I’m not a fan of the “strip it off and start over” method when it comes to restoring tools. Especially when it’s something I really want to keep as close to original as possible
Let’s take for instance these Toledo chisels that were my Dad’s, at least before I decided they should live at my place. They lived in his garage for 35 years, used occasionally, and subject to the moisture and salt air of the area.
Once I cleaned up the blades with a soft brass brush, they looked much better, but what to do about the handles?. I really like the connection to Dad that I feel when I use something he’s used for so many years, and didn’t want to destroy that.
In the end, I used fine grade (0000) steel wool to gently remove the dirt without destroying too much of the character and feel. I then coated them with boiled linseed oil, let it dry, used the steel wool again, then finished with a coat of liquid beeswax, which buffs up beautifully when dry. You can see the difference between the top one which hasn’t been touched and the bottom one which is finished. They look like they are well loved but well looked after now, and I love to use them.
Motto of this story – sometimes you can get fantastic results without heavy handed methods. Let the old tools show the scars they have earnt over the years.