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Get hand tools prepped and ready for a busy spring season, says AG gardening editor Kris Collins

Wooden handles and shafts

Always allow wooden parts to dry out before putting them away, standing them upright to receive good sunlight.

If deep scratches or splinters appear, rub down the whole handle or shaft with fine-grain sandpaper. Deep scratches can be filled in with wood filler.

Before putting your hand tools away until spring, rub all wooden parts down with linseed oil, allow to soak and then rub away any excess oil with a cloth rag.

Metal tool heads

All metal parts on hand tools can be cleaned and oiled quickly with this method. Fill a bucket with sharp sand and a little 3-in-1 oil. Remove the worst caked on dirt before plunging tools in the bucket several times to remove rust and finer dirt. Wipe off sand, then use an oily rag to wipe down tools before storing them away until spring.

Make digging easier in 2012 by sharpening spade and trowel blades now. Similar to sharpening cutting blades (below), use a sharpening block or metal file (above), running it along the bottom of the spade spit or both edges of your trowel. You can also do this with other blade-like hand tools, such as fork tines, hoes and other hand weeders.

Knife blades

A wide sharpening stone is the best option for knife blades in my opinion, but other sharpening gadgets are available. I’ve been taken by the pictured sharpener block from Active Products (available at B&Q). blades of a wide range of tools are simply run across one of the four graded surfaces until sharp.

Whether you opt for a traditional sharpening stone, block or file, first wipe down the knife blade. Caked on sap and so on can be scoured away using wire wool.

Place a few drops of oil on the surface of the sharpening stone, then take the blade edge to the stone and run it, at the same angle as is already on the cutting edge, in a circular ‘scrubbing motion’.

Some blades require both sides to be sharpened, others just one. A close look at your blade will determine what it needs.