Hand Tool Maintenance-Don’t Ruin Your Tools!

Woodworking, like fishing, covers a lot of territory, so the audience for our magazine and web site is a diverse lot. When I learned how to make stuff out of wood, the Internet didn’t exist and there was only one magazine and few books available on the subject. Lacking these modern resources, I was forced to make do with the advice of guys who had been making stuff most of their lives. I never had the benefit of extended discussions about taking care of my tools so they wouldn’t be ruined. I never thought about:

  • What’s the best oil to use to wipe down my tools?ChiselsBLG_0040-218x300
  • What’s the best rag to use with the best oil to wipe down my tools?
  • What’s the best plan to make a dedicated tool oiler, because even the best rag is sorely lacking?
  • Should I wipe my tools down every time I touch them because human skin excretes incredibly corrosive substances that will instantaneously cause devastating rust?
  • When I finish wiping down all of my tools should I start over because the atmosphere of planet Earth also contains incredibly corrosive substances that will instantaneously cause devastating rust?

Looking back, the sum total of advice I received was “get it sharp and get back to work.” The chisels in the photo above were purchased new in 1979. I try to keep them sharp and free from big gobs of foreign stuff. I use the back of the edges to scrape off glue, and wipe them off with whatever is handy, if I notice. If I don’t, I scrape off the surface with the handiest sharp object. I suppose that I could spend some time making them look like they just came out of the box, but I would rather be making stuff. There’s a long way to go before they’re completely useless.


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