Do your garden tools look like this? Maybe with some extra mud stuck on the back?
My tools take a beating, so every so often I give them some TLC. Since it was too wet to get into my garden this spring, I tackled this task that I should have tackled in fall. What can I say – fall is always crazy busy with harvest time.
First, knock off all the excess mud with a scraper or wire brush. Then, give them a good scrub in a large bucket or utility sink. I just used plain water.
Once you’ve got the surface grime removed, dry thoroughly and buff off any rust with steel wool or sand paper. Don’t go any deeper than you need to – just aim for the rust. Rust is very bad for your tools. Try to preserve as much of the factory finish as possible. You probably want to do this outside or in an area that you don’t mind getting messy, and wear gloves, as it can be a little rough on the hands.
To sharpen, firmly clamp the tool in a vise. Using a metal file, bevel the edge of the shovel from back to front – follow the factory edge. Once you’ve created the bevel, lightly buff the opposite side to remove any burrs. The front of the shovel should be smooth, the back beveled.
On a hoe, the side facing the handle should receive the bevel.
Sharper tools are safer and make work easier, because you have to use less force to accomplish the same work.
Once you’ve got the tools cleaned and sharpened, give the blades a good coat of mineral oil or WD-40 for protection. This will help prevent future rust. I like to give the handles a coat of mineral oil to keep them from drying out and splitting.
Those look a lot nicer than what I started with, no?
If you need a little more explanation, you can watch these nice folks do a demonstration.
Now that I got them all clean, it’s time to get them dirty again. Bring on the gardening!