November 5, 2012

Homeowner Tips: Caring for Your Tools

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 8:35 am

Lots of professional contractors believe that whenever they accept a job they should reinvest some of the money they earn from it by acquiring new tools. That’s a pretty good strategy, and it can also help you justify the cost of buying tools. Instead of fretting over the price tag, you may want to see that tool as a solid investment that will pay for itself over time. Most tools maintain decent resell value too, and sometimes the tool you buy today can be sold or traded to a neighbor or friend to help you purchase the tool you’ll need tomorrow.

But if you don’t take care of them, tools have a way of getting broken, rusted, or lost. That’s especially true of those tools that you only use during one season of the year. Since they might wind up in storage for up to nine months, homeowners often have a tendency to forget about them most of the year. But forgetfulness usually equals neglect, and if you neglect a valuable tool for half a year or more it may not get the job done next time you need it. So here are three simple tips to help you care for you tools.

Categorize Tools

• Before knowing how to care for tools, it helps to put them into categories. Some items like gloves, dust masks, and safety glasses are also tools, for example, and it’s good to organize them together in a drawer, trunk, or toolbox.

• You have your hand tools, but you should separate out all of those that require a sharp edge. Everything from hedge clippers and pruning shears to chisels, axes, and machetes belongs in this category.

• Then you have small electrical tools like grinders, sanders, electric screwdrivers, and extension cords. You want to put them in their own category. Finally you have those larger items like lawn mowers, table saws, cement mixers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and weed eaters.

• Once you have three or four general categories you can create appropriate storage for them, rotating the seasonal items like the leaf blower toward the back in the off season.

Protect Them

• Small hand tools that have a sharp edge or blade should be cleaned and sharpened after every use. Then give them a light coating of oil before putting them away. That will help prevent rusting. If you are storing them long-term, you might also want to put them into a moisture-resistant pouch or cloth.

• Visit any sporting goods or hunting supply store, for instance, and they should have “socks,” pouches, and cloths that are especially made for storing firearms away from moisture and humidity. They are great for stashing chisels, knives, and other tools you want to protect from rust and corrosion.

• No tools should be left out in the elements, not even a riding lawn mower or weed eater. Put them in the tool shed or garage. If you have to leave them under an exposed area such as a carport, set them off the ground on a wooden pallet or concrete blocks, and cover them up with a plastic tarp. Hang those tools like shovels and rakes, and if they are going to be stored for a long time give their metal surfaces a coating of protective oil.

Maintenance Tips

• Before storing tools that burn fuel, drain the fuel or burn it off so that it doesn’t harden and gunk up the engine or fuel lines. If your tools have tires, store them with the weight off the tires.

• If you’re storing your wheelbarrow for a month or more, for example, turn it upside down or stand it on its frame, not on the rubber wheel. That way your tires will last longer. You may also want to hang tools such as hand carts on the wall, as long as you have strong enough brackets to support them.

• You can sharpen many tools yourself with a file or ceramic rod. But if it’s an especially valuable item or made of hard-to-sharpen carbon steel then you can take it to a professional sharpening service. Don’t make the mistake of using dull tools, though, because they have a greater tendency to slip off of whatever you’re trying to cut. When that happens they can glance off and injure you.

Of course many tools can be hazardous in the hands of those who don’t know how to use them and respect them. So keep those under lock and key so that children, for example, don’t accidentally hurt themselves. You should always store tools and toolboxes out of sight, too, so you don’t temp thieves. If you’re carrying them in your vehicle, for instance, throw an old blanket or beach towel over them to camouflage them until you get home and can put them safely away.

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