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Garden Tools: Sharpening Methods

Increase the lifespan of your garden tools with our easy sharpening methods.

From pruning trees and shrubs, to digging in the ground to build a backyard pond, your garden tools take a beating. When your tools become dull, you have to put more muscle into every cut and dig. Sharpening your garden tools will give you cleaner cuts and less strain on your body. Learn how to easily sharpen your garden tools, and get back to perfecting your garden paradise.

Garden Tools Sharpening Methods
Keeping your garden tools clean and sharp will help you get the job done faster and make your tools last longer.

Types of Sharpening Tools

Before you start filing away at your garden tools’ blades, find out which type of sharpening tool you should use.

Files

Files are easy to use, and can quickly grind down steel. However, the tools can be left with a rough edge, known as burrs. Burrs are like a residual wire that builds up on the opposite side of the bevel being sharpened. The bevel is the curved, shiny angle of the blade. Keeping the factory bevel evenly sharpened will help the blade make a better cut. A 10-inch bastard cut mill file is an easy-to-handle and common choice for sharpening garden tools. If you’re unsure about which file to choose, read the file’s packaging label.

Sharpening Stones

Sharpening stones come in a variety of grits, sizes and materials. Sharpening stones can be made from natural stone or man-made materials. Water stones need to be coated with water, while oilstones need oil. Different blade metals require different sharpening stones.

Grinders

Only those with experience should use a grinder for sharpening garden tools. Grinders are very powerful, and can ruin the blade when not used properly. Grinders can change the shape of the blade, or cut off too much of the blade.

How to Sharpen Garden Tools

Before you begin sharpening, it’s best to clean off your tools. You can use a grill wire brush to clean off your long-handled tools, such as hoes, rakes and shovels. For pruners, loppers and hedge shears, check to see if the blades are loose. Loose blades can be the cause of an uneven or bad cut. After tightening the bolt, clean the blades. You can use foaming bathroom cleaner to remove sap from the blades. If the blades are really dirty, scrub with steel wool or a wire brush. Wipe away any residue with cloth.

When you’re sharpening, wear eye protection and work gloves to protect yourself from metal slivers. If you don’t have a steady hand, use a bench vise to hold the pruners, loppers or hedge trimmers for better stability.

Shovels

To sharpen your shovel, use a bastard mill file. At a 45 degree angle, stroke the file across the edge of the shovel blade in a back and forth motion.

Pruners, Loppers and Hedge Shears

To sharpen pruners, you’ll only want to sharpen the blade edge. The other edge of the pruners does not need to be sharpened. Hold the pruners in your non-sharpening hand. Stroke the sharpener against the blade’s factory bevel, pulling the sharpener away from the pruners handles. Remember to run the file the entire length of the blade. Don’t file across the pruners blade; file parallel with the blade. Do this about five times. The blade will begin to shine. You’ll feel the burr start to form on the opposite side. Flip the pruners over, and remove the burr with the sharpener or sandpaper.

Loppers can be sharpened the same way as pruners. If you’re going to use a file, consider buying a file handle. A handle will let you easily use the file. Sharpen both blades of hedge shears.

When you’ve sharpened your garden tools, you should lubricate them with oil. The oil will help prevent the formation of rust on your tools. Use non-petroleum based synthetic oils, such as silicone fluids, tung oils and wood-derivative oils. Petroleum oil used on your tools will seep into your garden’s soil. It’s harmful for animals and vegetation. It’s best to clean and sharpen your tools throughout the gardening and pruning season.

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