As the warm months draw to a close, and the light of day grows shorter, now is the time to give your tools some TLC. Tool maintenance is an important process for the longevity and usability of the tools, and while it should be done regularly, it is often overlooked during the busy months. Here are the basics you need to know to properly care for your tools this autumn.
The first step in tool maintenance is simple. Clean the tools. Clean dirt, water, mulch, and anything else that may have accumulated on the tool. This helps to prevent rust, rot, and premature breakdown of the tools. Unless otherwise noted on the tool, most basic tools can be cleaned with soapy water and dried with a rag.
Most hand tools receive a lot of abuse. They bang into rocks, get thrown in the back of cars and trucks, and get left out in the elements. This can lead to them being bent out of shape and dented. A file or grinder can be used to remove and knicks or pits on the tool. A table vise can but used to help bend tools back into shape, although this may have compromised the integrity of the tool.
This may be the single most important step in maintenance. Dull tools can lead to more injury due to unpredictable movement when used. Dull tools make work take longer and cause more physical stress. Cutting tools should be sharpened to be able to cut more effectively and too manufacturers guidelines. Other tools, like shovels, should have a nice crisp edge that allows them to more easily do their job.
If the tool has moving parts (like a pair of pruners) make sure to lubricate those moving parts with proper lubricant. This will prevent unnecessary wear and tear, binding, or loosening of the tool. If the tool has a wooden handle that does not have a polyurethane coat (which can be stripped off to help prevent blisters), add oil to the handle to prevent cracking and splintering. Wood, like leather, needs to be lubricated regularly to keep it supple and strong. Leather sheaths can also be oiled with an appropriate leather conditioner.
Proper storage of tools for the long winter months is important. Handles can become warped. Bare metal can become rusted. Tools with long wood handles should be hung up to prevent wood handles from warping or bending. Bare metal can have oil applied to it to prevent rusting as it sits over winter.
Tool maintenance ironically requires more tools. A basic list of tools to have on hand to work on tools would be as follows: Bastard File, File Comb, Round File, Rag, Wire Brush, Scrubbing Brush, Boiled Linseed Oil, Bucket, Soap, Towel, Sharpening/Honing Stones, Lubricant. Most of these tools can be picked up at the hardware store, but they can also be found at garage and rummage sales for a deal. Safety equipment is also important. Gloves and eye protection are always recommended
Tool maintenance is of the utmost importance for the longevity of tools. This article provides some basic information on tool maintenance, but as with most things in life, there are exceptions. Read up on the tools you use and the manufactures instructions (YouTube and Google are a treasure trove of information), and always wear proper safety equipment.
Blog author: Jakob Hamlescher, Urban Technician