Saturday, December 16

How to Maintain Garden Tools

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What will you need: Wire brush

Bastard or Mill file (8 to 10 inches)

Cloths and rags

Kitchen knife sharpener or whetstone

Mineral spirits

Linseed oil

WD- 40® (or other water replacement lubricant)

Work gloves

Vise and work bench or an adjustable work bench      

How to Perform Basic Garden Tool Maintenance

Step 1: Clean your tools after each use. This means removing any clumps of dirt from the heads of shovels, hoes and cultivators as well as wiping and cleaning the blades of pruners and cutters.

Step 2: Store your tools off the ground and in a dry place, out of the weather.

Step 3: Remove any rust on a tool by first sanding it or rubbing it with a stiff wire brush, then wiping the bare metal with a light coating of oil.

Step 4: Before putting your tools away for the season, give them a thorough cleaning and rub the metal parts with oil. Keep wooden handles and shafts smooth by sanding and oiling them with linseed oil.     

How to Sharpen Shovels and Hoes

Step 1: Fasten the tool in your vise or workbench, so the head is held securely.

Step 2: Beginning at one side of the shovel and holding your file at a 45-degree angle to the shovelhead make a series of long strokes along one edge.

Step 3: Work your way slowly into the middle of the shovelhead filing only one edge. (When sharpening a shovel or a hoe, you only need to sharpen one side). When you reach the middle, start over at the other side of the shovelhead and work your way back into the middle.

Step 4: After sharpening the tool spray it with WD-40 or rub it with oil to prevent rust.       

How to Sharpen and Clean Pruners

Step 1: Take the pruners apart. (Quality pruners will have a screw at the base of the jaws that you can remove.)

Step 2: Remove any sap buildup on the blades using mineral spirits and a rag.

Step 3: Once the pruners are apart and cleaned up, you can sharpen the cutting blade using a kitchen knife sharpener or a whetstone.

Step 4: Spread some oil on the blades to prevent any rust buildup before reassembling.


If your pruners or cutters have gotten wet, spray the “hinges” with WD-40® or another water replacement lubricant.

Keeping your shovels and hoes sharp will make digging much easier on both you and your tools. A sharp edge will cut right through thin roots that will stop a dull shovel.

If you want to use a more environmentally-friendly alternative to mineral spirits, orange oil (a natural product) will remove any sap buildup on pruners. Some home and hardware stores stock it.

Cold air tends to draw moisture out of wood, so it’s important that you rub the wooden handles of your tools with linseed oil when putting them away for the season.

Always wear eye protection when removing rust from your tools.


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