Today was my first day back working on the site this year. Although I’m going to be looking after our Clissold Park site, this was the day for tool care at Allens Gardens. So that’s where I was. If you think of it like washing dishes then it’s a bit of a massive chore. But if you can think of it as a ritual, a preparation for the growing months ahead, it becomes both therapeutic and symbolic.
At Allens Gardens, like all our sites, we have a fair few tools, so the process of cleaning them is not insignificant, it took all morning and ate just a little into the afternoon, with various volunteers helping out along the way. We started by taking all the tools to be cleaned, sharpened and oiled out of the shed – lining up the shovels and spades, the forks, rakes, the pickaxe and all the smaller tools – trowels, hand forks and secateurs. Then we made up a bucket of warm soapy water. With a hard brush I washed away all the remnants of last year’s digging. Of course we clean the tools every time we put them away at the end of a day’s work, but there’s always that extra little bit that needs a hard scrub to get it off. And the oiling helps to prevent rust and deterioration.
Methodically, I lined up the clean tools to dry as I washed the others. Once that was done, it was time to sharpen, first wiping away any excess suds and water and then working out which side of the tool to sharpen, or both, in case of the pickaxe. On the spades we sharpened the bottom edge. Using a sharpening rock at a 45 degree angle, you can get them pretty sharp. Worth testing this sharpness at a perpendicular angle and not by running your finger along the newly lethal blade! Then it was onto oiling. We use linseed on all the wood and 3-in-1 oil for the metal. You can always use vegetable oil on the metal if you prefer.
And that was it. All that was left to do was to put all the tools neatly back into the shed that Ru had been cleaning in the meantime. A job well done and one that makes you really feel well set for the year ahead.