Sunday, February 8, 2009

Care your tools for last longer and perform better.

Here's how to look after them..........

Power tools
Power tools such as hedgecutters, strimmers and chain saws are powerful time-saving devices for gardeners but need more care and attention to prolong their life and keep them safe to use. Damaged tools may need professional repair, particularly chainsaws and worn blades on hedgetrimmers. Before each use ensure the fuel is fresh, the oil is topped up and safety guards are intact. On electric tools make sure plugs have a working fuse and flexes aren’t frayed or worn. If a cable has been cut, shorten or replace it.
Spray the metal surfaces of tools with a light coating of general-purpose oil to prevent them rusting. Don't forget to spray blades that are difficult to reach, such as those on hedge cutters. Turn on the tool to make sure the oil works its way into all areas. To service a two-stroke petrol hedgetrimmer remove and clean the air filter and test that the recoil is in good condition. Clean the spark plug and use feeler gauges to check and adjust the gap.


Always disconnect the sparkplug lead when the mower is not in use and run down the fuel before storing the machine for the winter. This is particularly important if it takes unleaded petrol, which loses ignition quality over time. Remove any grass and soil from the rollers, blades and grass boxes with a stiff brush and hose. Apply some grease to the height adjusters and turn them slightly to prevent them from seizing up.
If the blades of rotary mowers are chipped or blunt, have them sharpened and balanced by a servicer. Cylinder mower blades are best sharpened professionally. Very badly worn blades of any sort will need replacing.
Remove the air filters and clean out any dust or grass to protect the engine. After checking that the throttle and clutch cables are not worn, trickle a little general-purpose oil along them to stop them sticking.
Also, change the machine oil ready for spring, making sure that the level is topped up. Without enough oil, the engine will burn out, causing irreparable damage. If you are in any doubt, have the mower serviced.

Electric mowers
Unplug the lawnmower before starting any cleaning and remove any caked-on earth and grass from the undersides with a stiff brush. Stubborn debris can be loosened with a little water and some gentle encouragement with a scraper. While you are cleaning, check for cracks and damage on the plastic covers.
Blunt blades may be sharpened with a fine metal file, but replace badly worn or damaged blades. If you have any doubts about how to carry out the repairs, consult your local servicer.

Tool sharpening
Some tools will become blunt with use and their cutting edges will need to be sharpened. Blunt blades may be sharpened with a fine metal file, but badly damaged or worn blades should be replaced. If you have any doubts about how to carry out the repairs consult your local servicer. Remove any rust with a wire brush and wipe over with an oily rag; use a general-purpose oil. Blades on shears, forks, spades and other tools will soon rust if they are not given this quick, effective treatment regularly.
To sharpen blades of knives and secateurs, use a fine sharpening stone from a garden centre or hardware store. First, prepare it with a few drops of general-purpose lubricating oil. For a straight-bladed knife, push it forwards and to the side, exerting a little downward pressure. Then turn the knife over and, holding the blade almost flat against the stone, brush it across the surface to take off any rough edges. Use the same method to sharpen secateurs and hoes. It may be easier to move the stone as you move the blade. It is important to sharpen only the outside blade on bypass secateurs and the upper surface of hoes.
Finish off by wiping over the blade with an oily rag before storing. Hoes should be stored with the blade uppermost, ideally suspended from a hook on the wall. The same procedure may be carried out with the cutting edges of spades. In very stony and heavy soils, this sharpening process may need repeating during the season.

Bare wooden handles benefit from boiled linseed oil. Rub the oil on with a rag and allow the wood to absorb the first coat before applying more oil. This prevents drying out and splintering.
If a wooden handle is very dirty, remove as much of the soil as possible with a stiff brush. If you need to use water, gently wet the handle with a damp cloth, making sure that you don't soak the wood, as this may cause the grain to lift and the handle to swell.

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