Home Toolbuy News Master Gardener: Clean up garden tools before winter

Master Gardener: Clean up garden tools before winter

Nov 27,2008

The better care you give gardening tools, the longer they will last and the easier they will function.

First, I suggest you clean and put away each tool after use. If they are left out, they will rust and become difficult to use. When the fall season is over and the tools will not be used, I begin to check each tool for rust and cracked handles.

For the metal parts, I sand or use a wire brush (wire rotary mandrel if I've let the rust build up). Then I coat them with wax. In the spring, my garage becomes quite damp, so the wax is important for retarding rust, even before I use them.

Then sharpen. Always try to follow the bevel that the tool had. For pruning and cutting, it will be about 10 to 20 degrees, while hoes and shovels will be about 30 to 35 degrees. I use a mill file with a intermediate cut about 8 to 12 inches long. Get a handle for it, because you will need it. Place the tool in a vice, then do the sharpening. I have used an oil stone to finish the edge on pruners.

For the wood handle, you can use boiled linseed oil. However, it is slow drying. You should not put it on too thick -- or when the air temperature is cold -- because the coating will stay sticky for a long time.

Because I have broken quite a few handles throughout the years by driving over them with the tractor or mower, I have been painting them a bright yellow. So far I haven't broken a handle. I give the handles a light sanding, clean off the dust and paint them. One coat does it now.

I have a few old tools that were my granddad's with handles that have developed age cracks. Fill the cracks with putty, let the tools dry, then sand lightly and paint.

This is also the time to check for cracked handles and replace them. I prefer ash wood handles because they have a "give" to them. The wood seems to bother my shoulders, arms and elbows less than metal or fiberglass handles.

Store tools by hanging them with the sharp edge up and not on the floor where they would be dulled. This way, they will be ready for spring at the first chance to get back into the garden.



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