Taking Care of Tools

My father used his Yankee screwdriver all the time, and I still grab it when I have a lot of straight-slot screws to drive, say, when I’m installing door hinges. One long push on the handle gets me about three nicely controlled turns on the screw. Sure, cordless drivers are faster, but a Yankee screwdriver is easy on the wrist and quiet, never needs recharging, and has a bit that doesn’t slip off or over-drive the screw. These screwdrivers are still being made, thank goodness, so if my dad’s old one ever breaks, I can replace it.


Given enough time, rust will damage metal permanently. Here are some ways to keep it from forming on your tools and to get rid of it if you’ve got it.

To keep rust at bay: Because dust attracts moisture, store tools in a dry place, such as in a drawer or a toolbox. For extra protection, add a canister of silica gel or strips of vapor corrosion inhibitor, like the ones made by Wilson and Miller. They emit a gas that deposits a protective layer on metal surfaces. In damp basement workshops, keep a dehumidifier running.

When rust gets a foothold: Spray lightly rusted surfaces with a penetrating lubricant like WD-40, then scrub with a heavy-duty Scotch-Brite pad. Stay away from sandpaper; it scratches metal. Wipe off excess lubricant before putting the tool away.

For more heavily rusted metal, try a spray-on, wipe-off, acid-based rust remover like Rust Free. Follow with a rust-inhibitor spray like Boeshield T-9, which leaves a thin, waxy film on the surface. Wipe away any excess immediately.

If you’re lucky enough to own any of the old wooden boxes that tools used to be packaged in, they make great storage places. The wood helps absorb moisture and shields the tools from humidity.

A cracked wood handle is relatively easy to glue back together, especially if you can take it off the tool. I prefer yellow wood glue rather than epoxy. It’s easy to work with and stronger than the wood itself.

For handles cracked all the way through, gently separate the two pieces and clean the mating surfaces with a tooth­brush; don’t sand them. Spread a light coat of glue on both faces and into any fissures with a small brush, then clamp the pieces securely—rubber bands work well on length­wise splits. Wipe up excess glue with a damp rag. The clamp can come off in about an hour.


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