To prolong the life—and effectiveness—of your garden tools, you will want to give them a little TLC now and again. Here's what you need to do.
You will need:
- Paint thinner (also called mineral spirits)
- Rubber gloves
- A few rags
- Fine steel wool (#000)
- A stiff wire brush
- Three-in-One oil and vegetable oil
- 120-grit sandpape
- Boiled linseed oil (you buy it boiled; raw linseed oil takes about nine months to dry)
- A sharpening stone, a flat file and a round file
Secateurs, shears and loppers
If tools are really dirty and rusty, take them apart; use steel wool and a cloth rag saturated with paint thinner to clean blades, removing all traces of sap and plant debris. Buff away rust and stubborn spots with steel wool.
When blades are clean, use a sharpening stone to remove small nicks and restore their keen edge. Most sharpening stones have a coarse side and a fine side. You may have to lubricate the stone with oil or water first—check instructions.
After wetting the coarse side of the stone, which is used first, set it on a flat surface and run the length of the bevel—the part of the blade that angles toward the cutting edge—across the stone, away from you (photo 1), sweeping the entire blade across the stone in one smooth motion. Eight or nine complete passes should be enough. Now add water or oil to the fine side, and finish the blade with five or six sweeps across it.
Before reassembling the tool, work a couple of drops of Three-in-One oil into hard-to-get-at spots—such as the inside faces of the blades where they bolt together. Then, once assembled, coat blades with a thin layer of vegetable oil to prevent rusting.
If the tool's handles are made of unfinished wood (though most today are made of moulded plastic), use sandpaper to remove dirt and small splinters; then use a rag to coat them with boiled linseed oil, to keep them from drying out and cracking.
If the handles are painted, lightly sand them to remove dirt and splinters and rough up the existing finish; apply a fresh coat of oil-based paint—preferably in a bright colour, so tools are easy to spot in the garden.
Stay in shape
To keep your tools in good shape throughout the season, thrust shovels and secateurs (any instrument with blades) in a bucket of sand and vegetable oil to clean and lubricate them after every use.
The mixture should be about one part oil to five parts sand and have the texture of oatmeal. Be sure to insert the blades only, however, as the oil-sand mixture may stain the handles and will make rubber grips extremely slippery.