Sharpening garden tools | Living the Country Life

Sharpening garden tools

Work in the dirt sharper, not harder

I have a bunch of garden tools that could probably use a good sharpening. It’s not hard to do and I’ll thank myself come spring when I’m ready to use them again.

Craig Saxe is an Extension ag agent at the University of Wisconsin. He says sharpening garden tools is an art. But, it doesn’t have to be perfect, so something is better than nothing. Most hoes and shovels come with a preset blade angle from the manufacturer, which makes the sharpening process much easier.  Saxe recommends using a 10-inch mill file.

"I’ll clamp the tool down securely, I’ll be wearing for safety reasons leather gloves and safety glasses. I will put that file down on the tool and push it away from me to sharpen that edge. Now, as I’m doing that, with both my hands I can adjust that angle as I’m pushing away, and I can also watch that angle to make sure that it stays the same," says Saxe.

The mill file is Saxe’s go-to sharpening device for most of his tools. But with pruning shears, he uses what he calls a “pocket file” which looks like an overgrown mechanical pencil.

It’s best to sharpen your tools moving away from the blade edge so you don’t cut yourself. But there is an exception. Saxe says when you sharpen away from the blade’s edge, you create a metal burr on the back of the blade’s cutting edge.

"You need to clear that burr off of there before that tool is completely sharp. If you were to clamp down on that pruning shears and not have removed the burr you will have damaged that cutting edge," says Saxe. "So, if it’s possible in a safe fashion, I would encourage you to consider sharpening those into the cutting edge."

The burrs can be scraped off with a file or sandpaper.

So how do you know when the tool is sharp enough? You can “carefully” feel the edge with your fingers, or just look at the bevel and angle.

Learn more:

Watch a video that explains garden tool cleaning and sharpening

More tips for garden tool sharpening

Listen here to the radio mp3

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