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Care and maintenance of a fork

Shop for Garden Forks

Caring for your hand tools will help to avoid injuries and unnecessary expenditure in the long run. Look after your tools and the favour will be returned!

After every use

Clean your fork

First remove any soil or debris from your fork.  Use a garden hose over a drain to wash it down. For stubborn, caked on mud, use a wire brush or coarse steel wool. Allow to dry completely to prevent rusting.

Chemical fertiliser will corrode metal If you have been using your fork in a chemical fertiliser, clean it thoroughly. Chemicals will corrode any metal parts.
A space-saving rack that attaches to walls in most locations

Store your tools properly

Store your fork in a secure, dry environment and try not to leave it outside. If it is possible, keep your fork and other hand tools on a rack for easy access and safety. However you decide to store your tools, don’t forget to use an anti-corrosion treatment on a regular basis. This process is the same for shovels, so for more information, please see our section: Once a year – Preserve your hand shovel

Every six months – Inspect the fork for any damage

Cracked and splintered wood

Check shaft and handle grip (especially if wooden)

Wooden shafts and handle grips should be smooth and free from nicks. If they are not, they could break easily if not regularly maintained.

If the shaft is loose or cracked, it will need replacing. See our section: How to replace the shaft

Sand the wood along the grain

Sand to remove splinters or nicks

Use a medium to coarse grade piece of sandpaper if the imperfections are large.

Sand along the grain in one direction only then dust off any sawdust.  Finish with a fine grade sandpaper for the final touch. Now apply a finishing oil such as linseed oil to nourish the wood. Please see: Preserve your fork below.

Rusty screws and joins

Check rivets or screws

Tighten any loose joins in the socket connecting the blade to the shaft and replace rusty rivets.

Naval jelly dissolves rust from most metal surface

Remove any rust on the tines

Coat the rusty sections in a penetrating or lubricating oil and scrub off with a wire brush or fine steel wool using firm, downward strokes.

Remove the rusty residue with a cloth then wash with warm water and allow to dry.

An example of a broken tine

Check for any deformed tines

The most common damage to forks is bending or snapping of the tines. If the tines are snapped, the tool should be discarded.

Bent tines can be straightened with a sledgehammer, but a considerable force may be required as the tines are springy and flexible so it is recommended that this is avoided altogether. Look for solid socket forks to prevent this kind of damage.

Once a year (e.g at the end of the gardening season) – Preserve your fork 

Before storing your tools for an extended period, treat the tines and any wooden shafts to prevent rusting and/or splintering when the fork is put to use again.
Applying a penetrating oil to the head of a fork

Treat the tines

Make sure the head is clean and dry.  File away any nicks in the edge of the tines with a hand file or rasp.

Then apply a coating of lubricating oil over the whole of the head with a soft cloth. You can also use a penetrating oil or spray with WD40. Then allow to dry.

Applying a penetrating oil to the handle

Treat wooden shaft

Sand the wood with a fine grade sandpaper to smooth out any splinters and rough areas. Brush off the sawdust.

Dip a soft cloth in a finishing oil such as linseed oil and then apply a coat to the shaft.  Leave to absorb for 15 minutes before wiping off any excess.  Make sure you do this, as any residue will not fully cure (or ‘dry’) and will feel sticky.

Allow time to dry Leave for 24 hours to dry before applying a second coat.

These are just guidelines and you should check with the manufacturers’ instructions before use.