The absolute best way to eliminate rust from the surfaces of machines and other tools in your shop is to stop it from ever really getting started in the first place.
It's always best to immediately remove any surface rust the moment you notice its presence. Sandflex Rust Erasers work extraordinarily well to remove light rusting or spots of rust beginning to form on surfaces. The longer rust lingers on a metal surface, the deeper it penetrates and the more elbow grease you'll end up needing to use to get rid of it.
There are many aftermarket coating products you can apply to help fight rust formation. Perhaps our most popular rust preventive product is none other than Renaissance Wax. Besides protecting your tool surfaces from corrosion of any type, it also works as a superb friction reducer. Work using tools like your hand planes, jointer, bandsaw and tablesaw will go far more efficiently when micro-crystalline Renaissance Wax has polished and smoothed the work surfaces. We apply Renaissance Wax with either a fine nylon Scotchbrite Pad or 4/0 steel wool, putting it on as thinly as possible and buffing it vigorously with a soft cloth after a very short wait. It takes two or three coats to do a thorough job the first time out, but single coats thereafter will maintain a nearly perfect surface, and it has the wonderful property of polishing metal smoother and smoother with every use — after a few years your jointer beds and plane soles will be as smooth as glass.
Other products such as Top Cote spray on and form an invisible film to keep moisture at bay. Another product, Boeshield T-9, is for long-term rust prevention when storing your tools. It has a waxy emulsion that creates a barrier that lasts for months. The coating should be cleaned off before using the machine. To remove the film when it's time to put your tools back into service, just spray on a fresh coat of Boeshield and then wipe off thoroughly.
You can also help prevent rust by using a vapor corrosion inhibitor (VCI) such as a Bull Frog Rust Blocker Shield. VCIs are water-based non-polluting molecular coatings that protect metals in enclosed spaces for a year or more at a time. The VCIs bond electrochemically to metal surfaces, yet leave no build-up of oil or wax to contaminate your hands or work.
If the top of your tablesaw, bandsaw or other tool has started to rust, you can remove it by abrading it away. Sanding the metal top removes the rust but also leaves scratches. You will need to sand with finer and finer sandpaper to remove the scratches from the previous grit.
I would start with a somewhat fine grit so you don't get overly aggressive and can see how quickly things move along. 320 or 400 grit wet-dry paper with some mineral spirits as a lubricating agent would be a good start. Very mild rust may come off with a nylon Scotchbrite Pad. If the rust removal is slow going, step down a grit. Once you have all the rust off, you can stop there or step up to the next grit to remove the previous grit's scratches. There are also rust removal products available such as Rust Free that work to remove surface rust and light to moderate scale from iron surfaces. Rust Free works quickly and won't harm your tools, so severe cases can even be left to soak overnight.
Deep rust can cause pitting that you may not be able to remove with simple sanding. However, while perhaps unsightly, small pitting should not impede the function of the tool. With severe pitting, surface grinding at a machine shop would be necessary.
Remember, rust never sleeps! It is best to prevent it from ever getting started, but once it does start, the quicker you can attack it, the easier it will be to remove.
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