Preserving wooden tool handles
Radio interview source: Denny Schrock, Garden Editor, Better Homes and Gardens
Garden tools come with handles made of many materials, but wood is still a popular choice. Denny Schrock is a garden editor for Better Homes and Gardens and says we've all seen garden tools that become gray and weathered. This is because over time, wooden handles will dry out.
"You can help prevent that a little bit by keeping the wood handles indoors out of the weather because sun and moisture will cause them to break down and decay over time," says Schrock. "Also, sometimes adding a little bit of natural oil will help keep the natural moisture in, but not too much moisture so they won't rot."
Linseed oil is commonly available, mineral oil and tung oil will work as well. In most cases, Schrock says you only need to apply the oil once a year.
"The best way to apply the oil is to actually apply the oil to a rag and run the rag up and down the handle to let it soak in, and you may even actually need to reapply a few times to get it to soak in completely," says Schrock. "The handle will change color a bit when it has soaked in the oil. You can also come back a few days later and if it looks like it's dried out again, then go ahead and reapply a little bit more."
Cleaning your tools after every use will go a long way to keep them in good shape. Schrock suggests scraping dirt off of the wooden handles with a wooden paddle, and buffing metal with steel wool. If the handles become rough, a light sanding will smooth them.
Left out in the weather, tool handles can mildew, rot, and warp. The best thing you can do is store your garden tools inside away from sun and rain. Hang them up or set them in a tool caddy so they're not sitting directly on a damp cement surface.
Also, use your tools in the way they were intended so they don't break. Long-handled shovels and hoes aren't meant to pry big rocks out of the ground.
Find more tips here for taking care of your garden tools
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