I have had several questions as to how to safely store chisels so they don’t rust.
Here along the coast of SC, there is a real issue with humidity. I have had students who bought really nice shiny new tools, bought a beautiful tool roll, and packed them away in storage after the class. 6 months later, they decided to take the gouges out of the roll to do some carving and there are little rust spots all over the metal. I am assuming that the reason for this is there was moisture in the tool roll, and it was basically locked in a nice cozy, humid, mildewy atmosphere. This may not be so much of an issue in other parts of the country, but any humidity caught in the cloth can create this issue.
I keep some of my gouges in a hanging cabinet with magnets that hold the tools. My clever husband was the one who designed that. He bought several long magnets (I think they were for holding knives) and attached 3 of them to the back of the cabinet – one above each other (I think about 10 inches apart – but this really depends on the lengths of your gouges). The magnet is strong enough so it holds the tool tight, and weak enough so when I tip the tool, it pulls off easily. Make sure the magnets are far enough away from each other so there is at least an inch or so between each level of chisel – to protect the tools, and also your fingers. I position each of the gouges just far enough apart to be able to reach my fingers around them safely, and also so the blades don’t hit one another.
The rest of my gouges (you can never have too many) are just on a basic shelf. These probably have the most potential of having issues of rust because they are exposed more. The only real issue I have had is when I have created a lot of sawdust in my shop and have neglected to clean off the gouges afterwards. The dust must have moisture in it, and can make marks on the tools – nothing so far that actually goes deep into the metal, but there is real potential of rust if you leave a lot of dust. Maybe the dust actually attracts moisture? Not sure on that one.
If you store them in a box, a good idea is to get a bag of silica (the kind you find in vitamin bottles to keep moisture out) and put this in the box. I am sure there are suppliers who sell larger bags of silica, but haven’t researched this. Packaging store maybe? Office supply store?
To protect the metal in storage, it is a good idea to coat it with something. My husband likes to use silicone tool spray (the kind that you put on table saw and band saws to keep from rusting) for his hand planes, and I am assuming this will also be good for gouges. I haven’t tried this. I generally just take some extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) (remember, my teacher was Greek!) or even mineral oil and put some on a cloth and just wipe them down with this. I don’t leave any visible oil on the metal, as olive oil can get rancid. In fact, most of it is wiped off so you can’t really feel any oil on the surface. I don’t like to grab tools from my supply and have to wipe them off before using them.
I’m sure there are many other techniques and ideas people have. These are just what have worked for me. Please share any other ideas that you have – types of oil? waxes? storage processes?
You really can’t have too many tools!