As winter starts to descend upon us, it’s time to put many of the tools away for a few months. You can’t hang them up in your shed and expect them to be in great shape when you open the door in the spring – they need specific and in-depth maintenance. As there’s little in the way of lawn work to be done, this is also a chance to give your tools a bit of polishing and touching up, taking care of any things you may have overlooked while putting them to use over the spring and summer.
To start off, make sure you have the right materials – a bristle brush or wire brush, some oil, heavy gloves, files, a sharpening stone, emery cloth, sand paper, electrical tape, and boiled linseed oil. Most of these are rather inexpensive and will get repetitive usage, so it’s not a major investment.
First, grab the electrical tape and check all pieces of equipment that have electrical cord, as well as all extension cords. Look for small nicks and cracks in the sheathing, and tape them up. If whole sections of sheathing have been removed in some sort of accident, you can either repair it using shrink tubing, or you’ll need to replace it. If you want to try and repair it, get some advice from an electrician – no one wants to get shocked.
Next, check all your wooden and plastic handles. The electrical tape can be used to wrap cracked plastic, and provides some grip. For wooden handles, use sand paper if there are serious nicks. If there aren’t, the emery cloth is more durable and provides a finer surface for a nice, smooth finish. After rubbing the handles with the emery cloth, apply a light coating of boiled linseed oil (not raw) to protect the wood. This last bit of maintenance isn’t always necessary, as handles are easy to replace, but it will make your tools look nice and wear better.
Now, it’s time to move on to the blades, which will need plenty of maintenance as they get the most wear and tear of any part of the equipment. Always wear heavy gloves when doing blade maintenance to avoid getting cuts, which can be really nasty. You’ll want to grab your cutting tools, as well as digging tools – shovels, hoes and trowels should also be sharpened in order to make them more effective. Start by using the bristle brush or wire brush to remove all of the dirt, making sure to get in to tight areas where dirt can get stuck. Once you are satisfied all of the dirt is gone, use the files to hone the edges, keeping them angles to maintain the factory cutting angles. In the case of digging tools, they rarely come from the manufacturer sharpened, so you’ll nee to create a bevel, preferably at a very low angle. Once everything is cleaned and sharpened, give your tools a light coat of oil for storage.
These simple maintenance steps before storing your tools for winter will extend the life of your tools, keeping them looking good and working great. It will prevent you from having to spend money to replace them too often, and allow you to concentrate on the yard work instead of wondering if the tools are in good shape.