While spring is generally considered the month for cleaning windows, airing out the house, reorganizing the cupboards, and tending to general home maintenance, your workshop and tools know no season. Whether you work in your basement, a corner of the garage, or out of a make-shift toolbox, here are some tips that will help you maintain order and better productivity through the year.
1. Charge all your batteries.
In this age of cordless power tools and Lithium-Ion drivers, the ability to take your tools where you need them is often taken for granted. So take an afternoon and pull out all the chargers and extra batteries from those carrying cases and juice 'em up. Wipe them clean of sawdust and use a soft rag to dust the contact points. If the batteries no longer hold a charge, take them to a recycling center and discard them safely.
2. Wipe down your hand tools.
When properly cared for, hand tools can last a lifetime. Dampen a rag with a tiny bit of mineral spirits and wipe down the handles to remove dust, grease and grime, mysterious sticky stuff or wood glue. Buff out any evidence of rust with steel wool. And if you're untidy like me, take the opportunity to get everything off the bench and back on the pegboard or in the tool chest.
3. Clean out your vacuums and dust filters.
Open up your shop vacuum and take out the filter. Take it outside and shake/bang off all the fine particles stuck to the filter. If it looks worn, replace it. Empty your shop vac canister, and if you see lots of larger particles and chucks, consider getting a pricey two-stage chip collector (view on Amazon) or an inexpensive Cyclone lid (view on Amazon). They come in both 30-gallon trash can sizes and 5-gallon bucket sizes, and will capture more than 95% of the dust before it even hits the filter.
4. Replace broken or lost bits and parts.
If you've gotten through the last twelve months without breaking a drill bit, then you're a better DIYer than I. But if you're like the rest of us, put all your twist, spade, Forstner, countersinks, and hole saws back in their cases, and note which of your drill bits are gone. Make a list and buy singles to complete your collection. If you're replacing a bit that's likely to break again, buy two. If you have to replace more than 25% of your bits, or any bits bigger than a 1/4', consider replacing your set.
5. Sharpen your tools.
Sharp tools are safe tools. Sharpen your hand tools with a grinding wheel or honing guide. Check your micro bevels for chips and lapping burrs and hone them. Or safely collect them all and take them to be sharpened. Your local hardware store may do it, or try a specialty knife or woodworking shop. Grab your kitchen knives while you're at it. Replace your utility knife or window scraper blades, and check your shop scissors.
6. Replace hardware and fasteners.
You don't want to have to run to the store to grab hardware to hang a picture or fix a squeaky deck. So take stock of your screws, nails, bolts, nuts, washers, and pneumatic fasters, etc., and note which seem a little low. Buy them now, in bulk, so you have them within reach when you need them.
This is what was behind my power tools. Gross! Photo: CGardner
Now that your space is back in order, it's time to clean it up. Pull out your benches, cabinets, stationary tools, utility shelves, and start sweeping. Wear a dusk mask and use a stiff broom or shop vac to get up all the sawdust, chips, scraps of sandpaper, and painter's tape-all of it. You'll be thankful you did.