Masking tape applied along the edges of a joint to be caulked keeps the job neat. Apply and tool the caulking then immediately remove the tape for a nice, tidy result. (Photo by Robert Maxwell)

Masking tape applied along the edges of a joint to be caulked keeps the job neat. Apply and tool the caulking then immediately remove the tape for a nice, tidy result. (Photo by Robert Maxwell)

Houseworks: Unheated spaces can cause tools to rust

Q: How well do woodworking tools survive in an unheated Canadian workshop? I’m mainly concerned about rust.

A: Unheated work spaces in our country often cause tools to rust, but there are ways to stop this trouble. The biggest danger happens in spring when we get warm air moving in suddenly after a cold spell. The tools are still cold from that deep-freeze the night before, but the springtime air today is warm and carries lots of moisture. If this warm air is allowed to come in contact with cold steel tools it triggers condensation on the surface and rust. Preventing warmer air from touching colder tools is key to preventing tool rust.

One solution is to build a wooden tool box to store smaller tools in. This is what I did when I had to work in unheated spaces for years before I built my heated workshop. The box is as big as half a phone booth and the lid fits fairly tightly. Inside I keep a rechargeable moisture-grabbing canister that keeps tools dry between uses and rust-free. The wood of the box acts as a kind of insulator and it absorbs moisture, too.

All this is fine for small tools that can fit in a box, but a table saw, planer or other stationary tools can’t. In this case the best approach is to choose stationary power tools that have minimal cast iron or other rustable surfaces. Regularly wiping a thin coat of oil on surfaces that can rust is about the best you can do but it works.

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Tools stored in unheated garages and sheds will attract condensation and rust unless you take steps to stop it. Prevention includes storing small tools in sealed, wooden boxes, or protecting large ones with paste wax or spray-on grease. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)

Tools stored in unheated garages and sheds will attract condensation and rust unless you take steps to stop it. Prevention includes storing small tools in sealed, wooden boxes, or protecting large ones with paste wax or spray-on grease. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)

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