Maintaining your tools

Posted by Chris Sugden on

Anyone who works with tools, for any reason, should know the importance of looking after them. The frustration that comes from reaching for a tool for a job, only to find out that it’s damaged or has lost its edge, is something that many people will be familiar with. But, despite that, many still don’t make the effort to care for their equipment properly. However, when you know how to care for your tools, most of that frustration can be eliminated with routine care that only takes a few seconds.

Most people tend to dump their tools in the same place, this might be a bag or a toolbox. However, this carries many risks, whether from damage caused by accidental knocks and scrapes, or the more insidious threat that might come from moisture or even leaks.

The fact is that good storage will, actually, take care of most of your tool maintenance needs. This is true whatever tools you use. Storing tools well can protect them from any damage they may encounter in the environment and keep them pristine for when you need them.

The most important part of any tool is usually the part that does the work. This might be the blade edge, the teeth of a saw, or the bit of a drill. When these are sharp, they work well but if they are damaged, with nicks or dents, or have been dulled by the corrosion that comes from moisture, they no longer do their job, and can even be dangerous, catching on material they are working with.

The key rules are to keep your tools dry, clean, and secure.

Keeping your tools dry means there is no risk of rust or corrosion affecting their working surfaces. Wiping a tool down when putting it away will probably be all you need, but if you use tools infrequently, you might also want to consider rubbing the blade with a little oil. These keeps both moisture and oxygen from the blade and, therefore, makes oxidisation, the process that cause corrosion, impossible.

Likewise, keeping your tools clean can be as simple as wiping it after use. This does not just include removing what you might consider as dirt, but also debris that you might think is ‘clean’. An example is sawdust in saw teeth. Although this might seem harmless, after all, you will generate more sawdust next time you use, elements like this add, although fractionally, to the work the saw has to do. And factors like size, shape, and wood type might mean it catches in the next cut, potentially even causing damage.

Finally, storing tools well avoids accidental damage. Most tools are robust and can survive a few knocks. But make sure those bits that need protection are safe. A Stanley knife handle, for example, will last for years, but the blade, struck in the wrong way can be damaged and become useless, as well as being a danger to anyone who reaches into the box.

A final tip, that in many cases is everything you need to do to maintain your tools, is that every time you put a tool away, you should make sure it’s ready to use next time. Developing good habits, that only take a few seconds, will soon save lots of time in frustration and expense in replacements.

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