How to Repair, Maintain, and Repurpose Garden Tools - Backyard Boss
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How to Repair, Maintain, and Repurpose Garden Tools

Tools are expensive, and garden tools are no different. It takes a healthy investment to build up a decent collection of tools.

However, if you’re crafty and are willing to put in extra work, you could build up this collection for a fraction of the cost. Estate sales, garage sales, and second-hand stores are usually full of old rusty tools. If you need some direction in terms of what to look for, it’s a good idea to compile a massive list of essential garden tools.

They usually go by untouched, the broken handles and rusty coatings deterring all but the most determined bargain hunter. If that’s you, then you’re in the right place. Because you’re about to discover the best way to maintain, repurpose, and repair garden tools. 

Materials Needed

  • Rusty tools
  • Rust remover
  • Spare handles/appropriately sized sticks
  • Linseed oil
  • Various fasteners
  • Sandpaper
  • Multi-use oil
  • File
  • Hose connectors

Step One: Remove The Rust


Rust will be one of the most common issues you have to deal with when it comes to refurbishing old tools. It is the visual result of metal carbonizing. Besides not looking great, it also corrodes metal over time, so it’s important to get it under control.

You can reach for your favorite rust remover or rely on Backyard Boss to teach you how to remove rust from your garden tools.

Step Two: Fix The Handles


Broken handles are one of the most common problems with old tools. The good news is that most handles for larger garden tools are super simple to replace. In fact, most garden rakes, hoes, and the like are designed so that the handles would be easy to replace.

Replacement handles are readily available from most hardware stores, or you could take a walk through the forest to find an appropriately sized stick.

Simply remove the damaged handle, and replace it with the new one. You’ll need to fasten the head of the tool to the handle. You can do this with metal clamps or even screws and nails. Some tool heads have specific holes for the fasteners.

If you’re using a stick, you’ll probably have to shape the end of the stick to fit into the head of the tool. You can use nails or other scrap pieces of metal to jam the handle into the hasp of the tool. For a superior finish, sand the stick down with sandpaper and treat it with a few coats of linseed oil.

Some people recommend using glue or epoxy to hold the handle in place. It could work, but remember that when it fails again, you’re going to have chunks of old epoxy/glue dried in the head of the tool, which could make future repairs more difficult. Use your discretion.

Step Three: Sharpen The Blades


A dull blade is a dangerous blade, so it’s in your best interest to keep all your blades razor sharp. Once you’ve removed all the rust and possibly replaced the handle, it’s time to sharpen the blade.

It’s important to have the right sharpening file for the blade you intend to sharpen. For example, a machete blade requires a very different file to what you might use to sharpen secateurs. Make sure you’re using the right tool for the right job.

When it comes to sharpening, you generally want to drag and pull the file across the blade at a 45-degree angle. Some blades have a bevel on only one side, which means you will use the file only on that side of the blade.

Other blades have a double bevel which means that both sides of the blade run at a 45-degree angle down to the sharp edge. Make sure you understand the difference and sharpen accordingly.

An easy way to get this right is to simply follow the bevel that’s already there, taking special care to remove any burrs or rough edges.

It’s a good idea to have a collection of the different files you need to sharpen the tools in your collection.

Step Four: Patch The Leaky Hose


A leaky hose can get a new lease on life after a quick and easy fix.

First, find the leak. If it’s a pinhole leak that’s difficult to find, here’s a little trick. Block one end of the hose. Cover the hose in soapy water. Blow into the unblocked end. Pinhole leaks will blow bubbles in the soapy water coating the hose.

To get rid of the leak, simply cut the leaky end of the hose out. You now have two shorter hoses. You can join these two hoses back together with a hose connector from the hardware store, or you can simply roll with two hoses.

Pro Tip: To winterize your hose, make sure you drain it fully first. Then coil it neatly and store it indoors, away from extreme temperatures and harsh conditions.

Step Five: Oil For Everyone!


One of the most important steps in refurbishing old garden tools is adding protective elements once the tool is back to its former glory.

Multi-purpose oil is perfect for this task. You can coat all the metal parts of the tools with a thin layer of multi-purpose oil. It’s also a good idea to add a few drops in between any moving parts or anywhere where there are springs or hinges.

By doing this, you’ll prevent rust from getting hold of your refurbished tools. If you spot a spot of rust on an oiled tool, some vigorous rubbing with a rag will most likely remove the rust before it gets a chance to establish itself.

Final Touch

By understanding some of the common problems found with old tools, and learning how to solve them, you could have an impressive tool collection for a fraction of the cost. One of the benefits of collecting old tools is that many of them were designed to be easy to repair. Back in the day, repairing was more commonplace than replacing, so the design of the tools had to reflect that.

That means that spare parts are often widely available. And if not, the design of the tool will allow you to find the next best replacement for the necessary part. So that you’re armed with this knowledge, get out there are start the treasure hunt for old tools that need some love.

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