4 Ways to Prevent Woodworking Tools from Rusting

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Woodworking tools are a big investment, and there’s no doubt that you’ll want to care for them as adequately as possible. Part of that caring process requires having enough woodworking savvy to know when and how to maintain your tools. Plenty of the tools lying around your shop are made of various types of metal and, if not cared for properly, they’ll rust at the first sign of moisture. While you may still be able to use some of your tools after mild rusting has occurred, it’s only a matter of time before they’re rendered useless. Nevermind the fact that rusty tools are just plain ugly.

So, to prevent rust from stripping your tools of their usability (and their pageant-worthy beauty), here are a couple of tips you can try:

  1. Use Tools Frequently: By and large, the easiest way to prevent your hand tools from rusting is by using them. When you use your tools regularly, you don’t give them the opportunity to sit and collect dust or moisture, both of which can cause significant rusting.

  2. Keep Things Clean: If you use power tools in your shop with some level of frequency, you’ve probably noticed that they kick up a ton of sawdust. When even a thin layer of moisture-containing sawdust develops on any of your metal hand tools, there’s big potential for them to rust.

    One way to avoid this is to separate your hand tools from your power tools. If that feels a bit foreign to you, then you might want to invest in a high quality dust collector so sawdust won’t be a concern at all.

    It’s also a good idea to make a habit of wiping your tools down after each use. This way you can be sure you’ve done your job to maintain them and your tools will be ready to go the next time you step into the workspace.

  3. Control Humidity and Reduce Moisture: Controlling moisture and humidity is probably the single most important thing you can do to protect your tools. If you live in a particularly humid climate and your shop doesn’t get adequate airflow, you may want to invest in a fan or dehumidifier.

    Another option is to place silica gel packs in your toolbox, tool chest, or wherever your store your hand tools. These moisture absorbing gel packs are most often seen in small white packages inside new shoe boxes. They are relatively easy to use–simply toss a few in your tool box and rust should become a worry of the past. Keep in mind, though, that they will need to be “recharged” from time to time. To do that, you’ll need to bake them in the oven at 240 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of three hours.

  4. Apply Protective Coatings: One of the most effective rust inhibitors is a thin layer of non-oxidizing oil like mineral oil. Some woodworkers also use motor oil and WD-40 to achieve the same result. But keep in mind that oils tend to attract dust, so you’ll still have to keep up with tool maintenance even after applying a protective coating like oil.

    If oils don’t suit your rust-protection preferences, then paste wax is another viable option.

As you consider all of these tips, keep in mind that rust is inevitable and that anything you do to stave it off is merely a temporary preventive measure. In other words, you can’t expect a dust rag or WD-40 to do the work for you. You’ve got to be mindful of your tools and care for them properly in order for you to reap their benefits.  

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