Tuning Up Your Tools For Spring Tuning Up Your Tools For Spring

Imagine that the long, cold winter has finally come to an end and its the first beautiful spring Saturday of the year and you are ready to start working your flowerbeds. Armed with your dirty work jeans and a pair of gloves you head to the shed to retrieve your tools so that you can start clearing away the last remnants of winter and begin breaking the soil for a new year. Imagine though, your frustration as you start pulling out all of your tools to see that they are covered with rust, dirt that has hardened like concrete, and crusty globs of oil that have collected dust all winter. It seems that you are going to spend more time cleaning and repairing tools on this nice day than you will actually using them.

We’ll discuss a few things here. First, you’ll need to get those rusty, dirty, non-functioning tools back in tiptop shape. Second, you’ll want to develop a way to store your tools properly for the next winter so that you don’t have to repeat this process every spring.

How to Clean Your Garden Tools:

Let’s start with the basics. Your shovel, spade, hoe, or even the blades on a hedge trimmer will be a lot easier to use if you take a few minutes to knock some of the rust off the blade. Not only will this extend the life of the tool, but also it will cut through the soil better, and thus require less effort to use, if it has a nice sharp blade. It is a good idea to keep a large whetstone in your shed. This tool can be purchased at most hardware stores. A whetstone is an ideal tool to use to keep all of the cutting edges on your garden tools honed. It will work well on your shovel, as well as many other common garden tools.

The best way to use the stone is to find a way to stabilize the tool that you want to work on. A bench vise is ideal. You will be able to clamp the tool into place at an angle, so you can work on it. Clamping the garden tool into place with a vise frees up both of your hands to use the whetstone and gives you more control over what you are doing.

Apply a little bit of lubricating oil to the end of the tool and carefully begin to work the stone over the blade. Maintain a 30-degree angle between the stone and the blade to form the ideal cutting edge for your tool. Not only will the edge become sharper, but you will also be removing any pitting and rust that has formed at the edge of your tool’s blade.

In instances where the moving parts of your garden tools have frozen in place, like springs and pivot joints, you should carefully break free any rust or dirt that may keeping the tool from functioning properly. Using an old toothbrush with some lightweight lubricating oil is a great way to work fresh oil into the joints of most garden tools. Not only will this fresh oil help your tool to work as it was intended, but it will also prevent the formation of any new rust.

Prepare your Garden Tools for Storage:

Ideally, you will have properly cleaned, prepared, and stored your garden tools the previous autumn, thus eliminating the need for strenuous spring-cleaning efforts. If not, then you will probably want to ensure that your tools are taken care of this coming winter, so that you don’t have to repeat the process next spring.

Gather all of your garden tools at the end of the season and use the garden hose to wash them all down. Make sure there are no clods of dirt stinking to the tools, as the dirt can hold moisture and cause rust over the long winter. After all the tools have been hosed down, let them dry. After they are dry, lightly coat an old rag with lightweight lubricating oil. Wipe down the bare steel blades with the oil rag. This will protect the blade over the winter from moisture that may settle on it and will limit the growth of any rust that may already be present on the steel.

Additionally, you will want to make sure that all of the hinges and joints are free from dirt and grime, and have been well oiled. This step ensures your ability to pick the tool up next spring and have it operate as though it were brand new.

If you have gasoline powered garden equipment, such as hedge trimmers or weed trimmers, then you will need to make sure that the gasoline tank is empty. You can purchase a siphon device for a few dollars at the hardware store. Another easy way to do this is to disconnect the fuel line from the bottom of the tank and just let the fuel run out back into an approved container. It should only take a few second to drain. Once the fuel tank is empty, start the equipment and let it run until it dies. This should only take a few seconds, as the machine only has what little bit of fuel was already in the carburetor. By removing the excess fuel, you eliminate the possibility of condensation forming inside the engine. Make sure you take the time to do this so that your engine will start without hesitation when you need it next spring.

By taking ownership of these few basic preparatory steps, you can ensure that next year, on that first warm spring day, you’ll be working in your garden instead of on your garden tools. You will also save yourself the cost of having to buy new ones, as your tools will last longer because you took care of them.

Brian Simkins is a freelance writer living in Chicago. He enjoys using his 14 years of home improvement experience to educate and equip new home owners.

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