8 Steps: How To Sharpen Garden Shears Properly

Landscaper shaping a ball-shape hedge with blue handled hedge shears.

Garden tools such as shears should always be cleaned and sharpened before you store them away. Tools with clean and sharp edges work well with ease and get the tasks done with less physical effort.

Sharp garden shears are an essential tool for gardeners and landscapers. But if these tools are blunt, it makes pruning, edging, and shaping shrubs tiring, resulting in a frustrating experience. Besides, the process often takes longer and you end up with poor results.

Well-cared garden tools, particularly pruners and shears, will give a cleaner and smoother cut when used with sharp blades. Aside from reducing the risk of introducing diseases, it makes the pruning job easier without muscle pains.

Taking care of your garden tools will also give you more longevity out of them. So, what are the best ways to clean and sharpen your garden tools?

Below, we will give you a step-by-step guide on how to sharpen garden shears correctly. Let’s get to it!


The 8 Step Guide On Sharpening Garden Shears

Long-bladed hedge shears and short grass cutters or long-handled pruning shears are all sharpened similarly. These shears have two bevelled edges that need sharpening. And sharpening only one part is useless, so make sure you do both.

Sharpening shears with grinding tools require professional skills, and if you’re not up to that level then the simplest way is to use a 10-inch long mill file. The ordinary mill file can work efficiently on sharpening different garden shears with minimal effort.

Shears, pruners, and other garden tools can develop layers of grime or rust. Removing them with the use of sandpaper before you start the sharpening is essential.

Here’s the easy to follow step-by-step guide on how to sharpen your garden shears:

Step 1) – Clean the Tools Before Sharpening

A gardener clean and brush the pruning shears with soap and water mixed in the metal bucket.
Image by: thespruce.com

Dirt and other debris stuck on the blades of your shears and pruners will not only impede the sharpening process, but it can also damage the blades.

It is necessary to clean the tools and make sure the blades are grime-free before you start sharpening.

To clean pruners and shears:

  • Get a container filled with clean water.
  • Add into the water about two teaspoons of dish soap.
  • Dip tools in the soapy water to loosen dirt for a few minutes.
  • Clean by gently scrubbing the blades with steel wool or a stiff brush, but with painted bevels, use a brush made of plastic to clean.
  • Scrape off stubborn chunks, and grimes on both sides.
  • Rinse well once thoroughly cleaned
  • Dry with a rag.

Step 2) – Wear Gloves

Pair of green rubber gloves and bypass pruner placed in the garden.
Image by: sublimesucculents.com

Accidents could happen when we least expect, so wear hand gloves when sharpening your garden shears. Blades while sharpening could cut your fingers unexpectedly, so it’s best to be safe.

If you’re considering using an angle grinder to sharpen your tools, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from flying bits of metal. After all, sharpening requires removing portions of metal from the bevels to restore the cutting edge.

Step 3) – Prepare the Sharpener

Different types of tool sharpeners.
Image by: gardeningproductsreview.com

Sharpening items come in assorted sizes, shapes, and tooth configurations. The most common is the mill file you can easily find pretty much at any hardware store.

While you could get a traditional sharpener, there’s also an innovative and modern sharpener you can get to make tasks a lot easier.

Choosing the right sharpener for your garden tools is essential to make them function as intended. Investing in quality tools will help you lessen wrist fatigue while in use, which is why when shopping for sharpeners, you want to consider a few necessary factors.

Here are some questions you need to consider which will help you figure out what garden tools best suit your needs:

  • Do I need only one, or multiple types of sharpeners?
  • Do these tools need to have very sharp edges or is just finely polished good enough?
  • Do they have straight, curved, or serrated edges?
  • Is there a multi-functional sharpener?
  • How much will I need to use them?
  • Where do I use them?
  • Should I consider size and weight?
  • Are corded or cordless better models?
  • How quickly do I want the sharpening process to take?
  • What is my budget?

With these questions in mind, check the descriptions of the sharpening tools you want to consider and see which one is the best option for you.

Of course, owning at least one metal file can’t have you go wrong, but make sure you get a file card and a handle. Most metal files sold come without a handle, but there are a few available multiple shaped files that include a handle.

The best sharpener will vary based on what type of tools you are going to sharpen. And believe me, you’ll need more than one sharpening tool to get the job done right, particularly if you need very sharp edges for different gardening tools.

Generally, there are lots of choices available suitable for every garden shear you own. Also, if you are on a budget, then there are plenty of moderately priced options you can get that will give you exceptional performance.

Step 4) – Prepare the Area

Sharpening the garden tool should be done in a secure place to avoid the possibility of mishap. Set up the shears on a secured bench vise before you start the process.

Start by separating the blades of your pruners. Remove the screw holding the handles, and the spring coil between the handles will slip off.

Dismantled parts of bypass pruner.
Image by: gardenerspath.com

Locate the bevels in the blades of your garden shears. It is the cutting surface of the blade, identifiable in different angles.

When the bevels are identified, fasten the shears in the bench vise, ensuring the edge is facing upwards. If a bench vise is not available, hold the tool firmly with one hand and the file with the other.

You can also ask someone to hold the shear in place. Position yourself in a comfortable angle to keep the sharpening process smooth.

Step 5) – Sharpen the Garden Shears

Positioning yourself conveniently behind the shear handles is necessary to achieve the polished bevels. Doing so will allow you to push the hand file forward up to the tips of the blades.

Position the sharpening file firmly based on the angle of the blade edge and push it forward. Maintain your body angle, while you’re getting the bevels sharp.

A single and smooth stroke is necessary when sharpening garden shears, as the back-and-forth motion won’t sharpen effectively. It is to ensure you keep the edge contours from the base up to the tips. You also have to consider the moderate level of pressure when sharpening the tool.

Don’t forget to check the blade edge regularly while sharpening to see if they get uniformly shiny. If you find both blades still rough and dull, there is a possibility you are not holding the file at the right angle. Correct your body angle as needed and start again.

You’ll find large pruning shears easy to sharpen using this method. Smaller garden shears, on the other hand, respond well in a circular motion sharpening method. Remember to sharpen only the blades in the same direction as the outline of the bevels.

Using an electric grinder can repair a dull or damaged blade quickly with much less effort. A handheld angle grinder and a medium-grit aluminum oxide wheel can also work efficiently.

Below is a play-by-play video on how to use a bench grinder properly.

Always wear protective equipment when operating an electric grinder. Wear goggles to protect your eyes from splinters.

Sharpening with electric grinders always leaves rough edges and requires a touch up with a flat mill file afterwards.

Step 6) – Remove the Burr

Removing the burr from the opposite side of the blade you are sharpening is also necessary. But what exactly is the burr? It is a small build-up of metal gradually formed on the reverse side of the blades while you are sharpening.

Raising a burr on the back of the metal lets you know the sharpening process you are completing is correct. If you find no burr at the other side of the blade while sharpening, this means you haven’t fully sharpened the edge of the blade.

When the sharpening process is perfect, and you need to remove the burrs built up at the backside of the blades do so by turning the shears.

A moderate stroke of the sharpener removes the burrs. Remember to use just enough pressure to eliminate the burr, or else you’ll end up forming a new burr on the original edge.

Step 7) – Lubricate the Newly Sharpened Shears

Oiling bypass hand pruner.
Image by: theimpatientgardener.com

Applying a lubricant into the newly sharpened pruning tool will help prevent rust from forming. Dip a soft cloth into the tool lubricant, and in a gradual and circular motion, carefully wipe over the blades of your pruning tool.

Cleaning and lubricating after heavy use will protect your metal tools and will slow further rusting. Lubricants are quite essential for the cleaning and sharpening process for your tools. After use, make sure to store them away properly in a garden shed or storage area.

While the technique above is efficient in sharpening your pruning tools such as shears, loppers, hand hooks, or secateurs, the same approach will work efficiently with other garden tools.

Step 8) – Reassemble Your Shears

Newly sharpened garden shears.
Image by: gardentherapy.ca

Put your shears together and try to open and close them to see if they can work together efficiently.

When you find them fit enough to each other, this means you’re now ready to go to war against an untamed burberry bush or an overgrown hedge around your property.

To help you remember the step-by-step guide on how to sharpen your garden shears, here’s the summary:

  • Set up a secured area for sharpening
  • Separate the blades by removing the screw.
  • Secure the shears firmly in the bench vise facing upwards
  • Position your body angle behind the handles and get the correct angle to push the sharpener the right way
  • Ensure to keep the original outline of the blades from the base up to the tips. 
  • Consider the moderate level of pressure when sharpening the tool.
  • Check the blade edge regularly while sharpening, to see if they get uniformly shiny.
  • If both blades are still rough and dull, you are not holding the file at the right angle. 
  • Correct your body angle and start again.
  • Remove the burrs built up at the backside of the blades.
  • Raising a burr allows you to know the sharpening process you are doing is right
  • If you find no burr at the other side while sharpening, you haven’t sharpened the edge of the blade at all.
  • Lubricate the newly sharpened pruning tool.
  • Reassemble your shears and make sure they work together efficiently.

Here are some additional articles that you may find helpful towards your gardening needs:


Ongoing Tool Care Tips

Garden tools maintained correctly will not only work efficiently, but they will also last longer. These tools should be sharp, clean, rust-free, and sterile. When exposed to infected plants or soil, garden tools can spread disease and infection to your entire garden.

So avoiding such problems, take a few minutes after each gardening session to clean and take care of your tools. It will protect them from damaging rust and the entire garden from harmful pathogens, the next time you use them.

Daily Maintenance:

  • After every gardening session, give pruning tools such as pruners, loppers, or shears a quick scrub after by soaking them in soapy water for a few minutes. Doing so will eliminate accumulated sap and grime stuck in the tool.
  • Cutting shears exposed to infected branches should be soaked in a solution of 2 cups of bleach and a gallon of water to sterilize.
  • Other options you can use are a alcohol and hydrogen peroxide solution. Both popular home products are also efficient in getting rid of bacteria and pathogens in your garden tools.
  • Rinse with plain water and wipe with a cotton pad soaked with rubbing alcohol. 
  • Dry tools thoroughly with a towel or rag.
  • Wipe oil on the blades after cleaning.

Seasonal Tool Care:

  • Deep cleaning

Follow this step-by-step guide on how to clean your garden tools efficiently and correctly:

A deep clean at least once each season is essential for pruners, loppers, and shears. As well as their daily maintenance. You can clean them before storing your tools for the winter at the end of the season.

Cleaning tools are as essential as other jobs in the garden. Treating them correctly will allow you to enjoy the optimal performance of your garden.

  • Keep the tools sanitized and sharp

Here’s how to sanitize your garden tools properly:

Dull blades used in pruning and shaping plants often result in damaged branches. The torn and ripped branches are susceptible to diseases. And to avoid such problems, keep your pruning tools sharp to keep them working smoothly which will provide cleaner cuts.

Also, specialized sanitizers are sold in some garden tool retailers, but most gardeners and vegetable growers use typical household products such as alcohol and hydrogen peroxide to sterilize pruning tools.

  • Wooden handles

Wooden tools require different care compared to metal tools. Here’s how to take care of your wooden tools:

Wooden handled tools are elegant and aesthetically appealing, but they require special care and maintenance to keep them smooth and damage-resistant.

Natural elements like moisture can work its way into the wooden handle, resulting in splitting and cracking.

Slightly sanding the wooden handle and coating with linseed oil a few times during the season can help seal the wood in place.

You can do light repairs by reinforcing minor cracks with heavy-duty tape. However, replace any severely cracked handles to avoid injury while in use.


Final Thoughts On Sharpening Your Garden Tools

For most gardeners, shears have become an essential garden tool. They have become one of the gardener’s best friends and are used during many tasks. Shears come in various sizes and designs with top and bottom edges that both need sharpening when used after some time.

Pruning hedges and other shrubs with dull pruners can be annoying. Aside from struggling to get the job done, you’ll likely end up with ripped and bent branches.

Roughly cut branches are susceptible to many diseases, aside from having messy and uneven shapes.

However, with the help of different tool sharpeners such as a mill file, electric grinder, whetstone, and many others, shears can quickly back their edge with very minimal effort.

Sharp and cleaned garden shears can make a big difference in performance. Regularly maintained garden shears can provide smoother and cleaner cuts, and will also remain rust-resistant and last longer if taken care of properly.

Learning to take care of your tools by cleaning and sharpening can make them last longer all while giving them efficient performance.

This step-by-step guide above on how to sharpen garden shears properly will help keep your garden tools clean and properly sharpened.

We hope you found this guide helpful and don’t be afraid to come back to it. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

About Benita Abucejo

Hi there! My name is Benita Abucejo. What can I say? I truly love spending my days in the outdoors, specifically in the garden. Gardening has always been a strong passion of mine since I was a little girl. It has brought me so much joy and happiness that it is definitely safe to say that I will be a gardener for life. For a period of time, I was able to work with people who are into home gardening and I found it to be quite beneficial to my physical health, as well as my mental well-being. Here at Seasonal Preferences, I am going to share with you my experience and ideas so that you can fulfill yourself with the same satisfaction and happiness. Of course, if you have ideas, I would love to hear those as well! Being creative in the garden can really be quite fascinating so let's share our experiences and be the best gardeners we can be. With that being said, thank you for dropping by and please leave me a comment on one of my posts if you would like to get in touch!

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