Rio Grande is located in the high desert (nearly a mile high, actually). Our average humidity here in Albuquerque is 59% in the morning and 29% in the afternoon. Because of our low humidity, tools won't rust unless they're left out in a rainstorm (yes, we do occasionally have rainstorms here in New Mexico). But jewelers in high-humidity areas deal with this issue on a daily basis.
The key to preventing rust on your tools is keeping moisture and atmospheric pollutants away from them. There are several methods you can try:
Following any or all of these methods will help keep you healthy and your tools working well for years to come!
Speaking of respecting chemicals, remember to always store them properly. The book The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight suggests, "Store acids in narrow-necked glass or plastic jars with glass or plastic lids. Store in a cool dark place; never store up high."
Now, I'm not a chemist, but I do understand that chemicals need to be treated with respect. Always use good ventilation when working with any kind of chemical. When in doubt, wear a fume respirator. Just think, if a tool can rust by being exposed to chemical vapors, what are those vapors doing to you? Always ask for and read a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for any of the chemicals you have on hand. The SDS tells you what safety precautions are needed and what to do in case of a spill or ingestion. All SDSs are available on our product pages.
Who'd have thought that rust had anything to do with shop safety? In one way or another, shop safety touches on everything you do in your shop. It pays to keep safety in mind always. For an excellent resource on shop safety, check out the book The Jewelry Workshop Safety Report, by Charles Lewton-Brain. Just about everything you need to know about workshop safety is covered in this book.