A collection of gardening equipment represents a big investment and should be treated accordingly. Proper storage and maintenance will prolong the life of your tools. Moreover, simple repairs can often restore broken or aging equipment to full usefulness.
Tools should be kept indoors in a place free of rust-producing moisture; before putting them away, clean them and wipe them dry. Protect cutting tools against corrosion with a light application of household oil. Sharpen blades when they become dull. Carefully clean chemical sprayers after each use.
DISCONNECT IGNITION WIRE FIRST
Before removing a lawnmower blade to sharpen it, be sure to disconnect the motor’s ignition wire from the spark plug to prevent inadvertent starting.
HANDLING CHEMICALS SAFELY
When cleaning sprayers, dump all rinse water into a separate container. Wrap paper around any wire and swabs used in the cleaning. Take the waste materials to your area’s toxic waste pickup or disposal facility. Do not pour chemical wastes down the drain.
Typical troubles with a garden hose are treatable through surgery. If the hose develops a leak, remove the damaged section and make a splice with a mending kit; if a coupling is corroded or loose, cut it off and clamp a new one in place (page 12). A tool with a broken handle can also be salvaged in almost all cases; replacement handles are generally available.
On shovels, rakes, hoes, and other lightweight garden tools, the new handle slides into a metal sleeve and is fastened with screws. The heads of heavy tools such as axes, sledgehammers, and mattocks have a collar that accommodates a thicker handle, and the repair also involves some extra steps (page 14).
Wear gloves when cleaning any part of a sprayer, and wear goggles when sharpening metal blades and when hammering tool heads onto new handles.
Honing a pair of shears
Disassemble the shears by removing the hinge bolt. Put a few drops of light household oil or water on a whetstone’s coarse side. Hold the beveled edge of the blade flush against the stone (right) and, starting at the tip, grind in small circles until the blade’s edge is keen. Smooth the beveled edge by honing it on the whetstone’s fine side with the same grinding motion. Reassemble the shears. You can also use a flat file (photograph) to sharpen shears: File the blade as described below for a lawnmower blade.
A keen edge for a lawnmower blade
Secure the blade in a vise. Lay a flat file flush with the beveled cutting edge (left), and file in the direction indicated by the arrow; do not pull back. File evenly along the whole edge. When the edge looks shiny, file the burr off the underside. Sharpen the blade’s other end the same way. Check for balance by hanging the blade on a nail sticking horizontally out of your workbench. If one end is heavier, sharpen it until the blade balances. To use a grinding stone drill attachment, place the nylon guide against the blade’s underside (inset). Turn on the drill and, holding the stone against the beveled edge, move it back and forth until the blade is sharp.
A splice to fix a leak
Cut out the leaking section of the hose. Soak the cut ends in hot water to soften the vinyl. Slip a lock nut from the mending kit over one cut end, with the nut’s threads facing out toward the cut. Put a ring over the same end, then push the connector into the hose as far as it can go (above). Slide the lock nut over the ring, and tighten the nut securely to the connector by hand. Repeat on the other end of the hose.
A new coupling for a hose end
Cut off the defective coupling. Push the new coupling into the cut end of the hose as far as it will go. Place the clamp halves around the hose at the base of the coupling, and screw the halves together to tighten the clamp (right).
Back-flushing the sprayer head
Remove the container from the sprayer head, leaving the head attached to the garden hose. Turn the control valve of the sprayer to
Clearing the outlet holes
Unscrew the spray-directing tube from the pistol grip, and remove the nozzle from the end of the tube. With a stiff wire, clear any residue from the outlet holes at the end of the tube (above).
Completing the cleaning
Wipe the inside of the nozzle and the threads at the ends of the spray-directing tube with moistened cotton-tipped swabs until the cotton comes away clean. Lubricate the nozzle and threads with a swab dipped in household oil. With the swab, oil the O-rings at each end of the tube (above) to prevent sticking and maintain sealing power. Reassemble the sprayer and fill the canister with water. Spray the water to flush the hose and pistol grip.
Removing a damaged handle
Secure the head of a large tool, such as the mattock shown at right, in a heavy vise. With a ¼-inch bit, drill four deep holes into the wood at the top of the handle as close as possible to the collar. Remove the tool from the vise, and tap the head with a small sledgehammer, driving it down toward the narrow part of the handle. If the head remains stuck, drill additional holes and tap harder.
Setting the new handle in place
Slip the mattock head onto the new handle. Drive the head into position with a small sledgehammer, forcing it over the wide section at the top of the handle (above); alternate the hammer blows from one side of the collar to the other to keep the head level. Set the mattock head in warm water overnight to swell the wood.
Making a tight fit
Let the wood dry. With a hammer, drive a ½-inch metal wedge—available at hardware stores—into the top of the handle across the grain of the wood (above). This should press the wood firmly against the collar. If the head of the tool is even slightly loose on the handle, drive additional wedges perpendicular to the first until the head is absolutely secure.