Recycle Old Tools: How To Tune-Up Tools, Make Secondhand Tools Better Than New

Recycled tools that have been tuned-up and taken care of are often of better quality than tools in many stores today. Take the time to recycle old tools and you will acquire an inexpensive collection worthy of the next generation.

| January/February 1979

  • Recycled Tools
    Old tools like these can be tuned-up and given new life. Follow these easy steps to make your secondhand tools better than new.
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    With a little huntin', and some tender loving care, you can have a shopful of refurbished tools.
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    The first step toward restoring your treasures is to soak them overnight in a large container of used motor oil. A string tied to the tool's handle makes retrieval less messy.
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    The oil loosens rust and corrosion, which can then be removed by using an electric drill (with a wire-wheel attachment) and a vise.

  • Recycled Tools
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It's almost impossible to keep the old homestead (or apartment) together without the help of a whole gang of pricy equipment. But, if you pick up other people's castoff tools and give 'em a bit of tender loving care, you can equip your workshop for pennies a year, and still have some tools left over for barter.

Tool Graveyards Are Great for Finding Inexpensive Tools

All you need to start your collection of inexpensive tools is a good nose for the kind of "hiding places" junk tools usually end up. And nothing will get you into those places quicker than a willingness to help clean out other folks' attics, basements, barns and similar graveyards of abused equipment.

Not so long ago, for instance, a friend asked me to lend a hand "redding up" the garage that came with his new apartment. I did so, and was rewarded with two old axe heads and a ball-peen hammer. And, on another occasion, the bed of a newly purchased 1956 pickup produced five pairs of shears, a hacksaw frame, a keyhole saw, two cold chisels and many other perfectly good tools that hid their glory under coats of rust and neglect (if you don't mind spending a little cash, there are many unwanted but excellent tools to be found at garage sales and auctions).

Tune-Up Tools

It's easy enough to tune-up tools that you find into serviceable implements. To tune-up tools, soak your "discoveries" overnight in a 5-gallon bucket of used motor oil. This oil bath serves two purposes: The oil loosens surface rust and corroded joints and also arrests oxidation to prevent further damage.

One of the most valuable items in tool restoration is a vise, which I call my "third hand" (if you don't have one, you can use a clamp to fasten the tool to a workbench or table).

When the oil has done its work, use the vise and an electric drill with a 3-inch wire-wheel attachment to further clean the tools (I prefer this arrangement to a bench grinder with a wire wheel, because the work piece remains stationary and I can see when the metal is clean). For a thorough and quick job, adjust the direction the vise faces and clamp the tool in as many different positions as necessary to get at all the blighted areas. You'll find that the rust comes off readily, but don't try to remove metal with a wire wheel, it just won't do the job.

5/21/2012 12:45:05 PM

Please do not automatically start "renewing" an old tool. Do a little research first as it may be an antique and if so worth far more to someone as it is. The factory finish, labels, painted wording or stamping (even if its mostly gone) is irreplaceable. Sell it and then use the cash to buy tools that warrant renewal.

John Mulhollan
5/19/2012 1:03:39 AM

forget used motor oil, it is not good for the earth or anything else. buy some cheap canola oil and use that. i have read posts that says to use this formula on garden tools.

5/17/2012 1:25:15 AM

If you are restoring a tool to be used for what it was originally designed to do, then it isn't recycling is it? You're just extending the life of a good tool. Soaking tools in citric acid will also remove rust. Remember that some cast off tools were cast off for a reason - either they are lousy tools, not fit for purpose or just a dumb idea. Some old tools were junk already on the day they were made.

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