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In 1894 George Cole named this product because of its triple ability to “clean, lubricate and protect.”  Over a hundred years later, 3-in-1 oil is to the shop what ketchup is to the refrigerator — it’s not complete until you have some. 

The formula consists of pale spindle oil with a small amount of corrosion inhibitor and citronella oil which gives the product its familiar smel; my father’s workshop always smells of it.  We use it around our shop to oil knife hinges, bicycle chains, and countless other metal moving parts.

You can find 3-in-1 oil at any self-respecting big box or hardware store.  And, a $2 squeezable can will last most folks for years.  Trust us: your tools will thank you for it.

3-in-1 Oil [WD40]


4 Responses to Finds:3-in-1 Oil

  1. Nick Carter says:

    I’ve heard that sewing machine repairmen love it, not to use, but because many people gum up the mechanism of their machine with it. I have heard that it tends to decay into a varnish, which is not good. WD-40 as well is used as a lubricant, which it is not, and will gum things up.
    While it’s good to have a GP oil like 3-in-1 around, it’s also worthwhile to get some other types of oil, I have some Starrett instrument oil that is very thin, clock oil is similar and handy as well. Also some good 20-30wt non-detergent oil is very useful. Way oil is wonderful for your drill press quill and post (and of course machine tool ways).

  2. Adam Sampson says:

    You’re not kidding about it lasting for years. I’m staying with my parents for Christmas, and my dad was oiling the lock on the back door a couple of days ago with the can of 3-in-1 he’s had in his toolkit for as long as I could remember. After some careful thought, he concluded he’d bought it some time in the late 70s. It’s nearly empty now; maybe he’ll need a new one next Christmas…

  3. Myself says:

    Interesting warning about the wrong oil for the job, Nick! While we’re on the subject, I’m curious what lubricants folks here find useful. Here’s what I have around:

    Aero Kroil (aggressive penetrant)
    PB Blaster (modest penetrant)
    WD-40 (mild penetrant, protectant)
    white lithium grease (non-drying, for metal-on-metal)
    silicone spray (for plastic or metal-on-plastic)
    graphite (non-wetting, for lock mechanisms)

    I’m interested in learning more about (the distinctions between):

    Way oil (never heard of it until just now!)
    cutting oil
    instrument oil
    pneumatic tool oil
    synthetic lubricants: common in cars, useful in the shop?
    honing oil
    food-safe oils for blender bearings, etc?

  4. Rob says:

    Nick, Good info on the sewing machines. I just happen to keep mine up with sewing machine oil though. Oh, and thanks for a tool-riffic Christmas as my wife ordered a pile of things from you for my Taig lathe as gifts 😉

    Myself, I noticed that you list WD-40 as a protectant but it really is not. Once the carrier evaporates, there is little left to do anything much less protect. If you’re using it as such, you may want to switch to a light oil or even way oil (as it’s intended to “stick” and lubricate).

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