How to Safely Sharpen Garden Shears

clipping branches with shears
What You'll Need
Box socket wrench set
Stiff nylon bristle brush
10-inch (25 cm) mill file
Vise grip fastened to a workbench
Dry soft cloths
Low-density ('light") lubricating oil
Leather work gloves
Safety goggles
Adequate overhead lighting

Properly sharpened garden shears will reduce the effort you must make to prune and trim shrubs and trees in your garden, saving you time and preventing injury. Follow these directions to sharpen your garden tools effectively and quickly.

To Sharpen Hedge Shears and Grass Clippers

Step 1 - Check the Pivot Nut

If this fastening nut joining the blades to the handles is loose, tighten it with a correctly-sized box socket wrench. Check the cutting edge on the shears by chopping through a few pieces of paper. If the shears work fine, then the blades just needed realigning. If they still will not cut even paper, prepare to sharpen them. Wear eye protection and gloves while sharpening any metal tools.

Step 2 - Clean All Debris and Rust Off the Blades

Use the stiff bristle brush to scrub off all visible plant debris and rust. Wipe off the blades with a soft cloth.

Step 3 - Sharpen the Blades with the Mill File

person trimming a hedge

Examine the blades to find the original bevel at the edge. With the blades fully apart, pass the mill file over this bevel on each blade with long slow strokes, from the tip of the file to the base. Start at the handle and go to the end of each blade. Check the sharpness with light pressure from the ball of your thumb against the blade. Run a soft cloth down the edge; any metal burrs will snag the cloth. File over those spots once more with the mill file.

Step 4 - Lightly Oil the Sharp Blades

Pour some low-density, lightweight oil onto a soft cloth. Wipe it all over the surfaces of both blades, to lubricate and protect them against rust and corrosion.

To Sharpen Pruning Shears

These shears, with one curved and one straight blade, are meant to cut tree branches more than an inch in diameter. You will damage hedge shears by using them for tree pruning. Take apart pruning shears for sharpening.

Step 1 - Brace the Curved Pruning Shear Blade

man pruning a tree with shears

Use a box socket wrench to undo the pivot nut and detach the pruning shear blades from each other. Put the lowest part of the curved blade into the vise grip with the tip up, and secure it snugly with the rotating handle. Brush the blade and wipe off any debris and rust.

Step 2 - Sharpen the Curved Blade

Use short, firm strokes to bring the bevel of the blade up to sharpness from the tip of the file to about its midpoint. Release it from the vise grip, wipe down and oil it with the light oil on a soft cloth.

Step 3 - Sharpen the Straight Blade

Insert the straight blade into the vise grip, edge up. Use the mill file to create a clean, precise 90-degree angle on the blade edge, with long strokes as for the hedge shears. Check and oil the straight blade and reattach it to the curved blade.