Preparing for the New Year
One of my first jobs back on the dairy farm was doing a little dirt work on the end of a hand shovel. I tried to convince the farmer that my hands didn’t fit the shovel but he showed me otherwise. Over the years I’ve done quite a bit of work with a shovel and other hand tools and I’ve noticed you can tell pretty quickly how folks take care of their equipment by the shape of their tools. Find me a shovel standing in a bucket of sand and drenched in oil, and I’ll show you someone who cares. Show me an assortment of tools neatly hung on the wall in descending order and I’ll show you someone who is organized. The only problem, that’s not me.
I really want to be organized. I admire organized, tidy folks. They know where things are and they keep them in good shape. The next time they’re ready to use a tool they don’t spend an hour looking for it and then remember it broke last fall. That’s what this article is all about. Let’s get ready for next spring right now. So here are my suggestions for putting tools to rest and ready to go for next year. And with any luck, I’ll follow my own advice.
- Fix it or throw it out. While I’ve found you can use a broken tool for a lot of things, it’s always a poor substitute. Resolve right now that you will replace that broken handle, repair that broken part, or just throw it out.
- Keep it clean. While some folks might think dirt and mud insulates your tools from the elements, they can actually trap moisture causing rust and corrosion. Spend a little time cleaning your tools and then actually treat all metal surfaces with some kind of oil to coat and protect. Wooden handles would also benefit from a coat of tung oil or linseed oil to help protect them. If the handles are rough or have splinters, give them a hand sanding first.
- Give your tools a home. If your tools wander from garage to basement to shop, think about finding them a permanent place to hang or be stored. Some great storage solutions are just a click away on the Internet.
- Sharpen tools. My old shop teacher said a dull blade is more likely to cut you than a sharp blade. Take the time to sharpen mower blades, knives, shovels, hoes and any other items that slice and dice. It really does take less effort to cut with a sharp tool.
- Consider your next purchase. Perhaps it’s time to make a list of tools you wish you had. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming. A list of future tools can come in handy when birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas or even the occasional Craigslist items come up unexpectantly. Be ready when opportunity presents itself. Have a great off season.