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Care and Maintenance of Long-Handled Garden Tools


A woman works on her farm with a long handled tool.Long-handled garden tools, such as rakes, hoes, shovels, and long handled cutters have been around for many centuries. Indeed, in 18th century Pennsylvania, such tools were recorded as being the object of desire for thieves. People relied on long-handled garden tools for their very livelihood as they toiled for survival in often harsh circumstances. Today, long-handled garden tools are still important as back saving, efficient ways of carrying out a garden or agricultural task where mechanical methods will just not work. Furthermore, long-handled garden tools can become trusted long-term companions that will last many years and save you money if you care for and maintain them.

Use, Clean, and store

Your garden tools will get dirty, to some degree or other, every time that you use them. When you have finished with your tools for the day, use a garden hose or pressure washer to remove any dirt and allow them to dry naturally or dry them off with a cloth or an old towel. Once your tools are clean and dry store them away in a sheltered location such as a, garage, a car port, a garden shed, or another type of outbuilding; prolonged exposure to sun, rain and other weather can shorten the working life of your tools. Furthermore, it is a good idea to keep your tools tidy, they will be easy to find and your storage space will be maximized. There are many commercial storage solutions to choose from. Also, depending on where you live, you may want to invest in some security measures, such as padlocks to keep your tools safe.

Regular maintenance

Your new long-handled garden tools should be freshly painted, sharp, and the handle should be new and varnished. Everyday use however, will take its toll. Where the paint has been scratched away, metal parts will rust and the handle could begin to gray and crack. Put together a kit of items to keep your long-handled tools working for as long as possible, such as:

  • A wire brush and or a wire-brush wheel for an electric drill
  • Oily rags
  • Old towels for drying Rust resistant paints and or spray repellants
  • Rust removal products if necessary
  • Grease or lubricant products (for tools such as long-handled shears)
  • Sandpaper Marine varnish and or boiled linseed oil
  • Files, handheld sharpeners, a sharpening stone, or an abrasive disc for an electric drill
  • Safety goggles, especially if you are using power tools

You do not have to be a slave to your tools. A little time spent on regular maintenance works well. You should:

  • To protect your tools from rust use a wire brush occasionally on the metal parts and wipe them down with an oily rag; apply rust resistant paint on metal areas that rarely come into contact with the soil
  • Sharpen tools such as shovels, hoes, and shears or cutters with a file or sharpening stone and use grease or apply lubricant to moving joints; always file away from the tool’s head on the push stroke only. Sharp tools always work more efficiently
  • Pay attention to the wooden handle. Once a handle starts to crack there is little you can do to stop it becoming worse. When the varnish starts to crack and wear, sand down the handle and apply a coat of marine varnish or boiled linseed oil

With a little TLC your long-handled garden tools could last many years longer. However, nothing lasts forever and a handle or a metal tool head will eventually fail to some degree. Should such a failure occur it is probably more cost and time effective to buy a replacement rather than effect a repair, unless the tool is of a particularly high quality or very highly regarded.


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