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Repairing and maintaining long-handled garden tools.

Repairing and maintaining long-handled garden tools

Shovels, hoes, rakes, and the other basic long-handled tools for working the soil require care and maintenance just as your garden tools with movable parts do. Here are some guidelines.

Make repairs

Using tape or nails to repair a cracked handle is seldom an effective long-term solution. Replacing a broken handle is probably the only major repair you will ever have to make on most long-handled tools--but sometimes it's a lot easier just to buy a new tool.

Removing a shovel's old handle can be a chore. It usually requires a vise, a file, a hammer, a drill, and a variety of other tools with which to improvise. The hardest part is separating the old handle from the metal sleeve. If you're lucky, you can pound it out with a hammer and a metal punch, but you'll probably have to use a drill to dislodge pieces of truck wood.

The pictures at right outline the basic steps of replacing a shovel handle. Before trying it, calculate what you'll save; a new handle usually costs about the same as an inexpensive new shovel. Stronger, more expensive shovels are probably worth repairing yourself.

Once you've removed the broken handle, take the shovel head with you when you shop for a new handle; check for proper fit. Soaking the end of the new handle in water for 2 hours before inserting it in the old head will make it more pliable.

Handles on rakes, hoes, and other smaller tools are usually easier to replace. Heads of most simply fit into sleeve-like ferrules. With the old handle in a vise, the heads can be pounded loose with a hammer and a block of wood (to cushion hammer blows). The old head fits easily onto the new handle.

To restore wooden handles that have turned dusty gray and are beginning to crack, use sandpaper and several coats of marine varnish or boiled linseed oil.

Keep tools clean

Hose off any soil-working tool every time you finish using it. To keep tools free of rust, give metal parts an occasional vigorous scrubbing with a wire brush--or use a wire-brush wheel attached to an electric drill--and wipe them down with an oily rag. Also, occasionally apply rust-resistant paint to metal parts that don't usually come into contact with the soil.

Keep edge sharp

Keeping their edges sharp will keep hoes, shovels, and cultivators efficient and easy to use. Secure each tool in a vise; sharpen with a number 10 smooth-cut file or a firm abrasive disk attached to an electric drill (wear goggles to protect your eyes).

Store tools properly

Exposure to elements shortens the life of most tools. Moisture rusts metal parts; sun and heat will dry, weaken, and split wooden ones. Storing your tools in a sheltered location, such as a tool shed or garage, will extend their lifetime. (It can also make your yard a safer place; stepping on a misplaced rake or hoe can be an unpleasant experience.)

Photo: File off head of old rivet that holds shovel blade to handle (left); tap out rivet with hammer and nail (right)

Photo: Insert new handle into old shovel neck; holding neck firmly, hit butt end on hard surface until handle is firmly in place

Photo: Using rivet hole in shovel neck as a guide, drill through new handle (left); insert new rivet and flatten end (right)

Photo: Sharpen metal edges with a file. To sharpen a hoe, follow its original bevel angle. Always file away from the tool head

Photo: With stiff-bristled brush, remove rust and dirt from old shovel head. Then wipe with an oily rag to inhibit further rust
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1986
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