Cleaning & sharpening your garden tools for spring!
Here in Montana we are still a little ways off from spring planting. But, with the vernal equinox just a week away soil temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere have reached temperatures warm enough to begin spring planting. Garden tools of all types will benefit from a few simple maintenance steps before they are used again. 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 spring planting.
First, clean off any major dirt using a wire brush 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. After your garden tools are clean 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 is advice to put garden tools into a bucket of sand and motor oil. But, I wouldn’t put my expensive blacksmithing tools into a bucket of oily sand so I 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. 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 is an inexpensive solution. I Place the tool in the vice firmly then use the file to sharpen the edge of the garden tool, moving the file away from my 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 please buy a new one. FYI (Boggs Tool sharpening in California will sharpen all kinds of files by mail). Make sure to store your file properly so it doesn’t inadvertently contact other tools, this is what ruins them). I find an old sock works well for this.
A little bit of attention goes a long way. Hopefully the above tips will help get your and your garden tools back in shape for the gardening season just around the corner. Happy spring!