Home Garden Tool Sharpening Is Easier Than You Think


Until this fall I was scared to sharpen my own garden tools. I knew that late fall and early winter are a good time to do a little garden tool care, including tool sharpening. But then I'd just tote my pruners, hand hoes and shears off to a garden center or knife sharpener to get shaped up. But this year I decided to learn about tool sharpening myself.

Tools for tool sharpening

Yay, more fun garden tools to buy! You will need a small metal file like this one. I like one with a triangular shape because it's easier to hold in my hand. Also it has a smaller tip that gets into the narrow spots of bypass pruners and clippers. I found one of those in our garage toolbox.

Also you'll need some mineral oil and some rags. You could use olive oil, but I like mineral oil because it doesn't ever break down and go rancid, and it seems to be slicker.

How to file tools properly

I was nervous to sharpen my favorite Felco bypass pruners. First, they're expensive to replace if I messed up. Second, I've had them for a long time and they're my absolute favorite garden tool. I didn't want to hurt them.

But actually, it was easy! Bypass pruners have two scissor sides. One is the sharp cutting blade, and the other is the "bypass" blade that the sharp blade slides past for cutting. I started with the bypass blade so I could get some practice.

Basically, I just filed it flat to remove all the dark buildup gunk. File in one direction only (away from you), using smooth, long strokes. I filed until it was a smooth, shiny surface for the cutting blade to slip past. Then I moved on to the cutting blade.

The cutting blade has two sides. One is flat and the other has a slight beveled edge. Starting with the beveled edge, angle the file to match the angle of the edge, and then file with smooth, long strokes just as you did the flat blade. I only needed about 3-4 strokes at each spot on the blade before I saw glittery clean metal shining through. I cleaned up the whole bevel, then flipped the blade over to give one or two quick strokes along the flat edge.

Oiling and storing

garden tools

garden tools

Once done, I wiped the blades with mineral oil. This prevents rust while the pruners are languishing away over winter.

When I did a few practice air clips with the pruners, that baby was as smooth as it was the day I bought it. The blades made a nice little swishing sound. I can't wait to use them in the spring!

In fact, I was so excited that I also sharpened my little hand hoe. I had read that you should sharpen a hoe after each use, but I was like, what? Now I feel like a real garden pro with my little metal file. I will never have a dull hand hoe again.

WinterPhaedra Hise