Handy tips to keep cutting and shaping tools sharp

A successful DIY building project depends on accurate cuts to your building materials. You'll need sharp cutting and shaping tools, a clean workspace and the following handy tips.

  • Sawing resinous softwoods such as pine clogs saw teeth with a gummy build-up that soon makes the saw seem dull. To remove the resin, apply oven cleaner. To keep the sticky stuff from adhering to your saw in the first place, spray silicone on the teeth. Or, try polishing them often with hard paste wax or running an old candle across them.
  • If you plan to cut metal, use a special metal-cutting blade – and brace yourself for a shower of sparks. Wear hearing protectors and goggles or a full-face mask and work far away – at least 15 metres (50 feet) – from sawdust, flammable liquids and anything else that is likely to catch fire. Don't try to saw metal unless your saw has a metal blade guard; a plastic guard will melt.
  • Most circular saw blades become blunt due to a build-up of resin and fine sawdust. To get that edge back, soak your blade for two hours in a 50:50 mixture of kerosene and turpentine and then give it a light scrub. This treatment also keeps rust away.
  • To make a plane glide across a surface, rub the sole-plate with paste wax or a piece of candle. Then buff the sole-plate well to spread a thin, even coating. Warming the sole with a hair dryer first will make the spreading the wax easier.
  • Nothing dulls chisel blades faster than contact with other tools. Either store them individually in a kitchen utensil tray, or, if you must store them together, wrap them in cotton cloth or bubble wrap. Professional carpenters use a "chisel roll" of canvas or leather.
  • Another way to keep chisels away from other tools is to protect the ends with plastic chisel covers. You can make your own chisel protectors out of slit tennis balls or hollowed-out pieces of cork. Always rest a chisel with the bevel down to prevent wear to the cutting edge.
  • Files cut only on the push stroke, never on the return. To avoid dulling the teeth, lift your file off the work at the end of each push stroke.
  • If your file glides over the work without cutting the surface, you need to clean the file teeth. There is a special brush for this task called a file card. To use the card, run the wire bristles over the file, parallel to the grooves of your file's teeth.

Follow these handy tips to keep your cutting and shaping tools sharp, and to excel in your DIY building projects.

Handy tips to keep cutting and shaping tools sharp
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