Restoring Wooden Tool Handles

Collecting tools for your homestead is fun and rewarding, along with being rather necessary.  I frequently look for tools at garage sales and the only thing better than finding a great used tool is getting it for a bargain.  Quality hand tools become an extension of your body, making your task easier, more efficient and generally more enjoyable.  These tools will pay dividends to you as long as you take care of them.

Over the last few months I’ve pulled together quite the collection of old garden tools.  I even found an old scythe at a garage sale for ten bucks.  The handle did show weathering and the blade was rusted, but ten bucks?!

After sanding three handles, though, I’ve decided that I need to break down and find an electric oscillating pad sander.

I’ve sanded it down and then will stain it with some boiled linseed oil which acts as a preservative that will protect from weather and wear.  That doesn’t mean you can leave them out in the rain all the time.  You do still have to be responsible.  I found a lot of information about linseed oil at the Natural Handyman’s website.

Yes, old linseed oil is still good linseed oil, especially when it is only a dollar at a garage sale.

Here are a few shots of the oil going on the wood.  When I was done staining, I used the garden hose and rinsed out the sock well.  I’ve read that piles of rags soaked in boiled linseed oil can spontaneously combust!  Be careful!

This is only one of about a million uses for the old socks that Courtney keeps trying to throw away.  I have to hide them from her to keep them from finding their way to the trash.

There are some handles that have deep cracks in them from extended periods of being left outside.  My suggested remedy for this can be found at Herrick Kimball’s website.  His Whizbang Handle Rub is made with boiled linseed oil, turpentine and some paraffin wax.  This was will fill in the cracks and provide a nice finish.  No more splinters.

We currently don’t have any old candles, so I haven’t tried this just yet.  I’ll post again with that sometime to show how it works for me.

Thanks.  Robert.

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2 responses to “Restoring Wooden Tool Handles

  1. Harold Dean

    I hesitate to be critical about trying to restore old handles, but I think I would continue to do as I have in the past and just rehandle the tool if I intended to put it back to extended use. The old tools my wife wanted to use for display, I just rubbed a mixture of sawdust and polyurethane varnish into them to fill the cracks, finished the handle with polyurethane and painted the metal flat black. Since it sits outside year round for her yard decoration it works out just fine. My wooden handled tools I use on a regular basis are always stored inside and when tools are used they are cleaned as soon as the work is finished, the metal parts are sprayed with chain lube (holds up the best for extended storage and comes off readily under use) and I spray the handles down with PAM cooking spray. Been doing this every since the cooking sprays came out and it seems to work out just fine and does not leave the handles slick and oily like either linseed or neatsfoot oil does. I also found out years ago when they took Alumatap off the marked that PAM also works very well for all tapping operations not just aluminum. Kudos to you though for recognizing that old American forged steel tools are far superior to the cheap cast steel ones from over there and your diligence in restoring them. My grandsons cannot understand why my old blue point hand axe stays sharp an usable while I trim a downed tree and the cheap orange handled fiberglass handled hand axe they bought last year dulls quickly and they decided to split wood with it and it broke at the eye. Now they covet mine and want it. Harold

  2. Robert @ hisandhershomesteading

    Harold,

    I couldn’t argue with re-handling an old tool being the best long term solution for a tool that will see heavy use. In my situation, however, I’ve got more time than money, (the money we do have is being saved for our future homestead property) so I’m happy to do the restoration work. I do plan on trying alternative solutions for the finish.

    Your comment on maintaining the metal part reminds me of an idea I saw somewhere. Take a 5 gallon bucket and fill it most of the way full with sand and then dump some used motor oil in the sand. When you’re done using your tool, press it into the sand bucket several times. The sand will help remove any dirt clods or mud and the oil will act as a preservative. Keep this bucket right where you hang your tools. Perhaps thicker gear oil would be better, as you point out in your comment above.

    Thanks, Robert.

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