Garden Tool Care and Maintenance
Take care of your garden tools and they will take care of you! Well,
that’s easy to say but if you’re like me, the last thing I want to do
after a day of gardening is clean and oil my garden tools...my mind is
clearly set on showering and putting my feet up with something cold to
Seriously, your garden tools will last a lot longer (especially wood
handles) if you show them a little love every once in a while, so take a
little time to clean, sand, sharpen and oil your garden tools.
Clean - Round up all your tools, a bucket of warm water and a wire or
stiff bristle brush. Start with the brush and knock off the majority of
the dirt on your tools. Once you have the dirt removed, scrub the
remaining of with the warm water. Then rinse and let them air dry or
wipe them with a towel.
Sand - Once your garden tools are dry, it’s a good time to sand any wood
handles. Moisture, whether it’s from water in the soil, dew or rain
will raise the grain of the wood, making it feel rough. Gardeners that
live in high humidity regions will also see/feel this “grain raising”
more often. Just about any sandpaper will work for this, but I suggest
starting out with an 80 grit paper and finishing off with a 120-150 grit
for a nice smooth handle surface.
Also, now is a good time to take care of any rust on your tools. A wire
brush is a good option for knocking off the majority of rust, especially
in those tight spaces, but you’ll find that the 80 grit sandpaper will
do a better job. If you have a small electric sander, this process will
go a lot faster.
Sharpen - Now’s a good time to have a look and sharpen any tools that
need it. You can sharpen your tools with range of tools, but most
gardeners find that a flat file (available here or at your local
hardware store) will handle all their sharpening needs.
Before you start, a word about safety. Please wear eye protection. The
smallest sliver of metal in the eye can be very painful. Also, wear some
heavy gloves to prevent those same slivers of metal from your hands and
to prevent cuts from your newly sharpened tools.
Garden tool sharpening can be a dangerous operation if you don’t have
the tool secured properly, so secure it in a vise if you have one, clamp
it to a table or just get someone to sit on it. Just make sure it’s
secure before you start sharpening. Every tool blade typically has some
sort of edge bevel on it, so try to file it at the same angle that is
already there. Too much (steep) angle will indeed make your tool very
sharp, but because the leading edge is so thin, it will be subject to
damage by the smallest of stones, so try to stick with the angle that is
Oil - Let’s start by saying, do not use any petroleum based oil on your
garden tools...you’ll just end up transferring that oil on your tools to
the soil in your garden. Here at Garden Tool Co., we only use Boiled
Linseed Oil. It’s a natural product from the seeds of the flax plant
(except for the solvent used to keep it from hardening in the can…it
evaporates after application) and can be used on the metal and wood
parts of your tools. Just apply it liberally all over you tool, let it
sit for about 15 minutes and then wipe off excess. Gardeners that live
in drier climates should oil their handles more often to prevent your
handles from drying out and cracking.
Rust on any of your tools is the result of oxygen and water reacting
with the metal, so the purpose of the oil is to create a barrier between
the metal and oxygen/water.
That’s it, protect your investment in garden tools and they will last a very long time.