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Sharpening Your Garden Tools
Garden tools with a sharp edge save you time and effort in the garden. Shovels, spades and hoes let you dig and cultivate more quickly. Tidying a hedge goes faster with sharp pruners, and you’ll leave cleaner cuts as well. When your work doesn’t go as fast as you’re used to, check the edges of your tools by touching them lightly. If they feel dull, it’s time to sharpen them.
Sharpening garden tools that dig
One approach is to pay to have tools sharpened in spring, and then neaten them up with a file all year. However, sharpening tools is a job you can easily do yourself, with steel wool, a vise, a metal file and some WD-40.
Hoes, shovels and spades are all sharpened the same way. First, scrub off any dried-on dirt from last season. If you have crusty tools, scrub off as much grime and rust as you can with steel wool or a barbecue grill cleaning brush. Rinse and dry with a rag. Then clamp the tool in your vise, with the business end up and the beveled edge facing away from you.
Now place your file flat on the bevel, and push it down and away with long diagonal strokes. The bevel is at about a 45-degree angle; follow it, smoothly matching the taper. The bevel will show bright metal at the edge, where you have worked it. Turn the shovel over if you need to remove any burrs or rough places along the edge, but do not file flat on the edge — this dulls it. Use WD-40 to protect the metal, or spray it with cooking spray if you are concerned about oil in your garden.
How to sharpen garden tools for pruning
To sharpen pruners and loppers, you can take them apart to clean. However, you can leave them intact if all they need is sharpening. You sharpen only one side of a pruner or lopper, the beveled side that looks like a blade.
Go over the edge with the file, following the factory bevel. Use perhaps four or five strokes, and then turn over to remove burr if necessary. Go over with WD-40 on steel wool or spray with cooking spray to protect. Clean loppers and pruners are much easier to use. They make better looking cuts and are less likely to spread plant diseases.
Maintaining garden tools
Rinse your tools after use, and dry with a rag if necessary. Pay particular attention to joints where mud can cling and rust can start. Hang tools if possible, or stand them up. Always keep them indoors, whether in a garage or their own small shelter.