After some years, your favorite gardening tools are likely to start degrading and becoming dull, which is why it’s important to take a few steps to make sure that you keep your tools in prime condition.
Have you already noticed your gardening tools getting dull? Do you find it harder and harder to trim your hedges or cut off some thicker vines? Then it’s probably time you head out to get your tools sharpened. In today’s guide, I’ll be showing you everything you could possibly ever need to know about sharpening your garden tools and keeping them in perfect condition.
Now let’s get started!
First off, let’s go over the reasons why it’s important to keep your tools sharpened:
The most important element of this entire guide: sharp gardening tools are essential for your safety. Have you ever heard of the expression, “nothing more dangerous in a kitchen than a dull blade”? Well, with your gardening tools it’s exactly the same.
You’re much more likely to cut yourself because your shears slip or your shovel bounces than from a well-sharpened tool.
It saves you time
By making sure that your gardening tools are functioning properly, you’ll be saving yourself time in the long run.
You no longer will need to spend hours struggling to trim the same bushes if your tools are sharp. The Morton Arboretum in Lisle explains how sharp gardening tools will do this.
You’ll save money
By sharpening your tools, rather than letting them become blunt, you are less likely to have them break on you. This means that by taking a little time to take care of your equipment, you won’t ever need to buy replacements.
Before we get started going over how to sharpen each of your tools, you’ll need to make sure you have the proper equipment.
The most important thing before starting is proper safety equipment. You should be wearing protective clothing, as well as full-length clothing. Wear safety glasses and gloves and also make sure that your family and pets are away from you during the process. Finally, make sure you have full control and support over the tool you are sharpening – no loose grips!
Depending on the tool you need to sharpen, the following sharpening tools may prove to be helpful:
- Diamond-coated tools
- High grit sandpaper
- A grinder
- Mineral oil
After some years, your shears will start to wear down and become dull. This is especially true for those heavy-duty long-handled shears. When it starts to become difficult to use them, you know it’s time to get them sharpened.
To do it yourself, some manufacturers will actually include a sharpening tool specific to those shears. If not, you can sharpen them with some sandpaper and a basic file mill. If you’re uncomfortable working with these big blades, you could also consider getting them professionally sharpened.
Step 1 – Take apart the blades
Take apart the blades to get ready for sharpening
Step 2 – Remove any rust
Make sure there is no rust or grime on them. After many years, this is very likely. If there is any rust or grime on the blades, you’ll want to get rid of this. Sand them down to remove the rust.
Step 3 – Use a file mill
Afterward, use a file mill to sharpen both the top and bottom beveled edges of the blade (make sure to do both!). It should be a relatively simple process and after that, your pruning shears are ready to go!
The RHS has a lovely guide detailing the importance of sharp shears here.
The good news is that flat-edged shovels don’t actually need to get sharpened, but the shovels with a pointed edge that are great for getting through rocks do.
Step 1 – Use a large file
But the great news is that it’s actually really simple to sharpen your shovel. You can simply use a large file to help it get its edge back.
Step 2 – Use a grinder (optional)
If it needs some serious work, just use a grinder to get it sharpened in no time. This is good for heavy-duty shovels.
Step 3 – Polish it off with a whetstone
If you think it’s necessary, you could always use a whetstone afterward to finish it off.
As you sharpen them, make sure you keep them flat and that you are constantly shaving them at the same flat angle the entire time. Shovels and spades shouldn’t be at a very harsh angle, unlike some other garden equipment. Finally, make sure you don’t make the blade too thin as it could weaken its overall strength.
Rakes can be handled very similarly to your shovels. In truth, simple rakes that you use just to clean up the yard and pick up leaves won’t ever need sharpening! These tools work perfectly fine without having a strong pointed edge.
However, rakes that need to pick up stones and soil in a garden bed do benefit from some occasional sharpening.
The process is very simple, with only one step: use a small file. You just need to take a small file and smooth out the edges quickly to keep your rakes nice and efficient.
Sometimes a good knife can be helpful in the garden and the best part is that it’s super easy to keep them in a good condition.
Step 1 – Sharpen with a diamond-coated sharpener
With just a whetstone or a diamond-coated sharpener, make sure to sharpen the blade at the appropriate angle.
Step 2 – Clean off
When you’re done, wipe off any residual metal shavings and apply mineral oil to keep it in good condition.
These are some of the easiest tools to keep in good conditions since common knife sharpeners are easy to find. Plus, you don’t even need to use a clamp for this procedure and in total, it will only take you around 5 minutes max.
Do you have a huge lawn that needs some serious care? Or maybe you have an old mower that just needs some work to bring it back to its heyday.
That’s perfectly fine, you’ll just need to take some extra care for sharpening this tool.
Step 1 – Remove the blades
The first step is to carefully remove the blades from the lawnmower. This might be the most difficult part, actually! So just make sure the machine is completely turned off and cannot be turned on accidentally before sticking your hands down there.
Step 2 – Clamp the blades
Once you have the blade detached, you’ll be able to sharpen it easily with a good metal file. hold the blade down off the side of a workbench with a clamp,
Step 3 – Use a metal file
Then, apply pressure with the metal file to the sharp edge of the blade. Make sure to push at a slight angle to give it the right edge.
And of course, make sure you check that you’re sharpening the correct edge! Sometimes it’s difficult to see at first glance which side is the edge. It’s always better to take a few extra seconds, in the beginning, to make sure you’re focused on the right section before moving on to the next.
Step 4 – Reassemble
Make sure you put everything back the way you found it. Sometimes it can be helpful to take a picture of the underside of the lawnmower so you can reference it later during reassembly.
Do you have a handy trowel that you use all the time? It’s one of the most useful tools for gardening, especially in springtime when you want to transplant all your flowers. After some years, though, they begin to dull out a bit and could benefit from a quick sharpen.
Just like shovels, they are super simple to sharpen and it should only take you a few minutes. The best part is with trowels, you most likely don’t need to get out your entire grinder. That would be a little bit of an overkill.
Step 1 – File away
Instead, just get out some of your best files and your patience. File away evenly on both of the edges, always going in the same direction.
Step 2 – Use a clamp for added help
If you are finding it difficult, a strong clamp is always a great way to guarantee nothing slips out of your hand. After a few minutes of determined filing, your trowel should be as good as new! And just like with the shovel, make sure not to file it too much, otherwise, you can weaken it.
Check out GrowVeg for an excellent guide on how to do this.
Hoes can be slightly finicky to sharpen sometimes since not all hoes are designed to go through the sharpening process. However, if you tend to use hoes for heavy-duty work, then they could benefit from some minimal sharpening to keep them in prime condition.
Step 1 – Clamp down for support
Make sure you keep your hoe clamped down when sharpening so you have full control over your touch.
Step 2 – Sand it down
The best way to do this is by simply sanding and filing the hoe’s edges in the same direction. Make sure to do this lightly so that you don’t actually damage the metal.
Step 3 – Clean it off
It’s important to clean the blades after by wiping them with a microfiber cloth, this will help get rid of any shavings that could get into your garden.
Axes or hatches are the tools you’ll likely need to sharpen the most frequently. Think about it – they have the hardest job of all your garden tools. You need to jam their blades into dull wood, so keeping your axes sharp will not only make the job quicker, you’ll be saving yourself from hurting your back in the process.
Step 1 – File down both sides
If you have a small hatchet, you can simply use a file on both sides of the edge and that should be plenty.
However, for a bigger ax, you’ll want to break out your grinder. Make sure you have a firm grip on the ax when you start, then sharpen both sides of the ax at the same angle.
And of course, if it’s too much for you or you don’t have a grinder, you can always go to a professional to have them sharpen it for you.
Where to sharpen your gardening tools
Ok, speaking of – where can you actually go to sharpen your gardening tools? Well, that depends on your region.
In the USA, most of your hardware stores will have a service that allows you to get your gardening tools sharpened professionally. While most of your big-name hardware stores (Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc) might not offer this service, most of your local stores will.
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This is great news, anyway, since you’ll be able to support local businesses by asking them to provide this service.
In the UK, it’s a similar situation. Many large hardware stores won’t offer the service, but nearly every town or city will have a professional sharpening service nearby. You just have to give a quick Google search for the nearest location.
In both places, sharpening your tools tends to be a much cheaper alternative to buying brand new blades. It will usually cost less than 10 USD to get the blades sharpened. This means it’s better for your budget and an environmentally-friendly habit to have.
To keep your tools in good shape, you’ll also want to make sure you’re cleaning them correctly. Here are different ways to clean your tools:
1. Basic wash
Just some simple soap and water to rinse off the dirt. Make sure to dry them manually with a microfiber cloth. Check out The Spruce for a guide on this.
2. Steel Wool
Scrub them with steel wool if you find your tools have any rusty spots.
3. Disinfect tools
If your tools have been in contact with diseased plants, you’ll want to disinfect them to make sure the disease doesn’t spread. To do this, just place your tools in a bucket with 2 cups of bleach and a gallon of water. Let them soak for around 10 minutes, then rinse and dry by hand.
Make sure you are storing your tools properly to avoid any potential problems down the road. For example, for trowels and hand shovels, store the blade in a bucket of sand mixed with a small amount of vegetable oil. This will prevent any rust.
For large equipment like shovels and rakes, try to hang them so they never have their individual parts warped.
For everything else, make sure you clean and dry your equipment before storing them. This little step will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
That’s it for today! Hopefully, now you know how to correctly sharpen, clean, and store your garden tools. These small steps will keep your tools in the right shape will keep you from wasting more money on tools.
Let us know in the comments below if you’ve followed our tips or if you have any other tips you’d like to share!
Hi there, my name is Kevin. I’m an American currently living in Spain and I have always loved gardening. My grandparents were farmers and I’ve always loved being outdoors. I especially love keeping fruits and vegetables in my garden and it’s one of the biggest reasons why I love living in a warm Mediterranean climate – great produce all year round!