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As a first time home owner, my husband and I did not own any yard equipment. A family friend donated several basics (yard rake, hoe, shovel) but the handles of nearly all these implements are old and rough, making them hard on the hands. Additionally, the metal parts are pretty rusty. What can I do to revamp these tools?
The shovels and axes we use for field operations in the Marine Corps get a beating! These tools often come back from the deserts of Twenty-Nine Palms or the cold, wet climate of Norway in real bad condition.
We sand down the wooden handles with light grade sandpaper and then apply linseed oil liberally to the wooden handle. For metal parts, first sand them down, preferably with a wire brush grinder and then spray paint using cheap paint found just about anywhere.
Staff Sergeant S.B., USMC
Handles, if not cracked, can be made serviceable by sanding smooth with some rough (say, 50 grit) sandpaper. Then oil with linseed oil.
Rusty tools should have the rust taken off with a wire brush, followed by a couple of applications of naval jelly. For the tools that are supposed to have edges (shovel, hoe), put the edge back on with a file. The rake doesn't need the file. If the handles are still too irritating for you then you may need to wear gloves.
What I did with the rough handles on my garden tools was sand them and apply polyurethane. My mom used to just paint them with an ordinary exterior paint and a special hint was to paint the top end of the handle a bright color so the hoe, rake, etc can be seen quickly if you drop it into the weeds or grass.
Now about the metal part---my hubby used to soak them in muriatic acid. Then he would take it out and rinse it. Then he sprayed it with WD40 and sharpened the edge. After that he would take a soft cloth and rub oil into the metal. I have not done this to my hoe or shovel since he died and I sure notice a difference.
I would suggest buying some tape used to rewrap tennis rackets and wrap the handles. As for the rust, try spraying with WD40 then scrub with steel wool.
There are a few different ways to solve the rough handle problem. Unfortunately not so many for the rusty "work end" of the tool.
Larger hardware stores sell a "liquid rubber" used to coat hand tools. This is pretty expensive stuff to buy (its usually sold in pints), for the amount you would need.
Now, as far as the "working end" of the tool, it will take some work on your part to "recondition" the used tool:
You will need to clean the old rust off the tool. Use a piece of coarse, dry steel wool, applying vigorously with lots of "elbow grease" (you may want to do this on a workbench, over a piece of newspaper -- depending on how badly the tool is rusted). After you have removed all loose rust and are down to the metal, if you wish to use a finer dry steel wool, you may make the tool look even newer. When you have the rust removed and the tool is cleaned to your satisfaction, use a rag to clean the tool with rubbing alcohol, to remove all "rust dust" and any other debris. Allow enough time for the alcohol to completely evaporate. The final step is to help protect your newly cleaned and restored tool. To do this, apply a very thin coating of paste wax with a rag and then wipe off any extra wax. This is especially good for shoveling implements -- it will help what ever you are shoveling slide off more easily. If you are doing a raking implement, you don't have to do this step, but it wouldn't hurt! Hanging your tools inside a closet, shed or garage will help keep them in better condition.
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