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The Ultimate Guide to Sharpening Garden Tools

Whilst some people may be fortunate enough to have a bench grinder, for those of you that do not, this step-by-step guide will walk you through alternative methods to sharpen your garden tools. We suggest investing in the correct sharpening tools you need for your garden tools since sharp tools perform better and are also safer to use. You may want to consider sharpening your tools during December to prepare for the upcoming gardening season.

What should I use to sharpen my garden tools?


Made up of fine-grained stone, a hone is a type of sharpener ideal for garden tools. By realigning the cutting edge you will ensure the best results from your gardening tools.


Whetstone is an alternative that can be used to sharpen garden tools and is typically used on steel instruments including knives. It uses either water or oil lubrication depending on which will be more suitable.


Files are suitable for sharpening tools since they are constructed using high-carbon steel. It is advised you use a vice to ensure your tools are secure before using a file. When filing, you should use a shallow angle on the cutting edge and cross-file.

Diamond-coated sharpening tools:

A diamond sharpening stone, such as a diamond file, is ideal for a range of tools since it can reach all areas of the cutting blade, allowing us to sharpen edges professionally, moreover these stones are easy to use. Diamond sharpening is especially suitable for spades and hoes.

Sharpening cultivation tools:

Cultivation tools include rakes, hoes, hand trowels. They become blunt by stones and soil, therefore, it is important to keep watch for this and sharpen them when necessary to prolong their life and maintain optimal performance. Whilst sharpening blades is generally only required once or twice a year, some destruction may be too tough and may require a professional at a tool workshop.

  1. Use a vice to secure the pole of the tool with the front side facing up.
  2. Use a metal file to slowly begin working at the abrasion, making sure to push the blade away from you. Try to maintain the same angle; this is dependent on the tool. Whilst hoes have a slightly sloping angle, other tools such as spades, are usually flat. Be careful not to make the blade too thin, instead work slowly ensuring evenness along the blade edge.
  3. Turn the tool over to undo any burrs. You can do this by running a file over the top of the blade, and pushing the file away from you.
  4. To gain a finer finish, you may choose to repeat this process with a whetstone.

Sharpening pruners, secateurs, and loppers:

Secateurs and loppers often become blunt especially if misused, causing them to become damaged when pruning. Before sharpening these tools, you should check if your secateurs can be dismantled, not all can, however, it makes the process easier. If you cannot dismantle them, you will have to try and clean the blade as best as you can using a similar motion but being more careful. Ensure to angle the blade away from you

  1. Firstly, attempt to dismantle the parts of the tools and place these components on a piece of a kitchen cloth. To try and loosen any dirt, spray these with WD-40 and let them soak in to ensure you have clean pruning shears.
  2. Before sharpening, wipe down the blade, allowing you to see what condition it is in.
  3. You should only sharpen the angled side of your blade and run the diamond tool away from you whilst you ensure the blade is steady and pressure is applied evenly.
  4. Buff the blade trying to focus achieving a circular motion, finishing with a few sweeps of the metal in one direction. Be careful sweeping the blade and check isn’t blunt and damaged as these blades will take longer.
  5. Check for any burrs on the flat side of the blade, you can smooth over these by running the sharpener flat until it is undone. This is important since it can affect the cutting bite.
  6. After the tools are clean, reassemble them. To maintain movement and stop stiffness from occurring you can use a few drops of general-purpose lubricating oil and put this onto the central pivot.
  7. You can test how effective the sharpening has been by cutting it into a piece of paper. This should be cut cleanly and not crush or fold over the paper.

Having the right tools can half the time a job takes and makes gardening more efficient. Good quality older tools keep performing year after year through regular maintenance.

Chris Bonnet gardening expert at the Express Newspaper

Sharpening shears:

Whilst garden shears are often considered sturdy pieces of equipment, they are still likely to blunt over time. It is important to keep them sharp and well-maintained to prolong their life as long as possible. The task of sharpening them may seem daunting however there are a few safe options including the use of a stone, hand file, and sandpaper to sharpen your garden shears.

  1. It is a good idea to learn how to properly clean garden shears, it is discussed in an article published on Gardening Express linked here how to properly clean your garden tools.
  2. Once your shears are clean, you may opt to clamp your shears to get the sturdiest hold on them, however, you can also hold them in your hand.
  3. Using a diamond file or sharpener of relevant size, match it up to the angle of the blade. Usually, the shears are only sharp on one side since the cutting blade is beveled. You need to make sure you are cutting the right side as if you sharpen the wrong one this will only weaken the blade.
  4. Whilst the file is along the cutting edge of the blade, you should push your file forward and in the opposite direction of your body. Do not go back and forth, this is dangerous and could result in an injury.
  5. Keep filing until a sharp edge becomes visible. They should begin shining which is a sign the shears are being sharpened successfully. You should finish by using a 3-in-1 multipurpose lubricating oil helping to prevent rust and avert any build-up of dirt or debris.
  6. If the shears are very blunt it may be a good idea to have them professionally sharpened, as this can be a tricky job and you may not achieve desired results doing it yourself.

Lubricating oils after sharpening your garden tools:

There are a variety of oils that can be used after you sharpen your gardening tools to prolong their life and keep them in good condition. Some examples include Camellia oil, 3-in-one oil, and lithium grease.

  • Camellia oil is a sharpening oil used collaboratively with oil stones for fine-cutting edges. It protects gardening tools against rust and is often used as a protective coating. 
  • 3-in-one oil multipurpose – this petroleum-based oil helps to avoid rusting and keeps tools working at optimal performance.
  • A few drops of lithium Grease can be put between the blades of loppers or pruners to keep them working smoothly, it also lasts longer than camellia oil.

To keep your gardening tools in better condition for longer consider how well you maintain them besides how often they are sharpened. This includes the storage of your tools and how the cleaning process. Click this link to view our Beginners Guide to Gardening tools with more information on how they should be maintained.

Updated on April 12, 2023

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