Quick Tip: Tool Maintenance

Proper tool maintenance depends on keeping your tools clean and storing them safely.

By Bob Vila | Updated Jan 3, 2014 4:32 PM

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Basic Tools


Tool Maintenance. Whatever your storage arrangements, keep your tools clean. After use, remove any sap or resins from cutting tools (kerosene or ammo­nia will do the job).

A tack rag is handy, too. Dampen a piece of cloth slightly with a mix of turpentine and shellac. It will wipe away oily sawdust from blades, housings, and other parts of hand and power tools. Store the rag in a sealed jar or plastic bag for future use.

Rust is prevented in two ways: one, by keeping the tools dry (that means out of the rain and in dry storage areas); and, two, by applying a light film of machine oil wiped on with a cloth. If your workshop is in a cellar, garage, or another damp space, consider buying a dehumidifier to reduce the humidity in the area. However, if your workshop is only occasionally wet and you don’t have a dry alternative, try storing your tools in a tight toolbox, perhaps one made of plastic. Add weather stripping, if necessary, and moisture absorbent. For power tools with steel surfaces, a paste wax coating is easy to apply and helps prevent rust.

Scrap Storage. Racks or bins are essential if you have more than a hand­ful of odds and ends and off-cuts around.

If the ceiling overhead is unfinished, joists or rafters can be turned into storage. Use lag bolts to fasten two or three two-by-fours perpen­dicular to the ceiling members, and you’ll have individual bays for or­ganizing, as well as storing, your moldings and other stock.

Just about any kind of study support will suffice that keeps the stock flat, off the floor, and out of the way.

Hardware Storage. There’s only one trick, really. That’s to be able to find what you’re looking for with a minimum of time and frustration. Easier said than done.

A couple of rules: Apples go with apples, oranges with oranges. Cleanliness probably isn’t holy, but it sure is a handy trait.

If you can’t look through it (as with clear plastic or glass jars) to identify the contents of a container, label it.

I could go on and on about storing your tools and supplies, but the key consideration is matching your storage facilities to your space and needs. Just keep in mind that the basic rule is to keep it at hand, but not underfoot.