Shawn Kirsch

Ideas for Removing a Rusty Table Saw Arbor Nut

Shawn Kirsch
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Duration:   5  mins

There can be real value in getting your tools used instead of new. However, used tools can have their “warts.” Every once in a while our readers, and the director of our woodworking videos, run into problems working with these older tools and come to us with their questions. In this case, the table saw arbor nut on Sam’s older Craftsman table saw was completely frozen in place. The original wrenches distorted badly as he torqued on the nut, refusing to budge it at all. He needed a higher horsepower solution, and we figured that out for him. Have a look at the solution that finally had an impact on the problem with Sam’s table saw arbor nut.

Rust is common

One of the most common problems with older tools is rust. A cast iron surface doesn’t have to be rained on to develop rust. Ambient humidity, or a misplaced can of soda, can be enough to get rust forming. Whether you’re using older tools, or want to protect the new tools in your shop, knowing how to clean rust off of them is key.

Other common issues

Another problem with older table saws is wear and tear on the arbor itself. Think of the number of times an arbor nut is put on and off a table saw. Over time the arbor threads can become worn, preventing you from getting the arbor nut tight. Luckily there’s a pretty easy fix that will allow your table saw arbor to snug up again.

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20 Responses to “Ideas for Removing a Rusty Table Saw Arbor Nut”

  1. Jay

    was up against a similar situation removing the pulley nut on a Craftsman lawn tractor blade mandrill (Husqvarna, actually). There, access was not an issue. I kept the pulley from rotating with a Vice Grip applied to it. I tried 2 heavy, 120V, impact drivers and even torching it with no success. I finally bought a really huge impact driver from Harbor Freight and it broke the nut off with a piece of the shaft still in it! A new mandrill assembly (which was much cheaper than the impact driver) was the ultimate solution.

    My table saw is also a Craftsman that I bought from Sears 40+ years ago. Rust on it has never been an issue since I use it a lot. If I had run into this problem, I would have approached it somewhat differently. The arbor nut wrench that comes with the saw will never be able to loosen a rusted-on nut. It is too thin, insubstantial and its inside edges will get rounded off. But first, I would try applying something like Liquid Wrench (which has worked for me in these situations better than WD40) and let it soak in overnight.  Getting access to the nut would probably require disassembling the saw from the table or at least turning it over on its side or even up side down. An impact driver would work the best, if you can get one that is powerful enough and will fit inside the cabinet work space. You need to be able to stop the blade from moving and you can probably do that with a Vice Grip applied to the blade. You also need the correct sockets. The ones shown are NOT designed for impact drivers. If the nut won’t move, the chromed socket will likely crack. Impact sockets are usually black and heavy. They should be at least 1/2″ drive. Using socket adapters will reduce the available torque, plus they can easily break. An impact driver that is more than you need is not the problem since the nut will come off more easily than when using an under-powered driver. It should go without saying that you should make sure the driver is actually set to work in the reverse direction (who of us has never made that mistake?)! As for torching it, some of the issues have already been mentioned. In addition to the fire and burn risks, you can actually inadvertently weld it on even more if you get the nut red hot. It would be the last thing that I would do before giving up. Basically, there are only 3 possible outcomes: the nut comes off, the nut doesn’t come off and the nut breaks off destroying the arbor. For anything other than the first outcome, the next steps are to remove the motor, pulleys and safety switch, and then donate the rest to your local recycling center.

  2. Bill

    Applying AeroKroil penetrating lubricant will generally allow easy removal of rusted and stuck nuts and bolts using only a wrench.

  3. David

    If it still hadn’t worked, and only as a last resort, you could cut the nut off. I have done this on several other applications where the nut was not salvageable. I prefer my Dremel rotary tool with a fiber cutting wheel. Be sure to wear safety goggles as the wheel can sometimes fly apart (especially if it gets twisted). Cut down parallel to the shaft almost to the threads. At that point you should be able to break the rest of the nut with a wrench. The nut will expand and you can unscrew it. Be sure to clean the threads off with a steel brush before you put on the new nut.


    Table saw arbors are usually buried beneath the top, making it impossible to get an impact driver onto it. How did you seat the driver onto the arbor nut?

    • Customer Service

      Hi Daniel. It took a couple of ½” U joints ( ,plus extensions, to get the impact wrench in the right position and allow this to work, but we made it happen.
      Alternatively you could use a box wrench from the top, and slide a pipe over the top of your wrench to serve as an extension. If you extend this out a few feet you will have a ton of leverage, and you should be able to loosen even the most stubborn arbor nut.

  5. Roger

    You are looking for a accident to happen by not using an impact socket. Chrome sockets shatter very easy when used with a impact wrench.

  6. Dink

    Wouldn’t an air impact ratchet or possibly a long Gear Wrench be better? I also noticed the sockets used were not impact grade that tend to be 6 point and designed for higher torque, those used may have life warranty but use on an impact is an exception to same.

  7. Tim Goldberg

    To loosen stuck rusted nuts and bolts on woodworking equipment TopSaver is the Product for you. It Penetrates to the bottom of the surface pores on a microscopic level faster and better than most petroleum penetration oils. TOPSAVER will also break the bond of the rust on contact so a little vibration from a impact driver or tapping on the nut with a wrench will help free the bond.
    Applying Topsaver to the nut and arbor threads will also help this from happening again. Topsaver is available at and

  8. Ron Sanda

    When taking off the arbor nut you had tried two wrenches, I believe these wrenches are for a Craftsman radial arm saw if this is one of the tools you also received.

  9. Anthony Byrde

    An interesting video. I have sometimes found that a sharp tap on a well-fitting wrench in the tightening direction before trying to loosen a nut may work. It seems to crack the rust-bond. I agree it seems to go against all reason… On the matter of slipping belts, I have a Kity woodworker and have found that turning the fabric belt inside out works. It seems to have a bias one way, possibly something to do with the fabric weave. (You have to move the belt each time you set up a different tool: it’s French…)

  10. Roger Diveley

    When you come across a frozen nut. I have always tighten it first. There is always room to tighten it. the nut click just a little then you can take it off. It has worked on a number of times. Try it the next time you have nothing to lose.

  11. Marty Evans

    I would recommend putting a light coat of Anti Seize on the arbor threads and inside the nut to make removal in the future a lot easier. Doesn’t matter how long it sits then between blade changes. A little on the shaft wouldn’t hurt either. Do not over due the application because you don’t want centrifugal forces spraying it all over your next project. If you have belt issues I would devise a more positive system of putting tension on the belt.

  12. Tom M

    I would start by using a penetrating oil on the nut 1st. By far the best I’ve tried is PB blaster available at big box stores or car parts stores. It runs rings around WD 40. Absolutely do not use a torch on a motor because the grease in the bearings can burn up or you can melt the windings out of position and jam the motor. And I found Evapo-rust does a fantastic job on removing rust, particularly if you can soak the part. Soaking the part is not always a viable option and it takes a time.

  13. Rick

    I doubt if a small impact driver would have worked, I have a Porter Cable 20V that does a great job but if you really have to hammer on it, it will twist off the 1/4 hex drive. You can get adapters that will go to a 1/2 socket drive.

    I have tried a few different brands but they would all twist off if I had to hammer very long

  14. jon

    i have my grandfather’s 1952 craftsman/sears table saw. my biggest issues are the belt will slip off and the fence does not lock down. if i did not have the belt issue then i would still be using it.

    • Customer Service

      Hi Jon. It is hard to troubleshoot these problems remotely, but I’d suggest starting with a new belt. It is possible that the old one is stretched, cracked, and/or glazed, which is causing it to come loose. In terms of the fence problem, it is possible that a cam locking mechanism is worn to the point where it no longer securely engages. If you can’t find replacement parts, it is possible that you might be able to find a new fence that will fit the saw.
      You will have to determine how much you are willing to invest in time and money into this saw to make it workable.

      • jon

        when i got the table saw out of my grandfathers shop i bought a new belt for it. and one day i was cross cutting maple it just flew off the pulley. for my b-day last month i did get a sawstop, but if i did not have the belt issue then i would have loved to continue using that saw. i just did not want to put in more money into that saw to fix the belt issue and the the rip fence. i was a great saw never bogged down when ripping or cross cutting.

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