Used for cutting, digging and moving things around, our tools are our hardest working helpers in the garden, so it makes sense to reward them with a little TLC. Not only will they last longer, but they will work better and be safer to use, too. Here’s how to whip them into shape.
Start by removing dirt and debris from your tools. Use a damp cloth to wipe the blades of secateurs, loppers, shovels and forks. For caked dirt, scrub with water and a stiff wire brush. If rust has formed on any surfaces, gently remove with steel wool and mineral oil. For heavy rust, clean with a rust remover.
“With cutting tools, it may be necessary to remove the pivot nut and springs to help remove grime caught between the blades – a degreaser can help make fast work of this,” advises horticulturist Matthew Carroll of Hortiman (@hortiman). “Don’t forget to put the small parts in a safe place, otherwise reassembly will be tricky.” For any hard-to-remove gummy sap, dip a wire brush or scourer into methylated spirits and gently rub the surfaces to remove. Take care when working with blades, as they can be quite sharp.
It’s important to keep a sharp edge on your tools – digging as well as cutting implements – as sharp blades will cut more effectively and efficiently.
Clamp your spade or shovel in a vice. Using the angle on the blade of the tool as a guide, run a mill file over the bevelled edge, using the full length of the file. Don’t pull the file towards you, as this will damage the teeth and dull the file. Use straight, even strokes as you work your way across the entire blade. “As you do this, small burrs will appear on the other side of the blade. To remove them, simply place the file flat along the back side of the spade and draw it gently toward you,” says Matthew.
Secateurs, shears and loppers
For the most part, these tools are sharpened in the same way, although dismantling secateurs and loppers will make them easier to work with – put all the bits to one side so you don’t lose them, and get replacement secateur springs if necessary. Pass the file or sharpener over both sides of the cutting blade, maintaining the angle from the pivot point and using the file in one direction. “Reassemble parts, but don’t do them up too tightly as this will stop them from opening and closing properly,” says Matthew.
Once sharpened, wipe surfaces clean and lightly oil blades with a rust-preventative lubricant.
Don’t forget the handles! Sand timber handles until smooth and wipe them down with a rag coated in linseed oil. This will help prevent them from drying out, cracking and splintering. Wipe away any excess oil and ensure the tools are completely dry before storing away. If handles are weak or broken, it’s best to replace them – you can often find replacement parts in store.
To keep your tools performing at their best – and save yourself a bigger service job at the end of the season – follow these regular maintenance tips:
• After every use, clean the blades of pruning tools with a damp cloth, sterilise the edges with a solution of one-part bleach to 10-parts water, and lightly spray parts and joints with oil.
• Allow tools to completely dry before storing in a cool, dry place. Hang large tools and insert steel blades of smaller tools into a bucket of sand moistened with vegetable or motor oil.
• Sharpen blades at least once every season and oil timber handles two or three times a year.
Follow our tips to give your lawnmower some love.
Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.
When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.