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Good pruning shears are an expensive, but worthwhile investment in garden tools. Good pruners are a pleasure to use, and with a little care and maintenance, can provide years of service. Here are some tips on how to clean and sharpen pruning shears.
When using pruning shears, be careful not to catch support wires or wire fencing in the blades since this will severely damage the cutting edges.
Every time you put your garden pruners away, take the time to clean them properly. A few moments on maintenance will make your garden shears last much longer.
How to Take Care of Pruning Shears
When you buy new hand shears, it’s best to give the trimmers a rudimentary clean with some soapy water.
Before storing the pruning shears, wipe any moisture, dirt, grease, grime, or sap from the blades with a clean rag using a smooth motion. If the sap is difficult to remove, use steel wool and really rub those spots down. Here’s where you can get dry steel wool.
Examine the Blades of your Garden Shears
Sharp clippers make pruning easier on the gardener and healthier for plants. Crushed, torn or splintered branches indicate dull cutting edges.
Examine both blades carefully. The thick metal blade is called the anvil, and a thinner curved blade is the cutting blade.
To maximize the shearing effect of the anvil blade, there should be a clean right-angle where the top of the blade and the side of the blade meet.
The 90-degree angle of the anvil forms the cutting edge. There should be no dings or ragged bits of metal showing along the length of the angle.
The second blade is the cutting blade. It works like a guillotine to shear branches pressed against the anvil.
It should have a smooth knife-edge, with no visible dents or chips. If damage is visible on either one of the blades, they need to be sharpened.
How do you sharpen Pruning Shears yourself?
Some garden centers will sharpen pruning shears for a fairly reasonable price, but it is a job that a do-it-yourself-gardener can manage at home. All it takes are:
- A fine-toothed flat file, or a sharpening stone.
- A few drops of machine oil.
- A little care and patience.
If the anvil blade is damaged, wrap a bit of rag around the opposite cutting blade before proceeding to avoid cut fingers.
Use the sharpening stone to smooth burrs and dings on the anvil blade. Strive to maintain a clean right-angle.
A few drops of oil on the blade may help the process.
To sharpen the cutting blade, hold the sharpening stone or file at an angle approximately the same as the angle of the bevel on the cutting edge.
Hold the stone perpendicular to the beveled cutting edge, move the stone from the thick edge of the blade toward the knife edge.
The file or stone will not be able to cover the entire blade at once, so start near the hinge and repeat this motion down the length of the curved blade, always moving in the same direction.
Make an occasional pass on the flat, back side of the blade to remove small irregularities and insure a fine cutting edge.
Storing Pruning Shears
Always clean your shears before storing and wipe a light coating of oil on the blades. This will help to keep rust from forming, and also, always store the shears out of the weather.
These tips work for any hand cutters and also telescopic shears, which are great for taking off branches on taller trees.
With a little care, the shears will last a lifetime. Invest in a good quality set of garden pruners and then take care of them.
We have had great experience with the Fiskars brand – excellent quality and they aren’t expensive.
Gardening Stuff you Want to Know
- Want to learn about Pruning Shrubs and Fruit Trees?
- Backyard overgrown? Here’s how you can Restore a Neglected Garden.
- Got stubborn weeds? Try this all natural Weed Killer recipe – works on even the toughest weeds!
- Learn more about maintaining garden tools.
Remember to sharpen pruning shears regularly to make them last!
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originally published 2020; latest update October 2022