Still at the cottage and trying to make a bow saw out of some green poplar. There was a comment on my last question about being sure that I cleaned my tools after working green wood. Specifically there was a comment about being sure to use oil on the tools. I don't know if it matters what kind of oil or how it should be applied and removed.

What do I do with my tools after they worked green wood?

4 Answers 4


Simply, wipe any dirt, grime, and possibly pitch off the tool surfaces (you can use water or another solvent if it's really stubborn) and dry thoroughly. Mind the edges when you're doing do, both from rubbing too much grit in them an dulling them and being careful not to cut yourself.

After that, I use whatever oil is handy. Usually this is 3-in-1 oil, but occasionally paste wax, beeswax, air tool oil, boiled linseed oil, Boeshield, or even tallow of some sort find their way into being used. Just wipe on a thin layer and it should be ok.

Really all you want to do is put some sort of film that prevents oxidation of the surface rust, so any sort of hydrophobic material is adequate. Some may last longer than others (like the thick, goopy layer of cosmoline I've found on new old stock firearms compared to a coat of WD-40, but we all know which would be preferable for coating an often-used tool).

  • waxes and the like will also work as a lubricant for non-cutting area that make contact with the wood, like the bottom of a wood plane, the blade of the saw above the teeth, etc.
    – ewm
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 15:26
  • I would stay away from WD40 as it is a "Water Dispersant" formula and tends to be VERY temporary. Heavier, non-volatile oils are best. Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 18:41
  • @BrownRedHawk, agreed. However, if one only has WD-40 to use, it's better than nothing.
    – grfrazee
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 17:28
  • @grfrazee Oh definitely! I'm guilty of the "WD40/Duct Tape Rules" too: If it moves and it shouldn't = Ducttape, if it should move and it doesn't = WD40 Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 17:32

The big problem with green wood is moisture. it has lots of water and of course iron tools don't like that. Some wood has pitch which of course sticks to to tools and can be cleaned with a solvent like paint thinner. Some saps are also mildly corrosive so, my recommendation would generally be to wipe down the tools dry them up and put a light oil on them. It could be something as simple as spraying them down with WD-40. They won't need a lot.


Any WD-40 there? That's a great product to use for this application as it will do two desired things simultaneously: acts as a solvent for any resins or gums left on the surface and drives out water.

WD-40 is an acceptable rust-preventative for the short term but if you want better protection wipe on a coat of nearly any available oil or grease. Literally almost everything other than butter is fine* including all cooking oils or salad oils, lard, vegetable shortening, mineral oil, baby oil (also mineral oil, just scented) or petroleum jelly.

TBH I don't think you need to be overly worried about this though. I've worked with wettish wood a few times recently (not green, just still damp from being waterlogged) and I haven't had any problems with rusting. Any tools that don't have stainless steel blades would have been greased or waxed at some point previously and after use I just wiped clean with paper towels and stored them, without incident.

*Butter contains a surprising amount of water, >15% in the US.


I find that the mositure in greewood spurs rust really quickly. I use jojoba oil https://www.lie-nielsen.com/product/tool-care/tool-care-jojoba-oil-?node=4117 on my tools at the end of each day if they have touched green wood.

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