Garden Tools Q and A

I have bought a hand-propelled cylinder mower for my small lawn. Will it need any particular maintenance?

Routine maintenance involves lubrication of moving parts and wiping of surfaces with an oil rag after use. From time to time you will need to adjust the cutting cylinder, which should be able to cut a stiff piece of paper across the full width of the bottom (fixed) blade. Such adjustment involves turning a screw or bolt on either side of the machine. To adjust the height of the cut, the small wooden roller at the front or rear of the machine can be raised or lowered by simple bolts at each end.

I have a chain saw which I use to cut logs and other timber. Can I sharpen it myself and are there any tips to keep it in peak condition?

General maintenance is similar to that of any 2-stroke machine, the plug being particularly susceptible to oiling up. Blades can be sharpened at home, but you will need to buy a purpose-made jig that clamps over the blade and cutting bar. A special file is drawn over each blade at an angle set by the jig, the whole operation being simple. Finally, check the chain tension and adjust it in accordance with the handbook instructions.

My son has punctured a new rubber hose in the middle of its length. Is there an easy way to repair it?

Apply a coat of appropriate adhesive (water-insoluble) right around the hose at the site of the puncture, and bind a strip of cloth rightly around this. When the adhesive is dry apply a second coat of adhesive over the bandage. A plastic hose can be repaired by cutting out the damaged section and joining the two halves by inserting a simple jointing device obtainable from most hardware stores and garden centres.

The wooden shaft of my spade has broken, but the shank (lower half) is riveted to the blade. How can I get this out and fit a new handle?

To remove the rivet, strike it smartly with a hammer and centre punch, and drill the head out. The shank can now be tapped out. The new handle will be ready-tapered but will probably need whittling down to make an exact fit. Tap it into position and mark through the old rivet hole with a bradawl, finally fixing the shaft with a round-headed screw.

I always have trouble starting my petrol-driven mower, particularly after winter storage. Is there any way of improving matters?

Correct winter storage involves removing all petrol, disconnecting the fuel line and draining down. Then start the engine and run it dry, so that the carburettor is empty and the jets cannot become blocked. Now turn the engine, so that it is on the compression stroke. In this position the valves are closed and exclude damp from the cylinder; the points are closed, too. Always keep the plugs and points as clean as possible, paying particular attention to 2-stroke engines, which build up carbon deposits especially rapidly.

I am new to gardening and having bought a set of hand tools, I wish to keep them in the best possible condition. Should I undertake any special maintenance?

Maintenance, although simple, is vital to keep tools effective. Spades should be rubbed down after use and wiped with an oily rag; the tines of forks and rakes will need tapping straight with a hammer if they become bent. Cutting tools should always be kept sharp and well adjusted. Shears need a few strokes from a file once or twice a year to remove burrs; they may need to be reground by a professional every few years. Secateurs benefit from a drop of oil, while saws can be set and sharpened with a simple jig and file set. Always clean carefully any equipment (secateurs, shears, lawn mowers, etc) that has been used to cut plants. Nothing takes the fine edge off a blade quicker than plant sap left on such equipment.

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