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Are Quality Garden Tools Worth the Cost?

by | May 4, 2022 | Farm, Grow, Homesteading, Tools

What makes a high-quality tool? And are quality garden tools worth the cost? We’re chatting with Will from Homestead Iron about what sets his quality tools apart and why you’ll want to order yourself some today!

Various steel garden tools with wooden handles.

We’re excited to have Will from Homestead Iron on the Pantry Chat today. He and Jamie own and operate Homestead Iron out of the Ozark Mountains and forge tools blending old and new technology, much the same way their great-grandparents would have.

Will is a fourth-generation smith. He got into working with his dad and grandfather as a young kid where he learned the basics. He then went on to cowboy for a living and then on to become a director of maintenance for a small airline.

Blacksmithing as a profession came about when he and his wife desired to move out of the city and into a rural setting, but needed a way to provide financially for their lifestyle, preferably from home.

Will says making tools kind of snuck up on him. He was tired of buying tools that underperformed or would end up breaking. He happened to have access to some high-carbon steel and began forging his own tools.

Once he realized he could make high-quality tools, this changed everything. He realized he no longer needed to put up with the “junk” tools he previously purchased and knew he couldn’t be the only one wanting high-quality tools.

He then started making tools for friends and it’s all history from there!

Two steel garden tools with wooden handles.

What Sets Homestead Iron Tools Apart?

Will shares that making high-quality tools isn’t difficult, but that it does take a little bit of forethought. First off, he cares and has gone through multiple iterations of each tool. The great thing about Homestead Iron tools is that Will and his wife Jamie actually use their tools on a regular basis.

Will spends countless hours modifying the tools, making sure the angles are just right, that the handles are the correct length, and that both the tool and handle are as strong as they can possibly be.

Steel Quality

Probably the biggest difference between Homestead Iron tools and a tool you can find at the store is the quality of the steel he uses. Will uses C1075 high carbon steel, which looks exactly like C1018 structure steel to the naked eye.

C1018 steel has a tensile strength that is about 75,000 psi. The C1075 high carbon steel that Will uses for his tools is 285,000 psi, so there’s an enormous difference in strength. But again, you won’t be able to tell this difference by simply picking up two different tools and comparing them side by side. The strength and quality will shine during the use of the tool.

The benefit of this high carbon steel is that the tools will have longer ductility, meaning the tool won’t bend, dent, or get deformed in response to stress, and they will keep their edge retention and sharpness.

Many of the tools you find at the big box stores have poor performance because they don’t even have an edge ground on them, they come standard with a blunt edge. Even if they did have an edge put on them, it wouldn’t last because it’s a softer steel, which works great for fenders and toasters, as Will says, but not tools!

Wood Handles

I personally prefer working with wood-handled tools, they seem to hold up longer and they’re easier to care for to last for generations. Will agrees and shares how our hands were created to grip smooth wood. You should never wear a glove when using a hammer because you’ll actually have to grip tighter than if you didn’t have a glove on at all.

The same goes for garden tools that you’ll be using for extended periods of time throughout the season. Don’t fall for gimmicks and widgets from the newer plastic handles that tout being “ergonomically” correct, or lighter weight. They may feel good (more comfortable, lighter weight, etc.) when picking them up in the store, but extended movements will actually backfire and cause you to work harder.

Our great-grandparents knew what worked and it was simply wood and high-quality steel!

A man oiling the long wooden handle of a garden tool.

Tool Care & Maintenance

I’ve written a post on my favorite garden tools and how I care for them here, but Will goes on to share how to specifically maintain and care for Homestead Iron tools.

Store Them Out of Weather

The number one thing you can do to triple the lifespan of your tools is to store them out of the elements.

When you’re finished with your tools at the end of the day, don’t leave them lying in the dirt or where they’ll get rained on or sun-scorched. It’s as simple as putting them away, leaning up against the garage, under an overhang, or wherever you can find a space that’s dry and out of direct sunlight.

Garden Shed

To take the storage up to the next level of care, store your tools in a protected environment like a garden shed, garage, or basement where the temperature will remain steady, there’s no sunlight damage, and they’ll be completely dry.

Wood Handle Maintenance

The first thing that will start to wear on these tools is the wooden handle. So sanding them down with some sandpaper and conditioning them with linseed oil will really extend the life of these tools. To save some money on the cost of linseed oil, we like to use our home-rendered lard or tallow to condition our tools as we always have some on hand.

The fall is a great time to condition your tools before you put them away for the winter. Use a rag and rub the oil into the wood so the warmth of your hand warms up the oil and the wood. If you just slap on some oil and don’t rub it in well, it will eventually become tacky and unpleasant to the touch.

I like to say I’ll be handing my Homestead Iron tools down to my kids as the quality is that of a generational tool.

Clean Tools After Each Use

Another way you can prolong the life of your tools is to clean them after each use. Then again before storing them away for the winter.

A customer of Wills gave him the tip of keeping a bucket of sand next to the toolshed where you store your tools. After each use, she simply dunks each tool into the bucket of sand to clean them off with ease.

Sharpen Blades

Will is often asked how often you need to sharpen the tools. The answer is our favorite, “It depends”! It really does depend though because we’re all using our tools differently.

Will shares that in the Ozarks there are a lot of rocks, so his tools are constantly coming into contact with rocks, creating sparks and dulling the edges at a faster rate than someone who is working with soft loamy soil.

Will will also have to sharpen his tools sooner than someone only using their tools a handful of times each year.

To sharpen the tools it’s best to use a simple file. Though you can grind Homestead Iron tools to re-sharpen them, Will shares that this isn’t necessary, and you can actually soften or misshape your tool if you accidentally overheat it.

A man holding multiple hand-forged garden tools.

Quality

Some people may be surprised at the cost of Homestead Iron’s tools, simply because they’re comparing them to regular tools found at many big-box stores. We love the saying, “price is what you pay, value is what you get” because buying high-quality upfront can really save you money in the long run.

Will shares the analogy of someone buying an inexpensive tool for $15 that ends up breaking within a year. The next year that person will need to replace it, and so spends another $15 on a tool that will likely break before the next season. If that person gardens for 10 years they’ll end up spending $150 on that one tool.

If that person were to buy the same tool from Homestead Iron (which is guaranteed for life), that one tool may cost $40, but it will last beyond those 10 years and will end up being passed along to the next generation.

Furthermore, the high-quality tool will actually make the job easier and reduce the amount of time the job took to begin with.

A man and wife foraging for mushrooms.

Where to Find Homestead Iron

  • You can find Homestead Iron on their website at homesteadiron.com. If you do any shopping, be sure to use code “homesteadingfamily” at checkout for 10% off!
  • You can contact Jamie via email at [email protected]

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Josh: Hey, you guys. This is Josh with Homesteading Family and welcome to this week's episode of The Pantry Chat: Food for Thought. Hey, I've got a really neat guest on with us today, Will Dobkins from Homestead Iron, he makes some fantastic homestead and gardening tools. Will, how are you doing today?

Will: I'm doing great, Josh. Thank you for having us on today.

Josh: Yeah, absolutely. You guys, you've seen me talk about some of homestead irons tools and we wanted to bring Will on so you could learn a little bit more about him and why they're so special and valuable and a little bit about his story, as well. But, as you know, we usually like to dive in and have a little chit-chat and just talk about what's going on on the farm. And so, Will, I just want to ask you, I know you're making tools every day and out there in the blacksmith shop, but what's going on for you on your homestead? Do I have it right, you're in Missouri? Do I remember that right?

Will: That's correct. Jamie and I are in southern Missouri and it is springtime here and we are very busy. It is definitely garden tool season, so I'm in the shop turning out tools as fast as I can. But aside from that, the grass is growing faster than we can keep up with it. We're trying to get gardens in, planting seeds every chance we get, fixing fence. And aside from that, there's a lot of homesteader type tasks we're doing. But also, it's morel mushroom season. They're delicacies that we only get for a little short window. We spend a lot of spare time looking for those and the white baths are just starting to run. The water temperature's finally come up just enough that that is on and that's... it's not all work, we get our play in, but if we can forage for those mushrooms and we can put 10 or 15 pounds of fish in the freezer every time we go to the lake, that counts as work and homestead chores, too.

Josh: Oh, man. I love it, I love it when we combine some productivity with something that we're having fun at and having a good time. I mean, it's fun to get out there and we're a little behind you here up in North Idaho, so the morels aren't quite popping up yet, but that's just fun to get out there and look for those things and be in the woods, and that's my kind of work. I like it. Cool. Well, you talked about the garden and you talk about mending fences. Do you guys have animals there on your property?

Will: We're working with that goal in mind. We've had a few animals over the years, here and there, I grew up with a background in large animal husbandry. Yeah, the one thing I did learn from my previous experience with animals is we're trying to set ourselves up in such a way that we're not completely married to them 24/7. Like I mentioned, we would love to be able to pick a fine day when we're not to busy and take off and spend a couple days kayaking on the river. And so, that's the goal we're working on as far as fence and animals now, is having ourselves situated so we've got good, tight fence, we're not worried about them, their water situation is good and it's real easy for a neighbor to come by and pop in and a scoop of this in that bucket and a scoop of that in that bucket and they got water and we're free and clear to go chase fish or do whatever other fun stuff off the property we want to do.

Josh: Well, you're doing it right and that is getting your infrastructure and you systems in place before you get the animals and that's something we share with people a lot and it's not something we've always done well. A lot of us, as homesteaders, get going and we go and get the animals and get a lot of stuff going before we're really ready for them and I'm actually reading through Joel Salatin's Polyface Micro right now and he talks about that and some good reminders. If things are going to work well for you and you're going to do this, you need to get your systems into place and, of course, fences is key to getting those up and running before you get those animals in there, so that's good. That is really, really good. And then, once they come in, you're rolling and you got a good system in place and you're not chasing animals all over the woods or through the neighbors property.

Will: Right.

Josh: Well, cool man. It sounds like-

Will: I've done plenty of that.

Josh: Yeah, yeah. That kills a lot of time and sometimes, now, we're then fixing somebody else's fences and who knows what else. Well, that sounds good. That sounds like good work there, good spring homesteading work. And let's jump in for a second. We've got a question here and it's kind of a funny one. I don't know if either of us will be able to answer it, but this is what they gave me and it's a fun discussion anyway. So this question is from Jerry Russell from a while back here and it says, "Would an ox be less costly than a horse?" And I think we were talking about working animals on the farm and, honestly, I can't answer there. There are just not a lot of people working with ox these days and I know ox have a certain value and can be a lot calmer than a horse and a lot more steady and can even pull them more. I mean, it depends on what kind of horse you're talking about. But I would have no idea on a cost analysis. Anybody in your area work with oxes or have you ever been exposed to that?

Will: Not that I'm aware of. I would agree with you on all of those above points. And I would definitely agree that if you're talking about horses, cost is a factor. I grew up horseback and they're expensive, almost to a point of... I think you could really debate, depending on animal power on the homestead versus petroleum or other alternatives I don't know how much cheaper it actually is in the long run, horses can get pretty expensive, oxen I don't know. I suspect if you're working them, just like a horse, they're going to need to be shod and I don't know where you're going to get oxen shod these days. I think that'd be a pretty specialized bit of work.

Josh: It sounds like it, yeah. And I think that the value we can pull out of that question as far as what's more costly, one or the other, and it's exactly what you mentioned is what work are you doing with them, and like you, I spent a lot of my youth, matter of fact, Carolyn and I originally dated and hung out riding horseback, moving cattle out in the woods and everything, so I know horses pretty well. And we've had them some years. We don't have any right now, just for that reason, because they're expensive and what are they going to do for you on the homestead. We may be getting one and I'm trying to answer that question, because I've got some kids that really, really want a horse, and I've always said they've got to be producing something, they can't just be out in pasture and getting ridden a couple times a week. We can't justify that cost.

So whether it's an ox or a horse, it's like, what work is it going to do for you? You've got all the inputs to those animals, but what are they accomplishing, because if you're just using them once in a while, either of them are going to be expensive and are going to be something you got to take care of and you got to feed. And so, I think you got to go into it really thinking about how do they fit into your farm, your homestead, what are you going to do with them, and certainly there's places for pleasure and having an animal that fits the bill and if that's your recreation, we're I'll spend some money on that, so great, but you got to just think about that cost analysis, in my opinion, whatever you do, and make sure that the benefit, the return on that investment, so to speak, is worth it.

Will: Yeah. I recall a book a read, but I think like many of us heading towards a homesteading lifestyle, I read every book out there, anything even remotely close to the topic, I devoured it. There's about 57 books titled The Good Life in the homesteading genre, I think, maybe more. But one of those was a guy had lived with the Amish and had done a college thesis on life with the Amish and one of the little bits in there that I took away from it was he had a bit of an argument with them about the horses.

One of their biggest outlays of labor every year was harvesting grain and the grain was for the horses and they had to have the horses to harvest the grain, so he posed the question of, "Well, why don't you just get rid of the horses? You wipe out all that labor of harvesting the grain that you have to feed the horses." And I think some of the elders got together and they powwowed and they came back to him and finally they said, "We like our horses and we want you to stop asking questions about our horses." So yeah, they really like that horses and that evened it out.

Josh: Yeah, yeah. Well, and that worked for them. There's definitely a place for that, so again it comes down to whatever animal it is, really whatever tool it is, whatever machine it is, because now we're using machines mostly and I do like the idea of having some animal backup and people think, "Well, it's good to have a backup." The fuel's getting expensive or what if it gets hard to get and those are realistic discussions, but you still got to feed that animal, you got to maintain it. And so, if we're having problems with machinery, you're going to have problems with getting hay, because you're not the only one having that problem. So really, it's a mentality of just think it through and how does it work for you and how are you going to survive different situations and what's the benefit it brings to your homestead, whether that's work or pleasure and is the cost justifiable, whether it's an ox, a horse again, or a tractor or whatever, that's the question I think we got to ask ourselves.

So good thought, Jerry Russell there, thanks for asking that question and if you do get an ox and put it to work, we'd love to see some pictures, because I've had an interest. I've always thought that would be cool to have a pair of ox and be able to work in the woods with them and get stuff done. It's just an efficient use of my time at this point in my life.

Will: Josh, to add to that, maybe a resource to answer his question would be Rural Heritage. It's a program on RFD television and they publish a magazine and put out a calendar and he covers a broad variety of topics, but most all of is draft animal drive, mules and donkeys, heavy draft horses. If anybody's going to have anything to say about working oxen or know who would, it would be Joe Mischka at Rural Heritage.

Josh: Wow, good thinking, Will. That's right. I haven't looked at that in a long time, but that's a great resource and we'll see if we can get a link down below for you guys, to get you over to that real quick. But don't go yet, because we're going to finish the show here and we're going to dive into talking about tools and tools are an important part of every homestead and there's nothing worse and, honestly, more expensive than a tool that breaks on you regularly.

And this is one of the things I love about what Will does, he's making some fantastic tools for us out here working on the homestead or in your garden, wherever you're at, that are just going to hold up for you, so well in fact that, I think, if you take care of them, you're going to be passing them on. And that is a really important value. So I want to dive in a little bit and, Will, before we talk about just your tools, tell us a little bit just about your background and how you got into blacksmithing and making these tools and starting Homestead Iron.

Will: You bet. I came into blacksmithing, honestly, I'm fourth generation smith, so I started working with it early on with my dad and my grandfather as a hobby. It was never a profession for my dad, he was a machinist and a welder, but the blacksmithing shop was always a part of it and I had access to that and learned a bit about the basics when I was young and then took off in life and did a little bit of everything else, heavy equipment operator, I cowboyed for a living, kind of ended my professional career, if you will, as an aircraft maintenance guy. I was a mechanic and then director of maintenance and maintenance supervisor for many years for a small airline. The blacksmithing for a living came about with the desire to get out of the city. I love my profession working aviation maintenance, but I also knew I was going be a reasonable commute of a major metropolitan airport for the rest of life and it just wasn't where I wanted to be.

I wanted to be farther from town, have a little more security and space around me, be able to... just like the rest of us, I wanted a bigger garden, I wanted to be able to be a little bit more self-sufficient. Hard to do that in the suburbs, so I came full circle back around to blacksmithing, picked it up as a profession. And then, what I really initially wanted to do was break into the artisan blacksmith market. There was a time I would've liked to have been doing cathedral gates and architectural detail and things like that, but tools snuck up on me and kind of took over. I was like everybody else, you mentioned it earlier, these designed obsolescent tools that you buy them and they break, they fall apart and then you begin to realize they just don't perform well either, even if they stay together, their performance is terrible. Either they're uncomfortable to hold or they're not long enough, there's many reasons.

But I started making my own. At that time, I was making a few knives. I still make a few knives, but I had access to some really great high-carbon steel and really that was kind of catalyst there is once I started making a couple of my own tools out of really good high-carbon steel, that kind of changed everything and I realized we don't have to put up with this junk that is available out there and I made some tools for myself. And then, the next thing you know, the neighbor is like, "Hey, wow. Where'd you get those?," and some for them. It started organically and as I progressed, just kept getting more and more interested in the tools and now that's just what we do. We make garden tools and I'm thrilled to do that. It was a niche things that wasn't being fulfilled and I'm happy to find myself there.

Josh: Yeah, I think you're the guy to fulfill it and that is a great story and I want to take a detour just for a minute, because you relayed a story that a lot of people are experiencing right now in that transition from out in the regular world, you were doing mechanics and a lot of people are doing things and they're trying to figure out how to get to the homestead and a little close to the land, and a lot people think you need to go farm and make a living farming in order to do that, you've got to raise chickens or you got to do a market garden. And I think you're a great example, your story, of there are a lot of different things you can do.

To get out to the land and be working close to the land, it doesn't all have to be directly farm related, reducing food or raising animals. And you got to find what your skillset is and what your niche is and you took both your history and your family and your skillset and you were able to bring that home and create a life for yourself and I think that's really encouraging to a lot of people, to be able to do that and figure out that pathway with your interests and you background. You didn't just have to go and start doing pasture chickens or a market garden or something. You found a way that works real well for you and that's really neat, because a lot of people are trying to figure that out.

Will: I've kind of done it both ways. Early on I was still working as a maintenance professional in the aviation industry while I was living in a 20 foot teepee, building a cabin, trying to grow a garden in the rainforest out in Oregon. I've woke up in a teepee and showered off under a can real quick and threw on a suit and tie and caught a plane to a maintenance meeting halfway across the country. Whereas, now, I feel a lot more self-sufficient in that I'm not able to grow as big a garden as I used to then, but I don't have to go anywhere. I make my living right here on this piece of property and we're dependent on the internet and all the other technology here, to be able to do it, but I'm home.

Josh: Man, and that's a blessing, isn't it? Very, very cool.

Will: Yes.

Josh: Well, cool. Let's talk about these tools a little bit. I've been using your tools for a couple years now and I couldn't say enough good things about them. They hold up well, they work well. You're long-handled tools have a proper long handle. I'm not bending over, breaking my back and getting sort. So just tell me a little bit about what sets your tools apart from the rest. What are you doing to put that value into these and make these things where they're working so well?

Will: One of the things I'd mention, definitely is a little bit of forethought. First off, I care and I've gone through multiple iterations of each tool trying to tweak it and modify it and get the angles just right and make it as light as it can be and still be as strong as it can be. But probably one of the biggest things that sets me apart is the actual steel I use and that's not something you can look and see. Good quality, high-carbon steel looks exactly like 1018 structure steel. Most of the tools you find in the big box store today, Josh, there's nothing wrong with that metal if it was a car fender or a toaster, but it's not tool steel. There's an enormous difference. I'll paraphrase this, because I know it's not direct quote, somebody will call me out on it, but we're pretty close on these numbers, the 1075 spring steel that I use for my tools, well, we'll say 1018 mild steel, tensile strength on that is about 75,000 psi. The 1075 that I use is 285,000 psi, so it's an enormous difference and sitting side by side they look identical. You can't tell them apart.

Josh: So translate for us, because a lot of people aren't going to know the numbers, psi, pounds per square inch, and obviously one's tougher than the other, but what does that look like using that tool? What's the difference between those metals?

Will: Ductility and edge-retention, just overall hardness. The higher carbon content and they higher grade high-carbon steel allows for a harder steel. It's going to be stronger and tougher overall. It's superior edge retention. If you've got a sharp edge on there, that high-carbon steel is what you need to hold that. A lot of these tools you find on the shelf now, they're performance is poor, because they do not have an edge ground on them, they're just a blunt, squared-off edge. And even if you ground an edge, you wouldn't be able to maintain it, because they're soft, mild steel. It's structure steel, like I said, it's for making car fenders and toasters. It's not designed, chemically, for good edge retention and abrasion resistance.

Josh: Yeah, okay. So it's a lot harder, it's going to stay a lot sharper, and I think one of things I've experienced a lot is just broken handles, especially with some of the smaller tools, they just break and they bend easier, so that's part of that hardness of that steel, too, right?

Will: Right. Handle attachment is a big issue, but yeah, a lot of them, it comes down to mostly that material selection first, and then good workmanship next and just good practice, good procedure, using quality material.

Josh: Tell us a little bit about you're using all wood handles, which I love. There's just nothing like the feel of wood in your hand and they seem to hold up better to me, I don't know that I can really make that argument from some of the modern stuff, but you might be able to speak into that a little bit. But I love the wood handles.

Will: Absolutely. I am right there with you, and the thing I can say right off the bat, hopefully this will show... this is one of my primary forging hammers, I use this hammer every day. It's in my hand constantly and I love that wood handle. There nothing that feels better on your hand. Your hands are really an amazing thing the way they're designed to grip and hold all the creases of your hands, fold together, and create these little pockets that grip. It's one of the big things I talk to people, initially, in a blacksmithing class. You should never have a glove on your hammer hand. Your hand is made to grip that smooth wood. If you have a glove on that's in between you and the hammer, for one, you're deadening your sense of feel that the handle is providing you feedback that you're losing, and you're having to grip tighter than you should have to. That leather or whatever that glove is will not grip the way that microscopic ridges and pores on your palm will grip.

And so, pretty soon, you're going to kill your forearm trying to hold onto that thing with a glove on. And the same thing goes, Josh, when we get into... I know you've seen hammer handles that look like this, they have a plastic or fiberglass handle and it's got these soft cushy ridges in there and when you're in the store and you grab it and you feel it in your hand, you think, "Man, I can really grip that thing, this should be perfect." And the reality of it is, is all that difference in texture between the harder plastic and the softer plastic, that creates a little pinch point on your hand, you'll chew your hands up in no time.

I got a pretty good amount of callous on my hands from hammering and it's specific to hammering, I know that because if I switch to another task where I'm putting pressure on a different point on my hand, I can still raise a blister on my hand, even right next to a callous that I'd have to take a spice grater to grate it down and keep it under control, I'll blister right next to it when I do something else. But anyway, my point was, don't fall for gimmicks and widgets. You can't beat a good, smooth, well-manufactured wood handle. These textured plastic ones, they look good, but they're going to tear up your hands over time.

Josh: Yeah, they just don't hold up and I've never really thought about that, but I relate intuitively to what you're saying about that wood in your hand and not having a glove. I often don't wear a glove just because of what you said, and I don't know that I've ever even though it through a whole lot, but it just never felt right. A lot tools don't feel right in my hand if I've got gloves on and they don't feel right in those plastic handles or metal handles. The wood just seems to fit to your hand and grip well and it's a lot nicer tool to work with. And so, you're putting all this together, this wood and iron to just make a tool that lasts, that holds up well, it does the job well and it's comfortable to use, I think.

Will: You reach back and think back to folks who used these tools that were rediscovering now, today, for a living, the classics were classics for a reason. Grandma and grandpa didn't have plastic widgety kind of handles, they just had tools that worked and we don't need to go reinventing the wheel on a hoe. Our great-grandparents had that one right years ago, just wood and steel and good workmanship is hard to beat. We don't need a marketing gimmick to resell us on something new.

Josh: Yeah. Amen to that. Tell us a little bit about tool maintenance, because a lot of these tools we're talking about are made to throw away, these plastic... really, so much of our stuff today is throw away stuff and you can't sharpen it or if you can, it's not going to hold an edge or if it's plastic and you leave it out it's eventually going to crack and break and fall apart on you and they're really throw away products where, what you're making is a product that's made to last and it's got the materials in it, it's got the thought about it for usability, of holding up, but you do need to take care of them. Plastic's just plastic, you're just going to put it away or do whatever you do with it. These tools need a little bit of attention to work right for you over the years, but then they're going to work right for you decade after decade, not just for a year or two, so tell us a little bit about your tools, what needs to be maintained both in the metal and the wood and just tool care in general.

Will: Sure. The number one thing, if you did absolutely nothing else ever just put them up out of the rain and direct sunlight when you're done. Even if you didn't rinse them off, if you did absolutely nothing else, just don't leave them laying in the wet grass when you're done and you'll triple their lifespan just with that. Next tier of care, having them in a little garden shed, a good place to hang them where you can keep them organized. I love having shadow box type of stuff so you can tell, at a glance if something's missing. The thing that's going to go first on any of them will be the wood handle. So a little bit of linseed oil or tung oil, just a good wood oil on that handle a couple of times a year, if you get any rough spots, a little bit of sandpaper, dust them off with some sandpaper.

Maybe a couple times of year, in the fall, before you put them up, give them a light sand and then a good liberal coat of linseed oil on them and spend some time. Rub that linseed oil in with your hands, spend some time working it and, in fact, rub on it until your palm starts to warm up and it'll warm the fibers in the wood, the pores in the wood that'll warm the oil and it'll penetrate better. If you just put a heavy coat of linseed oil on there, and lay it down, it'll kind of dry out and make your handle tacky, but spend a little time and rub that oil in real good a couple times a year and that'll... nutrition isn't the right word for it, but your wood needs a little bit of moisture and hydration, it needs that oil replaced.

And then, another trick that I really liked that was sent to me by one of our customers was she used a bucket of sand by her shed to clean her tools off. When she was done she would just dunk them in that sand and it cleaned her tools off before she hung them up. So yeah, store your tools somewhere where they're not sitting in the direct sunlight and they're not getting rained and soaked in water. My tools are all carbon steel and they will rust, which most of the time is just superficial in nature. If they do rust, the best way to clean them up is just use them. Most of them will shine right back up with a little bit of use. But yeah, store them inside, keep some linseed oil or a good quality wood oil on that handle a couple times a year, keep them clean, keep them dry. And then, occasionally, depending on your usage, we're down in the Ozarks, we got lots of rocks we make sparks when we garden, so our blades need to be sharpened more often than somebody that's got soft, loamy, sandy soil.

I get asked often, "How often do I need to sharpen my tool?," and I have no way to answer that, because it depends on how you're using it and what your soil's like. But when you do need to sharpen your tool. I suggest a file. You can get your tool and a file. I draw the tamper on my tools just enough that a good, sharp, crisp, new file will cut them. If you've got an old file that's starting to get a little bit slick, you won't make a dent in them, because they are pretty hard. You have to have a good, crisp file to cut them and get them in a vise where they're not going to vibrate and all that. Also, everybody asks me, "Can I grind on them?" You can, but here's the problem with grinding, you have to be very judicious and be very careful just like a knife, my tools are high-carbon steel and it's the same if you got a good ax of any kind of cutting tool. It's going to be high-carbon steel, it's going to be hardened and tempered, which is all a function of heat control.

You can get on a grinder and grind that edge. I'm sure, Josh, you've seen this, running a grinder, you start to see colors show up in the bright metal you're grinder, those oxide colors of kind of straw and purple. There's a little rainbow. Once you start to see those colors, you have lost your temper and that what that means, that where the phrase comes from, you've effectively softened your metal from getting it too hot. So you can grind on them, but do just a little bit at a time, dunk it in some water a little bit at a time and you are running that risk, all the time of getting it to hot and losing your temper on your tool and softening it.

Josh: And with grinding, I've found that it can be hard to keep your edge consistent and the bevel consistent. There's a lot of things you can do to a tool, especially to a knife that's a little more honed in, but even some of these tools that, I get it done, I can get it done on the homestead, but you got to be careful, because if you're not being careful there, you can just start to reshape the tool, as well, in a way that you don't really want to. So it sounds to me like, most of the time, your tools, they're hard enough if you just keep an edge on them with that file, and don't try to hammer rocks with them too much, I mean, sometimes you can't help it if you got a lot of rocks in your garden, but use them for the right purpose and you shouldn't have to be grinding on them too much.

Let's see here. I wanted to ask you while you were talking about using that oil, one of the things I do, just to save a few bucks, we've always got a lot or lard or tallow, and so I use one of those, often, on my handles, just because I have a lot of it, and I'm usually got a little tung oil or linseed oil around as well, but that's a lot more expensive. In my experience, it's held up pretty good. Is that a viable option for people, as far you're concerned or anything wrong with that?

Will: I do not see why that would be a problem, especially given that's something I'm assuming you're producing extremely locally. Linseed oil is $27 a gallon now. It is a substantial cost, enough so that I treat all my tools in linseed oil, I don't like to spray a chemical coating on them. I put linseed oil on them, it keeps the rust off on the shelf, but at the end of the day, at $27, $30 a gallon for linseed oil now, it's getting pretty steep. For someone who's just treating their fleet of garden tools and hand tools a couple of times a year, well, then you're only down to maybe a quart of linseed oil, so you're probably paying an even higher premium buying in that smaller quantity for it. Yeah, I would think your lard or your locally produced oil, anything you got, is going to be better than nothing.

Josh: Yep, well good. That's good to know, because that's how I approach it. I mean, we harvest animals every year and Carolyn always renders the lard and the tallow. I tend to use tallow a little more, just because we don't care for consuming the tallow, as much, the flavor of it and the consistency of it. But I'll use either, depending on what we have on hand. I actually did a video not to long ago, we'll link to it, you guys, that demonstrates exactly what you were talking about, Will, and just sanding that handle down and rubbing the oil in. I didn't rub it in quite as much as you're talking about, but that's a real easy process to do and it's actually really enjoyable to enjoy the grain and the natural features of the wood when you're doing that. To me, it's a very relaxing, nice chore to do when I get to condition those handles.

Will: I always enjoy putting the oil on the handles, that last step, because my handles always look kind of pale and white and blank and plain and as soon as you rub that oil in, all the different colors of the wood and the different grain, all the figure and you see all the detail of the wood just pops right out. It really comes to life with a coat of that oil.

Josh: Yeah, yeah. Very good. Well, and you do those things and these tools are going to last you forever. And one of the things I want to get to before we wrap up, and we're getting close to that, is your tools do come with a price, they're not going to be as cheap as some other tools and there's a couple different sayings out there, one is quality's not expensive, it's priceless. Another one, price is what you pay, value is what you get. And so, just tell us a little bit about that value to the price of your tools. I personally believe it's why it's worth it. I've told our audience why I think your tools are worth it, but I'd like to hear it from you, because it's there, it's a good, in fact, it's a great price, what your selling, for the value of what you get and that's important for people to know and understand.

Will: Yeah, and I think that's two-fold, Josh, in that you're getting your value in two ways. You're going to get a tool that lass much longer. So let's say, for example, you pay $15 for a lesser tool that breaks in a year and you replace it every year and you're a gardener for 10 years, you're at $150 for this one tool, where you could've bought one from us, that I guarantee for life, for $40. It is substantially more, but you advertise that price over time, and you're looking pretty good then. The price per usage goes down considerably. The next thing you have to try to quantify there is for the one year that that $15 or that lesser tool did stay together for you, it didn't work very well. It took you twice as long to do the same job that a well-designed tool, something maybe with a little more heft, a little more weight that will swing and pendulum, it's nice and sharp, it'll cut.

You can do the same amount of work in half the time, so there's the other half of that coin. You're going to get a tool that lasts longer and not only that, it's going to outperform that other one, hands down. Probably one of my favorite examples for that is my Gränsfors Bruk's ax. I'm always keen to plug them. I think they're one of the greatest success stories of businesses out there. They're a forge that's been around forever. I love their story and I love their product. I paid $130 to $150, I forget exactly what I paid for my little Gränsfors Bruk's ax. I would pay double that instantly, in a heartbeat, if I had to. I don't remember what I paid, it doesn't matter. That was 30 some years ago and that ax is still like brand new. Not only performs flawlessly every time I pick it up, it's got a soul. It was made by a human being with a ton of skill and every time I touch it, I admire and appreciate KS, I don't know who that is, but some guy in Sweden with the initials KS did a fine job on that ax and I've admired his work for the last 30 years.

Josh: Well, and that's just it. In the long-run, you're actually saving money. As homesteaders, as people that are getting back to the land, that's a thinking that we need to make sure and embrace, because we're thinking the long-term, we're not just thinking right now. We're putting a lot of effort into our life, a lot of times, into our families, to what we're doing for not just short-term gain, but for long-term gain and so we've got to realize sometimes that the value is over time. But in the end, something like what you're making is actually a lot less expensive and a lot higher value. And so, with that, we got to wrap up here, but Will, what's the best way for people to get in touch with you and get more familiar with your tools and Homestead Iron?

Will: You can find us online at homesteadiron.com. That is our website, that's our primary sales portal, our store. And Jamie's there at [email protected] That's our email. She's happy to answer all your questions and that's our primary contact, is our homesteadiron.com store and email is [email protected]

Josh: Very cool, Will. Well, you guys, I will leave links. We'll leave links down there in the post for you guys, so you can go check them out. It's a good time to be getting set up for spring and, Will, thanks for hanging out with me today here in the preservation kitchen and just hope you guys have a fantastic spring, the gardens grow well, and it's just been great hanging with you guys.

Will: You too, Josh. We appreciate you coming to talk to us. Thank you so much and we'll be looking forward to seeing you guys get your garden started up there. I always feel a little... we're down here enjoying warm weather and new leaves, and I know you're in the snow up there.

Josh: Yep, yep. We haven't even got the peas in yet. Hopefully this next weekend. It has been a longer, cooler spring than even normal for here in north Idaho, but we're about to get to it.

Will: Excellent. Well, thanks again, Josh. We really appreciate you guys.

Josh: You, as well. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Pantry Chat: Food for Thought. If you've enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate, and review.

Speaker 3: To view the show notes and any other resources mentioned on this episode you can learn more at homesteadingfamily.com/podcast.

Josh: We'll see you soon.

Speaker 3: Goodbye.

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