Keeping tools in good condition, or replacing them before they go beyond the point of use, is definitely good practice. If you’re anywhere like the age of the DIYBasics team you will have had this drummed into you at woodwork classes at school, but it probably didn’t really sink in until many years later when you were trying to pare down your first set of wooden shelves with a blunt chisel!
Modern Tool Economics
These days tool care is often more about replacement than care. Wood saws are a good example; they use to be crafted with a wooden handle and a steel blade that would need to be sharpened regularly.
Now cheap saws have cutting edges made of weird alloys that last a lot longer and the handles are knocked out in their millions in plastic. So although it may go against the grain for many people who want to reuse rather than replace, mass market modern saws really have become disposable.
Safety and Tool Care
It does still make sense to keep tools in good condition though, because it’s madness to have to replace them before they have reached the end of their useful life. But there’s another reason to develop good tool care habits and that’s safety.
You can never have a blade that’s too sharp to be safe. That might not seem to make sense, but the problem with blunt tools is that you have to apply more force and pressure to make them cut. The tool is then much more likely to slip, and that’s when people hurt themselves.
Keeping Rust at Bay
For many woodworking and general DIY tools the arch enemy is rust. Not only can rust blunt the edge of a blade it can stop hinges working in tools like pliers and tin snips. This is also a hazard because you have to use more force to open and close them and again that increases the chances of a slip up.
If your tools have got wet for some reason make sure they are fully dried out. Wipe them with a rag or old towel and then leave them in a warm spot so that the moisture in the nooks and crannies is evaporated out. Then coat them in a lightweight oil or spray them with penetrating fluid, but try and keep these oils off the handles.
But tools can get wet from condensation, particularly if they are stored in an unheated space like a garage and in a metal toolbox. Woodwork tools in particularly should be meticulously cleaned and wrapped in oiled cloths before being put away.
Sharp Act to Follow
Tools such as chisels and drills can still be sharpened and although it’s a dying art, sharpening add-ons for electric drills can help you prolong the life of tools with a cutting edge. Chisels need sharpening all the time so it’s worth investing in a sharpening stone or sharpening accessory if you are intending to do a lot of woodwork.
Drills are less salvageable because they often have a hardened tip and once that’s worn away, weaker metal is revealed which won’t cut properly. So there’s little point in sharpening drills, but put them away properly safe and sound and replace them as soon as they become blunt.
Keep it Neat and Tidy
One final thing about tool care is that it’s worth making sure that there’s a place for each tool and accessory and that everything is put back after each session. That way you’ll always know where everything is whenever you want it.