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Personal Effects

Question: Jerry, during my time in quarantine I took it upon myself to clean out my garage and garden shed. Boy it was a job. Anyway, I had a lot of things from my dad. He was a huge gardener and went to all the garden shows and kept everything perfect. 

I’m not quite like that. I’ve got lots of his old garden tools, hand tools, rakes, hand cultivators and all kinds of sprinkler heads. Should I donate them or use them? Are they are they any count? I’ll try to do whatever you say. Thanks for taking your time in looking at these things.

Answer: To a gardener and many non-gardening collectors you struck the motherlode. The old adage of, “They don’t make them like this anymore,” fits this question perfectly. They really don’t make them like this anymore. 

You shared with me several photos, and due to paper size, I can only show one. However, we’ll talk about a lot of them.

Your hand tools are just great. Things like these are made from high quality steel. Many times, modern tools, even expensive ones, are made from recycled metal. Many people say that it’s still a quality product but it’s a different material from items that were made in the 1920s – 1960s. 

Modern steel doesn’t take or hold an edge like the old things. Old handles were solid hardwood, not plastic. Handles were riveted and NOT glued or stapled onto these cheap handles. The same holds true with cast iron.

Modern cast iron is a good product, but the older things are superior. You mention that they are rusty. No big deal. Unless they’re badly corroded, a little WD-40 and some 0000 steel wool will do wonders. 

For your larger pieces, like shovels, edgers and spades, you might search out someone with a gentle hand and a copper or brass wheel to clean faster. Still use a light oil and be careful, you don’t want to grind anything too thin or damage it. A flat bastard file will sharpen those edges like a knife. These are great things and I would use them every day.

You sent me several photos of copper lawn sprinklers and hose nozzles. I’ve collected these for

years, as do a lot of collectors. You REALLY can’t buy these in a store today. Even high end retailers don’t make them like this anymore. Yes, they are solid copper and brass. They polish like a dream.

Two schools of thought on polishing. Some like the old dark patina and some like the polished gleam.

In this case, either is correct. These water features are great to use. Polished or not. You might have to take a pin and insert into each hole to make sure that they are open. You might also need to put in a new washer. But these can be bought at any hardware store. With those steps, you are ready to water.

Now, pricing is in effect. Older hand tools that are cleaned up might sell for $10 – $20 each.

Larger tools like shovels and the like, I’ve seen priced for $20 to $45 or more. It’s going to depend on what the tool is and just how old it is. Brass nozzles and sprinklers sell for $10 to $25, again depending on size, shape and maker. By the way, most of these things are all made in America.

Thanks for a great question. Now, go forth and garden.