After years of use, the wooden handle of my English gardening trowel has lost its coat of green paint. What’s the best way to replace this finish?
Courtney Johnson, Eugene, OR
Garrett Hack, a woodworker in Thetford Center, Vermont, replies: Renewing the paint on your trowel handle should be easy. First, wash it well with a soft brush and soap to get rid of any dirt lodged in the pores of the wood, especially where the paint is chipped or worn away. Let it dry for a couple of days, then sand the entire handle lightly with 120 grit or finer sandpaper. This gives the new paint something to adhere to and smooths out any rough spots that might cause blisters.
Then recoat the handle with one or two coats of an oil-based paint, following the instructions on the can. When the paint is dry, rub the handle lightly with very fine steel wool lubricated with a little boiled linseed oil, and you’ll get a wonderfully silky patina.
However, my first choice would be to sand or scrape away as much of the old finish as possible and leave the handle natural. I prefer the feel of a wooden handle, and the little maintenance it requires. A few coats of boiled linseed oil is a good finish. Rough areas can be smoothed with 150 grit or finer sandpaper. Then, to keep your handle silky smooth, once or twice a year wipe on a generous coating of oil. Let it soak in a few minutes, and wipe off any excess.