Are you new to gardening and looking for ways to keep your tools in tip-top condition? Shears are a must-have in your toolbox and a clean, sharp pair can make your work easier and enjoyable.
Gather the following tools for sharpening your garden shears:
- Heavy-duty protective gloves
- Protective goggles
- Stiff brush
- Wipe cloth
- Medium to coarse diamond hand file
- Coarse grit sandpaper or steel wool
- Linseed oil
Step-by-Step Guide for Sharpening Garden Shears
Follow these easy steps to sharpen your garden pruners at home.
Step 1. Clean dirty shears
Before sharpening your cutting tool, cleaning off any piled-up mud. All you need here is warm water and a hard bristled brush.
Soak the shears in a sink of warm soapy water for few minutes to loosen the dirt. Use the hard brush to scrub the blades to remove all traces of mud.
Handle the shears with care as you clean them. Even seemingly blunt garden tools can inflict deep cuts if not handled carefully. As you clean it, hold the tool with the blades facing away from your body for extra safety.
After scrubbing off the dirt, rinse off the shears and pat dry with a clean cloth to minimize rusting.
Pro tip: Consider taking the pair of shears apart for easier cleaning. Simply loosen the bolt in the middle holding the two blades together to separate the tool and clean each part individually.
Step 2. Remove rust
It is common for garden tools such as shears to develop rust, even those that claim to be stainless steel. For best results, you want to remove any traces of rust before sharpening the tool.
To remove rust, you can use steel wool or sandpaper. You may opt for a medium-coarse or high-grit depending on how much rust you are dealing with. Scrub the blade to remove any traces of rust.
After this, rinse and dry the blades before moving on to sharpen the pruner.
Step 3. Position the shears properly
How you position the shears and the file will make a big difference in the ease of filing and the outcome. Poor positioning will see you spend a long time trying to get your shears sharp enough for use.
First, the pruner blades should face away from your body. This is not only safe but it also allows you to comfortably hold the handles as you file down the blades.
Then, open the shear blades wide with the bevelled edge of the blade facing up. Most pruners have a two-sided bevelled edge and both sides need to be sharpened.
If you have a bench vice, use this to hold the shears in place for easy and safe filling. If you do not have a vise, your next option is to hold the tool in one hand and file using the other hand.
Step 4. Angle the file correctly
Hold the file firmly in your hand and place the flat side at a 20-degree angle along the edge of the blade. This step might require a little bit of practice so do not worry if you don’t get it right the first time.
Once you get the angle right, move the file forward in a straight motion from the middle where the screw holds the two blades together out toward the pointed end of the blade.
Step 5. Use the proper sharpening motion
Using the correct sharpening motion will help you expend as little energy as possible and achieve the best outcome. It is all right to use circular motions instead of straight strokes when sharpening shears with shorter blades.
For longer blades, use a single smooth stroke to push the file along the blade. Avoid moving the file from side to side, as this could cause dents or tiny splits on the contour of the blade.
You should also avoid moving the file toward your body. Always file from the centre out toward the tip of the blade while maintaining moderate pressure.
Keep the file at a steady angle to achieve a sharp, straight, and even edge. Sharpen the blade this way for about 20 to 30 strokes until the edge is shinny to indicate sharpness. A very blunt pair of shears might need more strokes.
Try cutting a few branches to test the sharpness of the blades. You should aim for a clean and easy cut—this is an indication that your pruner is ready to use.
If your shears have a two-sided blade, repeat this procedure on the opposite side of each blade. In total, you will perform this process four times or two times on each blade i.e. once on each side of each blade.
Step 6. Remove the burrs
A burr is a thin metal fold that forms on the opposite side of the blade after sharpening. Once you sharpen the top side of a bevelled blade, a bur will form on the bottom side and vice versa.
The presence of a burr shows that the edges of the blade are fully sharpened. If you do not notice this metal fold, continue sharpening the blade, giving it a few more long strokes while applying slightly more pressure.
To remove the burrs, turn the shears over with the backside facing up. Then, move the hand file down the edge of the blade. A few strokes of the file should be enough to smoothen out the burrs. Repeat this step with the other blade to get smooth, sharp blades.
Pro tip: Use only moderate pressure when filing down the burrs. Applying too much pressure will cause burrs to form on the other side of the edge.
Step 7. Lubricate the shears
After sharpening your tool, it is good practice to lubricate it to protect against rust. Linseed oil is a natural, non-toxic lubricant and is a great option for keeping gardening tools in mint condition. If you do not want to transfer artificial lubricant to your plants, go for linseed oil instead.
Before applying the lubricant, be sure to wipe the blades of any metallic chips from the filling. Then, dip a cloth in some linseed oil and apply along the length of both blades, on the middle bolt or pin, and the area where the blades meet the handles- these spots are the most prone to rust.
That is all there is to sharpening your garden shears! Now you can easily use the tool for all your plant cutting and pruning needs.
In addition to the above tips, we have extra recommendations for getting the most out of your garden tools.
Whether you are sharpening, cleaning, or lubricating garden tools, you should always put your safety first. In this case, put on thick garden gloves and safety goggles before cleaning, buffing, and sharpening your shears. The appropriate gloves will protect against potential cuts and scratches while safety glasses will protect your eyes from shards of metal as you file the blades.
Clean tools after every use
Get into the habit of cleaning your garden tools immediately after using. It might be tempting to store them as they are until next time but this is a sure way to cut short the life of your expensive tools.
Cleaning doesn’t have to be a demanding chore. Simply soak your tools in warm water for a few minutes, give them a gentle scrub, pat dry and store. Alternatively, you could dip a ball of cotton wool in hydrogen peroxide and quickly wipe the blades.
Occasionally, take apart your garden shears by unscrewing the bolt that holds the blades together. Use a hard bristled brush to thoroughly clean your tools before sanitizing with hydrogen peroxide and lubricating with linseed oil.
Practice proper tool storage
It is common for gardeners to leave their tools outside lying on the ground and exposing them to the elements for extended periods. Do not expect good service from your tools if you neglect them this way.
Even when made from stainless steel, garden tools are still prone to rust if not well taken care of. After use, take the time to clean and dry your tools and organize them in an easily accessible location away from moisture. If you do not have one yet, consider setting up a shed in your garden where you can safely store your tools and extend their life.
Keep an eye on damaged parts
Loose bolts or pins and splintered or worn-out handles on your shears pose a grave danger. Inspect your tools before each use and replace or repair worn out parts for ease-of-use and to avoid preventable accidents.
As you can see, you do not have to be a pro to keep your garden shears clean. With the right tools, you can complete this task in just a few minutes. That said, sharpening tools at home can be hazardous and you should take the necessary steps to protect yourself from potential injury.
Over to you now, do you have any questions or comments on keeping gardening tools sharp? Leave them below; we are happy to hear from you!