement shop and I'm wondering how to best preserve the machine. I haven't turned it on in over a year, and I want to now protected it since I don't know when I'll next use it.

  • Is it a good idea to cover the machine?
  • Can covering it cause problems (i.e. trap moisture)
  • How can I protected against rust?
  • Does the motor need to be run? If so, how long and how often?
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A number of good Answers already so I don't want to add another as I just want to address the rust issue. Any surface you want to guard against rust should normally get a regular thin coating of oil, grease or wax. For long-term storage the general practice is just to increase the thickness of this, which is why something similar to axle grease (e.g. Cosmoline) is used so frequently to keep moisture from steel or iron. [cont] – Graphus Feb 2 at 15:00
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[cont] Grease is preferable to oil where full immersion can't be used because it won't naturally drip off or creep to the low points, leaving upper surfaces lightly protected. For the same reason wax can be used instead of oil as you can apply it liberally and it'll stay put. – Graphus Feb 2 at 15:02

Is it a good idea to cover the machine?

Covering it will prevent it from being coated in dust and grime but since it's inside (I assume), it offers little protection from anything else.

Can covering it cause problems (i.e. trap moisture)

If it were sealed and covered in a plastic tarp, perhaps moisture could build up, but if you cover it with a fabric cover and there is no moisture, you shouldn't have any problems. If your shop floods then you'd definitely want to make sure the machine was dry and the room well ventilated.

How can I protected against rust?

Best way is to prevent moisture from building up. Without moisture there will be no rust. But there are anti-rust formations you can apply or even paste wax is often used on cast iron surfaces to prevent rust.

Does the motor need to be run? If so, how long and how often?

Shouldn't be necessary since it's electric. The only reason I can think to periodic run it would be to ensure it still works and you don't find that it's dead when you urgently need it.

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To add to the other answers, the metal parts probably don't need special care other than rust-prevention.

However, if there are any rubber parts (belts, seals, o-rings, etc.) these might degrade without use. This is especially true for rubber parts that are attached to the motor, such as belts and seals. If the motor runs belts I would take them off and store them in an air-tight bag (some advise rubbing the rubber with silicone grease or petroleum jelly, but I've read conflicting opinions on this practice). Seals are a tougher problem. The best way to maintain them would be to simply run the motor every now and then. I can't really say how often and how long, but I'd run it a few times a year, for a few minutes each time.

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Steven covers your main points well. I hope to add a couple others just in case. Some of these bar on common sense but can still be important.

  • Remove any and all peripherals that you can blades, keys, etc. In that same vein if there is something that can move secure it if possible. You don't want surprises when you (or someone else) is moving stuff around. Remove anything exposed that does not need to be.

  • Tool attachments and accessories should be kept together. Preferably with the tool but together nonetheless.

Does the motor need to be run? If so, how long and how often?

Motor? No, not really outside what Steven said. Batteries though... You need to be careful as different ones have different long term storage needs.

How should I store the batteries of my cordless drill?

  • Storage location can be important too when it comes to moisture and elements. An uninsulated attic is probably not the best place. Out of a location that will get direct sunlight is good advice as well. Sun can degrade some plastics and other cause other reactions as well.
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