How to Stop Chisels From Rusting. Why Clean When you Could Build?


So you have the most beautiful set of brand new chisels. The steel is gleaming, the wood on the handle is smooth, nick-free, and they fit perfectly into your hands. You want to take care of them, and your biggest challenge, depending on where you live, is to keep them from rusting.  

How to stop chisels from rusting? To stop chisels from rusting, pay attention to the climate (particularly avoiding humidity), store your chisels in a dry and enclosed area free of humidity and wood dust. Be sure to tidy up your work area and apply a coat of oil to your chisels, whether they are new or antiques.

If you are on this page, likely, you have already taken a great first step in caring for your tools, and that means preventing problems rather than simply treating them. Like anything else worth having, tools need to be properly cared for to have a long life of use. Continue reading to discover the best practices to keep your chisels from rusting.

How Do You Keep Your Chisels From Rusting?

You might pick up a chisel for your next project and notice rust. The unsightly scene of rust has begun to creep its way onto your favorite tool. This leads you down the path of ensuring that this does not happen to the remaining chisels in your workshop.

So, how do you keep your chisels from rusting? The best way to keep your chisels from rusting is to practice four main steps, including paying attention to the climate, storing your chisels in a dry area, tidying up your work area, and coating and keeping your chisels moisturized.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these components for how to stop your woodworking chisels from rusting.

Pay Attention to the Climate that you Store Your Chisels

Humidity ruins so many things – your hair, an enjoyable evening outside, life. Too dramatic? Alright, humidity might not be that bad, but it is what you should consider the evil spawn of Satan when it comes to your tools. That’s right; humidity is your chisel’s worst nightmare.

Humidity is the biggest cause of rust, and if you are leaving your tools in an area exposed to humidity, rust is sure to follow. I know the weather is out of your control, but how you handle it is not.

You are wondering, “How on Earth am I supposed to control something like the weather?” This is completely out of your hands, but you are more than capable of combating it.

Suppose you are working in an area with a consistent temperature or regular climate or working in a more humid place than it is not. Consider working to control your workspace’s climate. This can be done in one easy step: purchase a humidifier.

I know humidifiers are expensive, but look around at your tools. Even more, look down at that chisel set that you love so much. You have all of these items that cost you a fortune over the years. Improper Humidity control also affects your wood.

Although a humidifier is an investment at the time, it will save you plenty of green in the long run. A humidifier is a practical decision to keep your chisels up and going for years to come.

I apologize for not trying to show you random Amazon links to expensive humidifiers. I live in California so don’t need to worry as much about high humidity.

Store Your Chisels in a Dry Area

A humidifier is a great idea, but what if you can go one step further? It is so satisfying to see someone’s tools perfectly displayed on a wall mount, all neat and tidy. Truly, there is nothing that brings me more joy.

However, even if you have the most pristine wall with the greatest humidifier, your tools are still exposed to oxygen and some levels of moisture. I am the last person that wants to see that beautiful wall come down, but hear me out here. For your chisels, they need to be in an area that is sealed off from the world.

This may seem like some high school satire, but they will do best in a relatively airtight and extremely climate-controlled place. What does this mean for you? It means removing that beautiful set of chisels from your wall and storing them in an existing toolbox. I know it seems almost cruel to put away something so beautiful, but go ahead and humble your chisels.

Storing them in a toolbox with a tight lid or a tightly closed drawer will help them maintain their shine and function. You can also go a step further and add silica gel packs to keep water vapor from accumulating on your tools.

Mothballs can also help by giving off a gas that works against oxidation. These are just additives to a system that keeps your tools locked tight, so use them as an additional measure rather than a solution of their own.

Again, pay attention to your climate when considering this step. If you live in a dry area or maintain a dry environment in your woodworking shop, this step might not be necessary. But, if you live in the heart of humidity, then it is time to at least think about this.

Tidy Up Your Work Area to Prevent Dust Buildup on Your Chisels

Many of you who are working with chisels are likely working with wood. Wood is wonderful. It can be found in any home, building, office, playground, boat, and one million other places.

However, working with wood means one thing: dust. Dust may not seem like a big deal, but it is the mastermind of deterioration when it comes to your tools. “How can something so natural and so lovely be so destructive, you say?” Three words: wood absorbs water.

If humidity is your enemy, then, unfortunately, due to dust’s absorptive qualities, dust is your enemy as well. When water is absorbed through dust and dust remains on your chisels regularly, or for extended periods of time, this means your chisels are regularly subjected to water exposure. Water exposure means rust, and you have to control it.

For you, this means keeping your workplace tidy and clean. No, I do not mean simply sweeping the floor every few weeks. I mean intentionally cleaning off your chisels after every session in your work area.

Using your tools is a surefire way to keep them clean, but if you are not using your chisels regularly, they need to be cleaned on a strop or cloth that has a bit of oil on it. If you are serious about tools, I am sure you can find an oil-soaked rag with no problem.

Coat and Keep Your Chisels Moisturized

This may seem like an oxymoron that I would advise to coat your chisels in something that will keep them moisturized after going on and on about how bad moisture is for your tools.

Before you lose faith in me, though, hear me out. There are oils out there that are non-oxidizing. What exactly does this mean? It means that they are oils that will keep your tools well moisturized without causing them to rust. Magic, I know.

Mineral oils are great for this, and there is a slew of options out there; be sure to check that they are, in fact, non-oxidizing. Coat a light film on the surface of your chisels and wipe away any excess.

Once you are done, you can pretty much leave them and forget it. Lucky for you, oil is one of those things that keeps on working without you having to invest much time and effort into the process.

I want to add a word of caution here, though. When you have oil, you have an intrinsically moisture-filled surface, no matter how much of it you wipe away.

Because of this, adding oils to your tools means that you are making them more prone to being riddled with dust due to moisture attracting dust. If you are using oil but are not storing your chisels in an airtight space unreachable to wood dust, you are only accelerating the rusting process.

Therefore, this step is a bit of a “this AND that” type of step. Using oil to keep your chisels glistening from the inside out is a fantastic way to keep them from going brown, but you have to do a little leg work along with it.

Even if you do not have a big tool chest, simply find some sort of airtight container that you can evenly lay your chisels in and you will have no trouble keeping the oil away from any dust. Keep those chisels shiny and keep them working!

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