6 ways to make sure your hand tools last

July 29, 2015

Give your hand tools a little TLC, and they can last even longer than expected.

6 ways to make sure your hand tools last

1. Remove rust and paint

Depending on storage conditions, your hand tools may develop rust despite your best efforts. Removing it is relatively easy if the rust hasn't gotten out of hand.

  • Just rub lightly rusted surfaces with some steel wool dampened with a squirt of oil lube.
  • Paint and glue spatter removal may be a little more difficult.
  • One method is to submerge the sullied tools in a pot of boiling water.
  • After a few minutes, the paint will have loosened and will be easy to scrape or wipe away.
  • Afterward, dry the tools thoroughly, and wipe or spray them with a penetrating oil.
  • However, don't do this with any tool that has a wooden handle or any kind of foam or plastic cushioning or insulation.

2. Keep tools sharp

  • Tools that you keep well honed so that they cut smoothly last longer than ones that you let get dull.
  • When sharpening cutting tools, such as chisels and axes, use the bevel set by the factory as a guide.
  • Grind lightly (using a grinder or a belt sander with a 100-grit belt) so the metal doesn't become too hot, or it will lose its hardness.
  • Dip the tool into water frequently to cool the metal at regular intervals.
  • You can, of course, opt to have your blades professionally sharpened as well.

3. Level your level

  • Periodically, check to see that your level is on the level.
  • You can do this by using it to draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper taped to the wall.
  • Make sure the bubble is aligned between the two hairlines at the centre of the vial.
  • Then reverse the level, end to end, so you're reading the other side of the same vial.
  • Hold the level against the line.
  • If the bubble is no longer in the centre, you have a problem.
  • If you purchased a level with an adjustable or replaceable vial, you can fix it.
  • If not, the level is junk.

4. Replace hammer handles

  • Wooden handles on mallets, sledges and framing hammers take a lot of abuse.
  • If the handle loosens in the eye of the tool head, resecure it with a small steel wedge.
  • If that doesn't do the trick, or if you've damaged the handle, replace the handle.

5. Lubricate moving parts

  • Hand tools with moving parts, such as wrenches, pliers, wire cutters and tin snips, will wear out faster if you don't lubricate them.
  • Spritz them with oil lube every month or two. This will help prevent rust as well.

6. Wax a tape measure

A coat of paste wax on your tape-measure blade will keep the retractor working smoothly and will prevent grease and dirt from sticking to the blade.

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