Keeping Gardening Tools in Tiptop Shape

From Associated Press

Good quality garden tools will last a lifetime if you keep them clean, sharp and free of rust.

Here are some tool-saving tips:

* Tools will last far longer if you clean and oil them after each use. This is important for digging tools, which lose their protective coating with each use. To scrape off dirt, keep an old putty knife on a nail near where you store tools.

To oil tools, keep a large container of sand mixed with used motor oil on hand (1 pint of oil to 20 pounds of sand). Clean the tool, then plunge it into the sand mixture several times.


* Protect the moving parts of gardening machinery--such as mower blades--and keep your tools rust- and corrosion-free with moisture-displacing spray lubricants such as WD-40.

* Rust on your tools? Rub them with a soap-filled steel-wool pad dipped in kerosene or turpentine, then give them a brisk rub with wadded aluminum foil.

To scour away heavy rust, use a wire-brush attachment on your electric drill.

* A coarse aluminum oxide disc (No. 36)--a common drill attachment sold at hardware stores--will put an edge back on a nicked ax or mower blade faster than a file and whetstone. Do it quickly, so that the high-speed sanding doesn’t ruin the temper.


* Be sure to sharpen your hoe on the correct side--the inside edge--so that you can pull it through the ground with ease.

Tool Tips

Here are some hints on using garden tools:

* File a sharpened V-notch into the side of your hoe. With it, you can snip weeds off at their base, even in hard-to-reach corners.


* If raking leaves blisters your hands, pad the rake handle with foam pipe insulation. Use the split type designed for a three-quarter-inch copper pipe. Coat the rake handle with contact cement, cut the insulation to length and slip it on.

* Make clean, easy cuts with pruners in which the blades slip past each other with a scissorlike action. Blade-and-anvil pruners are less expensive, but they’re harder to use and crush as they cut, leaving a ragged wound that’s an invitation to disease.

* A long-handled lopper is great for pruning high branches, except that you really need three hands to manage this tool properly. Create an extra hand by putting on a carpenter’s apron and resting the bottom of the lopper pole in one of the pockets. This leaves one hand free to maneuver the pole and one to pull the cutting line.

* Clearing twigs, stones and other debris from a lawn is easier if you use a steel rake with fixed tines. To prevent the sharp teeth from digging into the lawn, drive wood thread spools over the rake’s two outside teeth. Then the rake rides smoothly as it cleans up the lawn.


* Small garden tools are easy to lose in the yard, but not if you paint part of the handle any bright color other than green. As a bonus, you’ll be more likely to get it back if someone borrows one of these personalized tools.

* Give an old golf bag new life as a garden tool carrier. Store long-handled tools in the slots for woods and irons, and stash your work gloves and small tools in the zippered pockets.

* To increase the amount of pressure you can put on a digging tool, such as a fork or shovel, have a short length of angle iron welded on the shoulder of the tool. It will also be kinder to your foot.