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Amy Balsters

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A Cut Above: Maintaining Your Tools for Profitability

On the blog, I’ve been writing about a key part of floristry: our tools. Just like a good chef knows, tools are the extension of our hands as designers, and it’s important to select the right tools for the job. Just like a carpenter, or a sculptor, or working in a kitchen, the right tools can help you bring your vision to life in a profitable and efficient way. 

When workdays are *so* busy, caring for our tools can be a low priority but, investing in and maintaining our tools is key to working smarter and not harder. In fact, using the right tools can actually save you product, money, and time, and even prevent accidents or chronic pain!

So let’s jump into the final part of the Tools Series!

Tool Selection

First, when selecting a tool, a key tip is to always purchase the lightest weight possible. If you follow along on my social media or have taken a class with me, you might have heard me discuss my chronic pain. After years of designing, I realized that my use of heavy clippers was causing muscle fatigue and arm pain. That’s when I made the switch back to using a knife as my main tool,  as they’re more ergonomic,  much lighter and often a cleaner cut for flower stems.

Lighter tools, whether it’s a knife, shears, or clippers, will reduce the stress your body requires with each snip. When it’s something you do all day, even a little bit of reprieve will have an effect over time. Lighter tools will also help you move faster at the design table, turning out more work in less time which means higher profit and more efficiency. You can see some of my favorite lightweight tools of all types here.

Additionally, when you select tools, I love neutral colors like the photo above but it is very helpful to consider choosing bright colors or add a bright neon color or tape to your tools. Every florist knows the pain of searching through a pile of stems and leaves to find their favorite tool in the trash. Bright colors will stand out when you’re sweeping the floor or clearing your work space, preventing $$$$ from going out with the garbage. Furthermore, consider choosing individual colors or adding initials to tools for each staff member. And if you are a freelancer, make sure you always travel with your own tools, it’s actually the law! 

Tool Sanitization

A regular task in our shops and studios is cleaning and sanitizing buckets and tables but sometimes our tools get left out. Keeping our tools clean prevents bacteria build up and transfer of bacteria onto flowers, especially when processing new flowers into the space.

Keeping bacteria at bay is an important part of flower health and longevity. Unsanitized tools can potentially spread mold, botrytis, and other bacteria to otherwise healthy stems.This cross-contamination can diminish the quality of your blooms, and can result in product and profit loss, especially if you are in retail and holding stems longer than you would for wedding and event work.

Sanitization of buckets is our number one disinfecting priority but, ideally, at the end of a work day all tools (including rose strippers!) can be wiped with disinfectant like FloraLife Cleaner or just scrubbed with anti-bacterial soap and water, like you would any kitchen tool, and dried with a cloth before being put away in a dry drawer or jar. Watch me demonstrate here. Can’t make it a daily habit? Even weekly or monthly would be better than nothing at all! I won’t judge 😉 

Should your tools begin to stick closed, a quick spritz of WD-40 can loosen any stiffness.

Sharpening

Sharpening tools is a standard practice in other industries, but can be overlooked in floral design. Instead of replacing dull snips, sharpen the ones you already have to make your investment stretch. 

A sharpened tool is more likely to make a cleaner, easier cut. These cuts are not only better on your body, as they require less effort and will cause less muscle fatigue, they are also less likely to damage your stems and their ability to uptake water. A well-cut, well-hydrated stem will have greater longevity, granting you more time to make money on it. Sharpened tools are also much more accurate and controlled and, although it feels a little counterintuitive, the sharper they are, the less likely they are to cut you!
Check with your local hardware store, craft store, farmers market, blacksmith, welders or other craftspeople in your area, they often have sharpening events! You can also experiment with options available online (as demonstrated in this video!), or contact the manufacturer of your tool for recommendations regarding sharpening and other maintenance. I recommend going into every holiday or busy season with a stash of sharpened tools!

Even though sharp tools are safer when being used, they still deserve tremendous respect. Be sure to learn the correct way to handle your tools (check out this youtube video!) and encourage close-toed shoes whenever working. You’re more likely to cut a toe than a finger with a dropped sharp knife! When storing, always consider how you are storing your blade that way no one reaching into a bag, bucket, or drawer gets nicked. If your blade doesn’t close or come with a cap/sheath, consider toothbrush holders for safe storage!

The Bottom Line

Tools are an investment from the outset. It costs money to equip yourself (let alone your whole team) with the necessary and varied knives, scissors, wirecutters, and more that allow us to flow from one kind of task, or one kind of stem, to another. Maintaining these tools, and selecting good ones to begin with, allows us to stretch that expense, ensuring we profit more off of each snip.
To purchase my favorite tools, head over to my Amazon shop. If you’re struggling with using a particular tool or wondering which are the best tools for the job, check out this blog post or message me @thefloralcoach! Happy snipping!

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