garden hand tools - Knowledgebase Question

pensacola, Fl
Question by gparulski
November 24, 2009
how do sharpen, clean and lubricate my hand tools?
i read something a while back that said to put them in a bucket of sand with some kind of oil, but i don't remember the particulars. help!

Answer from NGA
November 24, 2009


Years ago, the practice was to dump some used motor oil into a bucket of sand and keep it in the garage for handy tool cleaning. You simply dug around in the sand with your hand trowel or shovel to clean off the dirt. The oil coated the blades and kept them from rusting. I don't think that's a good practice, though. The oil begins to smell after a while and then there's the problem of disposing of the oily sand. So this method is not something we recommend.

Here is how I care for my gardening tools and keep them in good condition: I always wipe tools with a dry rag after using them and before putting them away. For deep cleaning I soak the metal end of tools in a tub of hot soapy water. If you don't have a laundry tub type sink, you can do the same thing with a bucket or plastic tub. After soaking for 10 or 15 minutes, then I rinse the tools under tap water and lay the washed tool on an old beach towel or large piece of cardboard while I clean the next gardening tool. With another old, clean and dry towel, I thoroughly dry the washed gardening tools. When they are completely dry, I use WD40 to lubricate all the cleaned metal blades of loppers and heads of other metal gardening tools, then wipe them clean. I condition the wood handles of gardening tools by using a small amount of linseed oil. The linseed oil helps to prevent splintering and rotting of the wood. After all gardening tools have been thoroughly cleaned and dried; I return them to their normal storage. Some tools get hung and other tools I lie flat on a towel on a shelf on a tool storage shed or cabinet. Here are some tips to keep in mind about gardening tools: You can smooth wood splinters and rough spots with medium-grained sandpaper. Stiff bristled brushes are good for cleaning dry hard dirt before you proceed to washing or adding moisture. Some tools may need to be disassembled when cleaned. Reassemble them after cleaning and drying. Lubricate screws and bolts.

Sharpen gardening tool blades at least once a year. Pruners and shears with small blades can be sharpened with an oil stone. There are also diamond stones and other honing stones that work well. Clamp the hand tool blade in a vice and draw the sharpening stone in one direction, at a steady angle, against the angled edge of the tool. Shovels, axes and other heavy-duty equipment can be easily sharpened with a file. A half-round, ten inch long mill file will do the trick. Again, it is easier to sharpen the tool if you can hold it steady in a vice. Sharpen along the original, factory bevel for the tool, working the file in one direction across the surface. These files only work on the ?push? part of the motion. Do not drag the file back and forth across the edge. You will ruin the file and your tool. If your tools are completely worn out, you may need to have a completely new edge ground into them. Unless you have a bench grinder, and are experienced using it, it is easier and more cost-effective to take tools to a local hardware store for sharpening. The key to long life of your tools is to clean them after each use and before you put them away. Best wishes with your garden!

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