Keep Your Equipment in Top Shape: Tips for the Toolbox

Minor Home ImprovementsMany tools can last for a lifetime, if cared for properly. Proper cleaning and storage are especially important for tools used in routine tasks, rather than less usual activities such as sandblasting which can be outsourced to services such as Here is how you can treat your tools well so that they will stay useful longer.


Taking Tools Apart

Before caring for any tool, it’s best to take it apart and separate parts made of different materials. For example, remove wooden wedges from old planes before starting to clean the rust from the blades. Wood should always be treated gently to avoid breakage if it has become weak. If parts need to be unscrewed, only the best-fitting screwdriver should be used for the job.


Cleaning Essentials

Cleaning is vital for protecting tools of all kinds. At the most basic level, dusting can be performed with a brush and vacuum cleaner. Damp rags are perfect for getting dirt off of finished wood, but they should not be used for unfinished wood because they can actually drive dirt into it. Mineral spirits, applied with a soft cloth, are ideal for de-greasing metal parts.


Caring for Metal Parts

Parts of tools that are made of brass, steel and iron should be treated according to their finish. Black finishes should be maintained appropriately to keep the same color. Hardened tools, which may appear brown or blue, often retain their appearance after plenty of use and should be preserved to keep this look if they may be sold later. The patina of brass may fade slightly over time, but brass should not be polished because the process can actually damage its finish.


Caring for Wooden Parts

Wooden parts, such as the handles of chisels, planes and screwdrivers, should be treated with linseed oil. This is excellent protection against moisture and creates a coating that guards the wood over time. Because linseed oil naturally rubs off of wood, it cannot build up and cause discoloration. However, linseed oil can accumulate on tools that are left unused for long periods. In those cases, white paste wax should be used instead of other preservatives.


Storing Tools

Always protect blades on tools. Place tools carefully into storage, never piling them haphazardly, and avoid bumping and rolling drawers when you handle them, and consider using a foam mat designed for tool boxes for maximum protection. Many tool kits already include pouches for storing tools. Although these pouches do protect edges, tools left inside of them should be removed regularly to look for signs of mold or corrosion.

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