Give your tools some TLC: 7 expert tips

Rusty, damaged or blunt tools slow down your job and give second-rate results. Luckily, a small investment in tool care will repay you many times over. Here are seven tips on how to keep your tools in good working condition.

  1. Keep some charcoal or a couple pieces of chalk in your toolbox. Either one will absorb moisture and reduce rust in your tools.
  2. Wipe a little light oil or multi-purpose lubricant on your saw blades before you put them away after use. The extra coating will keep the blades from rusting.
  3. Protect the edge of your handsaw with a piece of old garden hose or PVC pipe cut to the length of the saw and slit along its length. Starting at the back of the blade, slide the pipe over the edge of your saw to help it keep its keen edge. This cover will also keep any curious little hands safe.
  4. Learn how to sharpen your own chisels, planes, knives and shears. However, you should still have a professional sharpen tools with more complex or contoured edges (like router and drill bits, handsaws and circular saw blades). You should also leave sharpening carbide-tipped surfaces to the professionals.
  5. You can use your belt sander to rough-grind a tool. Fit your belt sander with a worn 120-grit aluminium oxide belt and have a helper hold the sander on its side on a mat of foam carpet padding. Make sure both of you are wearing safety goggles before the next step. Once you're both protecting your eyes, hold the tool you want rough ground against the belt. Point the tool in the direction of the belt's movement so that it does not snag on the belt.
  6. Start sharpening a dull knife on a coarse stone, then finish sharpening it on a fine stone. Keep the blade lubricated, and move it to the right as you pivot and pull it. Repeat on the other side of the blade, pushing it away as you pivot. Be sure that you stroke the knife's alternate faces the same number of times, and keep the angle and pressure of your strokes consistent.
  7. Use a honing rod for sharpening long-bladed knives. Hold the rod motionless and start your sharpening with the base of the blade near the rod's handle. Move the length of the blade along the rod in an arcing motion. Just as with sharpening shorter knives, make sure that you stroke each side an equal number of times. Also keep the angle of the blade and the pressure you exert with each stroke constant.

Good tools are expensive to buy. Following these seven tips will help you pay a little extra attention to tool care and will keep them in great working order for years to come.

Give your tools some TLC: 7 expert tips
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