Workshopshed: A typically British summer this year, alternating between strong sun and damp weather. It’s not the best conditions for your equipment and tools so our latest guest author has provided some thoughts on keeping your power tools in tip top condition.
My name is Antoine Rizzotti and when I’m not in the office analyzing crash tests I like to tinker about around the house with common tools ranging from basic ratchets to weed eating trimmers and review them in depth. As a penny-wise engineer I like to get the most out of my tools without overspending, so if you can relate, you may want to pay close attention to what comes next.
Whether you are a hard working professional or just a self-proclaimed handyman power tools are around you and they make your life easier. Imagine building a house 100 years ago. Sure, the techniques are still valid to this day and while some may argue that good old fashioned work will never go out of style, using power tools is a time and money saver and just as everything else in life, proper care and tenderness go a long way. The following are some key measures you need to take to extend the lifespan of your power tools and ensure optimum efficiency.
Avoiding rust: We all know what rust is, and while storage in a dry tool box is an obvious measure to prevent it, regular usage is the best way to ensure that the metallic parts on your tools maintain their silvery aspect and of course will give the best work output. Instead of purchasing an expensive tool for a single job, it is advisable to consider renting.
Avoiding condensation: Most shops are not heated and let’s face it, while working, power tools themselves generate heat so many think that heating a workshop it’s not worthwhile, but this actually is the main cause of condensation and therefore rust, especially in colder regions. Not being stored in a heated chamber the tools will collect vapor condensation as their temperature suddenly rises. Besides this, condensation can also come from other sources. It is important to make sure that humidity is kept out of the area where you store your tools. Leaky faucets, improper sealing of doors and windows and bricking can allow outside humidity to affect your tools. If you live in an area where humidity is almost always present, purchasing a dehumidifier can save you a lot of trouble and is also a cost effective solution on the long run.
Proper working condition: The performance of the electric based power tools depends a lot on working conditions. And this is especially applicable to the plugged in power tools. As these tools are operated from the electric power supply so the user has make sure that the power source is well connected to the main source and there is minimum power fluctuation or frequent power failure. The less is the power fluctuation, the more beneficial it is for the electronic equipment. If there is too much power failure in the working place then in those places it is better to use the power tools that have energy storage and dissipation capability. A smart idea is to use a small portable voltage regulator. That will enable the tool to cope with the excessive power cut because neither excessive power cut nor the extreme fluctuation is good for the lifespan of power tools. Although it should be common sense, it is worth to mention that if you use your tools roughly and carelessly then no matter what precautions you take or how costly and high quality is your power tool, it is bound to get damaged.
Maintenance: After a hard day’s work most people ignore cleaning their tools, but it is paramount in keeping them in good shape. And it really does not take that much time. It’s well-worth to spend some time to thoroughly clean a tool instead of repairing it, not to mention that it’s free. The first thing that you can do is to take an air compressor and just blow off all the dust. After that, using a cleaning cloth, make sure you carefully wipe all surfaces. Most power tools have moving parts which need to be lubricated in order to work properly. The lubricant can wear in time so it is important to treat this aspect as well. Machine oil should work just fine but to be sure please check the user manual that came with the tool, just in case there are special recommendations you need to be aware of.
Storage: Unless you have a climate controlled workshop as previously advised, storing tools in their original packaging is an easy way to ensure they are protected from humidity or mechanical damage. The hard plastic packaging accompanied by silica gel packs will prevent moisture from collecting on your precious tools and also protects them from physical harm. This may be the simplest solution but an alternative is to use pegboards. In this way you can also use the excess wall space in a very efficient way. If there isn’t enough wall space you can still use hinged pegboards or rolling pegboards. If you want, you make your own handheld portable pegboard storage system, but it has the same functionality of a toolbox so it really depends on the needs of the user. Storing cordless power tools also requires some attention because they exclusively use batteries. High and low temperatures tend to affect the energy capacity of the batteries which results in a reduction of the running time, sometimes to a larger extent, making them impractical and demanding replacement
Regular usage: As mentioned before, one of the most elegant ways to increase the lifespan of a power tool is by using it on a regular basis. It is known that lack of usage harms the battery of cordless power tools and reduces its power, so make sure you use your tools regularly in a proper working condition to maintain a high efficiency.
Safety precautions: Let’s suppose you haven’t being paying attention to my advice. Faulty tools are almost always a safety hazard so here are some basic precautions you need to take:
- Loose or cracked handles or housing: Inspect your tool before each use. If there is so much as a hairline crack it is always best to repair it or seek professional help if you lack the skills. Vibrational forces will make quick work of turning that small crack into a larger one exposing you to circuitry or other hazards.
- Worn out insulation or exposed wires: I think it goes without saying it presents an electrical hazard. Electrical tape is a fast way to take care of the problem.
- Blunted drill heads/bits: Drill bits or heads will surely blunt with use and can shatter on impact. Sharpening them can be a solution but it requires expertise and it is also time-consuming. Purchasing new ones is the best option in my opinion.
- Corrosion or rust: To some extent rust can be removed (you favorite soft drink may help you with that) especially if its only on the surface, but a higher level renders the tool unsafe to use, so a trip to your local hardware store is in order.
- Repeated failed start-ups: Sometimes a bit of cleaning and lubrication can work wonders but if that doesn’t do the trick, get it repaired. Some fixes are actually pretty easy to do such as replacing belts, fitting a new switch or power cord but if you are not entirely sure you’re up to it, take it to the pros.
It may be a tedious job, especially for regular users, but taking proper care of your tools will prevent future expenses and it will allow you to safely work with them, giving you the satisfaction that fuels your passion.
Workshopshed: A big thanks to Antoine for his detailed article, it’s given me some feed for thought and I’m definitely going to ensure my battery powered tools get looked after a bit better.