March 11 is National Worship of Tools Day. Although the origin of the day is not known — and Hallmark has yet to come out with a greeting card — it seems like the perfect day to dote on your often-neglected tools.
Following these tips will keep your DIY gear in top shape and make completing home repairs a breeze:
Bust the rust
You left your hammer on the back deck or your screwdriver in your damp basement, and now it’s covered with rust. Not only does rust look bad but, given enough time, it will damage metal tools.
To clean rust, spray the affected surface with a penetrating lubricant such as WD-40 and scrub with a scouring pad (avoid using sandpaper because it can scratch the metal). When finished, wipe the tool clean. The lubricant will also help loosen rusted screws and quiet squeaky joints.
For more heavily rusted metal, you may need to use a spray-on, wipe-off, acid-based rust remover such as Rust-Ex, Rust Free or Red-B-Gone.
To keep tools from future rust attacks, store them in a dry place such as in a workbench drawer or toolbox. Companies such as Bull Frog sell strips of vapor corrosion inhibitors, which emit a gas that deposits a protective layer on metal surfaces.
Hand tools such as planes, gouges and chisels become dull after repeated use. Additionally, their bevels sometimes require repair because of nicks.
You don’t need to be a pro to sharpen hand tools, but you do need to pay attention to what you’re doing. It’s important to know the proper bevel angles for specific tools. A chisel or a plane at the tip, for example, should be beveled between 30 and 35 degrees. Below the tip, the edge should be beveled 25 to 30 degrees. Be sure to observe the original bevel of the hand tools you intend to sharpen in an effort to maintain the proper angles. You may also want to invest in a honing guide before you sharpen hand tools of any type.
The type of stone you’ll use for sharpening depends on the specific hand tool and its blade. A stone with medium grit will work great for tools that require a sharp, fine edge (chisels or planes, for example). If the blade is nicked, extremely dull or damaged, you may need to use a stone with coarser grit. Mill files are often used to hand-sharpen tools such as hoes, shovels, axes and mauls.
It’s smart to invest in a variety of files and stones (round, flat, coarse, medium, fine), so you can care for all your tools.
Clean electric tools
To make sure that your belt sander, drill or jigsaw is ready to go when you are, you need to keep it clean and free of dust. Take some time to clean the dust from the tool’s housing intake units. It’s also wise to do an annual inspection for wear and tear on your tools’ power cords. There can be damage to the insulation, and you should keep an eye out for loose wires; wipe cords down to keep them from becoming damaged by oil or grease.
Manufacturers recommend storing electric tools in their original cases and containers to keep them free of dust when they’re not in use.