Here in Montana Memorial Day Weekend is shaping up to be full of rain and cool temperatures, which has been the trend here this spring. We're not complaining. We need the moisture! Since we won't be spending much time outside in the garden or BBQing this weekend, we thought we'd take advantage of the time by cleaning out the tool shed and giving our reliable garden tools some well deserved TLC.
Garden tools of all types benefit from a few simple care and maintenance steps after a long winter. For hand forged garden tools built from natural materials this is especially true. Hopefully your garden tools have wintered over in the garden shed. But, if the melting snow reveals some left in the yard, do not despair! Durable garden tools will stand a little neglect. With a few simple items from the hardware store and a little elbow grease you can get your garden tools in tip top shape for planting this year.
CLEANING + PROTECTION
First, clean off any major dirt using a wire brush or steel wool and a bucket of soapy water. This is a good way to clean garden tools and will help prevent spreading disease in your garden too. Next, wipe down the entire tool with Linseed or Tung oil, wooden handle and all. Linseed and Tung oil are drying oils and will coat and protect your tools from moisture. Often repeated advice is to put garden tools into a bucket of sand and motor oil. But, we wouldn’t put our expensive blacksmithing tools into a bucket of oily sand so we wouldn’t recommend it for garden tools either.
Garden tools from Fisher Blacksmithing take an edge nicely and will respond well to seasonal sharpening. If you are intimidated by sharpening your own garden tools, many local hardware stores will offer this service and Boggs Tool Sharpening in California will sharpen all kinds of files by mail. To sharpen your own you really need a vise to hold the tool and then use a flat file or an angle grinder with an abrasive disc. Purchasing a new 10 inch flat file from the hardware store is an inexpensive solution.
Place the tool in the vice firmly then use the file to sharpen the edge of the garden tool, moving the file away from your body. Try to keep the angle consistent so the edge doesn’t get “rounded” off. A sharp file is really effective and dull files do not work at all so make sure to buy a new one. Lastly, store your file properly so it doesn’t inadvertently contact other tools, which can ruin them. An old sock works great for this.
Throughout the gardening season make sure to rinse off any dirt and debris from your tools with water and hang them on a hook to dry between each use. This prevents rusting and prolongs the protective maintenance steps you took at the beginning of the season.
As with most good things in life, a little bit of TLC and attention goes a long way. Hopefully the above tips will help get you and your garden tools back into shape for the gardening season that's upon us.