Garden Tools: Care and Restoration

Do my tools resemble your tools?

What kind of shape are your garden tools in?  Mine have been suffering neglect for some time and are desperately in need some attention.  So I thought I would run you through the simple steps on how to care for and also restore garden tools.

We all have shovels, but did you know they are actually blades and need to be sharpened once in a while? I think of them as the knives for the garden.  Sharpening can be done with a metal file, also knows as a “bastard” file.  The sharper the edge the easier it will cut through soil and roots.  And like a good knife that blade needs to be properly cleaned too prevent pitting.

Pitting of metal from rust is more apparent after cleaning

When forged metal tools rust as you can see in the photo above.  That rust needs to be removed or it will eat clean through to the other side ruining the tool for anything but rustic garden art.  A little bit of rust can be easily removed with steel wool, but for deeper rust you will need to use a wire brush set-up on a hand or bench grinder.

Shovel handle with shellac chipping away and the handle drying out.

Those wooden handles on your tools also need attention and protection.  New wood handles have a thin coat of shellac on them that should be sanded off followed by an application of linseed oil to protect the wood from drying out.  Regular oiling will keep the wood good for a lifetime of use.  An overly dry handle will break easier too just like a dry twig does.

Shovel handle that is dry and cracking needs oil right away.

To restore an old dry and already cracking wood handle, first sand off the rough stuff.  Next apply a generous coat of linseed oil and let set overnight.  Repeat this process until the wood does not take up any more of the oil.  Be sure to wipe the handle dry of excess oil when finished and your tools in a dry place.

So see, its really pretty simple, just follow these tips and your tools will last you a lifetime.

Happy Gardening!

  1. says

    Guilty, guilty and no- I never realized you should sharpen a shovel, but that does make sense. It also explains why my new shovel- that I bought after my neglected shovel became garden art- works much better.
    Thanks Patty!

  2. Patty says

    Gardening Jones, I didn’t know about sharpening shovels myself until a few years ago in one of my horticulture coarses. It is amazing how much easier they go into the soil. And I have a few of those “garden art” pieces around here too. Maybe I’ll write a post about those one day.


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