Now that we’re at the end of the growing season, you should take all those tools that you’ve worked so hard with all year in the garden and fully protect and weatherproof their wooden handles.
They may not be as comfortable to use as before and may even pose a safety hazard as the wood dries out and starts to get prone to shedding slivers but you can fix all this.
I’m going to show you how to restore them. It’ll only take a few minutes and by spending this time each year you’ll get a lot more use out of your tools.
If you leave them out to face the wind, sun, cold, and especially the rain, these will all lead to quick aging of your tools.
Instead, when you’re done for the day, put them in a sheltered area to shield them from the elements. To make them last, that’s the easiest thing you can do. The constant cycle of getting wet and drying out will take its toll.
The handles will start to break down and get this rough texture. You’ll also get ridges where the the wood has opened up. This is due to water penetrating the wooden and causing it to expand. If you let it go, the cracks in the wood can lead to fungus and dry rot.
You can avoid much of this damage if you spend the time to protect them. You’ll be able to take care of all your tools and it’s only going to cost a few dollars.
All you need is raw linseed oil, a plastic container to put it into, a sock or an old cloth towel to apply it and various grits of sandpaper (60, 100 and 220 grits) to prepare the surface.
Linseed oil is a natural oil. I use the raw version because it’s not processed in any way.
It’s made by extracting the oil from pressing flax seed. It’s non-toxic and it does an excellent job at sealing and penetrating wood.
Its only drawback is it dries slowly and has an odor until it’s cured. It also washes up easily with just soap and water.
You can also purchase a “Boiled” type of linseed that will dry much quicker.
But check the label as some companies add chemical drying agents which make the oil toxic.
I prefer to use the raw type because it does take longer to dry. That means it will have more time to work through the wood to protect it.
When you apply it, use a cloth that can hold onto the oil and then work it into all the grooves and cracks of the wood. A sock is perfect for this. It fits easily around your hand and it gives you great control. A towel would be a good second choice.
The different sandpapers are needed to prepare the handles first before we add the oil.
Then we’ll use the higher grits after each coat to ensure a smooth finish.
I prefer doing this in late winter or early spring.
It will still give you time before you actually need to use the tools in the garden. Try to do it outside as you don’t want the sawdust or the fumes from the oil to get in your house.
First you want to ensure your tools are as dry as possible. This way, the surface will quickly accept the oil and pull it into the pores of the wood.
So start with the 60 grit sandpaper and go over the entire surface. This will take off any caked on dirt and remove the weathered skin of the wood.
Sand until the lighter wood shows through. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s best to remove as much of the old surface as possible.
Then go over it a second time with 100 grit to make it a little smoother.
Use one of your cloths to wipe off as much of the sawdust as possible.
Now you can apply the oil. Put a sock on your hand and dip it into the oil. Apply it liberally over the entire handle.
Get it into every nook and cranny.
Also, do your best to get the oil down into those areas that make contact with the metal. These are the prime spots for wood rot to start.
Afterward, set them aside to dry before you apply the next coat…usually a day or two. Once dry to the touch, use 220 grit to lightly sand the surface and smooth it out. The oil may have raised the grain of the wood.
Then apply the oil again the same way. If you do this every season you may only need one or two coats. But if they are really bad, you may need three or four. Just wait for it to be dry to the touch between each coat. You’ll get more protection with each layer.
Once done, you should put your oily rags in a plastic bag…seal it… and discard it.
Once dry, they’ll look fantastic and have a very pleasing deep amber color. Plus, the surface is smooth and will have a great feel to them. They are now protected.
If they get wet, the water will just bead on the surface.
They may be dry on the surface, but the oil is still giving off an odor. You’ll probably smell it for several days or maybe a week or two depending on how many coats you applied.
Leave them in a ventilated area…preferably outside until they are cured.
So our tools are ready for work! And there is plenty of oil left over that can be used for several seasons.
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