If your hedge clippers or pruning shears have gotten dull, or if you just want to keep them working as effectively as possible, follow these steps to learn how to sharpen your gardening hand tools!
I shared with you the other day that I have a great pair of garden pruners that have been with me for about ten years now. They really do such a great job, but as I showed you earlier, I hadn’t done such a great job of cleaning them on a regular basis. Luckily, they’d been sharpened a few times because Chris is really on top of keeping our garden tools sharp. Really on top of it. He even sharpens our shovels sometimes. Since I was doing a little revitalization project on them though, I thought this would be a great time to show you how to sharpen pruning shears as well! Like any homeowner, I like my shrubs and landscaping to look their best and keeping my hedge clippers sharp makes that task just a little bit easier.
If you want to see the cleaning process first, before we get into how to sharpen garden tools, you can check that out here: How to Clean Pruning Shears.
Hand-Held Garden Tool Maintenance
There are so many different types of pruning tools available to the avid gardener and they all need a little bit of love to keep them working their best and to help you get the job done. This tutorial is relevant for various hand tools used for clipping tasks in the garden, such as trimmers, secateurs, bypass pruners, lopper tools, and tree trimmer tools. No matter what you call them, most of these handy implements have rotating and pivoting central points and large curved cutting blades that make your life in the garden so much easier when you keep them sharp.
Today’s tutorial doesn’t apply to any kind of electric hedge trimmer or chain saw that you might like to use for larger shrub sculpting that might need the extra strength of a corded power-tool. That will be a post for another day. 🙂 What we’ll be working with today are my old-reliable Fiskars bypass pruners, which still serve me so well when I keep the main blade sharp. These are my favorite secateurs and the ones I use most often unless I really need the longer-handled loppers. I appreciate the ergonomic, easy-to-use design that makes them feel safe to use and effective.
How to Sharpen Pruning Shears
To start out you’ll need a basic sharpening file. There’s a file called a “flat bastard” (no idea why) which is just a really simple, rectangular file that works really well for little jobs like this. You can also find tiny files that are made especially for little garden tools, but they really aren’t necessary. If you already have a basic file, use that.
Find the bevelled edge on your blade and rest your file against it so that it’s sitting level and flush with the angle of the bevel.
Make short strokes with the files moving out and away from the blade.
Work your way from the bottom of the blade all the way up to the point, making these short strokes all the way along. You’ll be able to see where you’ve sharpened because the bevelled part of the blade will be much shinier and cleaner looking where you’ve used your file.
Finishing Up: Final Tips for the Sharpest Hedge Clippers
When you’re satisfied with the way your blade looks, test it for sharpness gently on a small piece of a branch. I know some people who test a blade on their fingernails, but be careful if you do this and don’t cut your finger! We don’t want any accidental injuries here.
When the blade seems nicely sharpened, turn the blade over and gently run the file over the other side of the blade from the bevel to remove any filings (Chris tells me these things are actually called “burrs” 🙂 ) that are hanging off.
If you haven’t done so already as part of your cleaning routine, oil your blade and the rest of your pruning shears generously with either WD-40 or any kind of regular vegetable oil to prevent rust and to act as a lubricant to keep all the moving parts operating smoothly.
That’s it! In just a few minutes your garden shears and hedge clippers will be sharp and ready for action once again! I noticed a huge difference after I did this even though it really only took me a few seconds.
Make sure to sharpen your pruning shears at least a couple of times each season or when you have a day when you use them really heavily.
Do you have any clever tips for how to sharpen pruning shears? Do you have a trusty pair like I do that’s been with you for years?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.