Protect Your Garden Tool Investment With Proper Maintenance | Lifestyles

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Tools are one of the biggest expenses for home gardeners. High-quality shovels, rakes, pruners, and hand trowels cost more, but will also last longer.

Buy the best you can afford and take care of your investment by cleaning and storing tools properly so they take care of you. Time and effort will extend the life of the tool.

Tools are usually exposed to soil and moisture, which can lead to rust. To preserve tools and keep them in good working order, they should be clean and dry before storing.

Remove any dirt with a wire brush, paint scraper, stiff brush or a strong blow from a hose. Wipe the blades of small hand tools such as pruners or shears to remove sap or moisture.

To remove stubborn sap, use turpentine, alcohol or mineral spirits, or fine steel wool.

Lightly oil metal surfaces with a lubricant such as WD-40 to prevent rust.

Wooden handles should be free of rough areas. Sanding will help smooth out these spots. Apply a protective coat of linseed oil to the handle, let dry, then buff with a soft cloth.

High quality secateurs can be taken apart for cleaning and sharpening. Many pruners also have replaceable blades.

Scrub dirt, rust, and sap from pruner blades with a wire brush, sandpaper, or steel wool.

Look for blade damage such as cracks, nicks or burrs. Replace the blades if necessary.

Sharpen dull blades. The beveled edge of the blade should be sharpened at the same angle as the bevel.

Sharp garden tools are more effective for digging or pruning. Tools for sharpening or grinding nicks are a matter of personal preference and ability. Do not use electric grinders. The heat generated by friction can make the metal brittle.

Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves and safety glasses.

Whetstones come in different sizes and gradations and require a lubricant such as a 3-in-1 oil.

Diamond coated flat files can last a lifetime and only need water for lubrication.

Ceramic sharpeners can be used for quick sharpening work during the season.

Bastard files, or single-cut flat files, are ideal for removing nicks or sharpening blades quickly.

Store tools off the ground and out of the elements in a shed, garage or barn. Tools left outdoors can absorb moisture from wet grass and dew.

Short-handled tools can be stored using a pegboard system. Describing the tools on the pegboard can help identify missing tools.

Long-handled tools should be stored on a hanging rack or tool holder to prevent edge damage.

When you are done with the tools at the end of the growing season, clean them thoroughly and inspect them.

Determine what needs to be repaired or replaced.

not Sharpen or file the blades.

not Oil metal and wood surfaces. For added protection, apply a high quality spray paint to metal surfaces.

Mary Fischer is a horticulture educator at the University of Illinois Extension.

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