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Tips For Buying, Using and Maintaining Gardening Tools

Tips For Buying, Using and Maintaining Gardening Tools

The only items in my gardening tools drawer 12 years ago were needle-nosed pliers, a Philips screwdriver, and a hammer.  That’s all. If I needed a screwdriver with a flat head, I used a butter knife. When I needed to measure something, I used a 12-inch ruler. If I needed to drive a screw, I asked my neighbour to do me the favor.

The poverty of my tool drawer ended when I married an electrician, and we started building our home on a four-acre parcel in the mountains – with our own hands.  If I had known how much I would have to learn before we were through, I never would have agreed to do it, or believed it was possible.  But, we built the house and also moved on to build a greenhouse, garden shed, and a free-standing shed. Our finest accomplishment was when we completed the timber-framed barn.

We added the necessary tools to our collection as we added buildings to our ‘homestead.’ In the beginning, my husband gave me a utility knife, measuring tape, a good hammer, and a speed square along with a tool belt to carry them. It was a birthday present soon after we had begun building the house. I appreciated having my own set of tools to carry with me.  Using these, and my newly acquired chop-saw abilities, I was all set for a while.

As my confidence with power tools increased, I took on more of the house building tasks. It wasn’t long before I needed my own cordless drill and a circular saw that I could easily manage, (as opposed to our heavy 1970s Skil saw with its tricky switch). The next tool present I received was the DeWalt kit with five power tools!  What a pleasure to work with superior equipment. In the kit, there is a super-strong cordless drill and a battery-powered circular saw that’s light and tough.  There’s also a saws-all (reciprocating saw), and high beam flashlight, all in one handy carrying case.

As we added tools to our collection and I learned to use them, I realized some general principles about buying, using, and maintaining equipment.

About buying tools, the central principle is this: it never pays to cheap out on tools.  Even for the ones we rarely use, as the bow saw, it’s better just to spend the extra money in the first place. Otherwise, you’re eventually going to have to go out and replace the cheap tool that breaks the second time you use it, or that performs poorly and wastes your time and materials. This advice holds true for everything from paintbrushes to tables- saws. Make the extra investment. It’s worth it because it will save you time and headaches.

When using tools, keep this principle in mind: Select the right tool for the job, and then stay within its operating limits.  As an example, it’s possible to force my light but strong cordless saw to cut a 4 x 6 post. Yet that kind of cut is not the purpose of my little circular saw. I’d probably damage it, mess up the post, get injured, or have some other problems as a result of using the tool for something it isn’t designed to do. Instead, the right tool used properly will make you more efficient and give you greater enjoyment in doing the work.

About maintaining garden tools. Well, consider this. Once you’ve made the investment and you’ve gotten into the habit of using the tool properly for the job it’s meant to do, if you also put a little attention on maintenance, then most good tools will last a lifetime.

Keep it simple and doable. For most tools, all you have to do is keep them dry, blow the sawdust out of them before you put them away, and keep them in a safe place. For battery-powered tools, keep the batteries fully charged for long life and better performance. Keep blades sharp on saws so the motor doesn’t
have to work as hard.

Generally, take care of your investment. If you just do a little maintenance as you use each tool, you’re all set.