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How to Sharpen Garden Tools

After a couple years of service, it's common for your favorite garden tools like garden cutters start losing their edge – literally.

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Working On Garden Shears Gettyimages 1294395349Yevheniya Tuzinska/Getty Images

Sharpening Garden Tools the DIY Way

Shears, shovels, garden cutters, knives and much more can grow blunt over time, making them less efficient and potentially dangerous. Keep your tools sharp with these tips. You may need to make a run to the hardware store or home center to make sure you have everything you need. Required equipment for these sharpening projects may include:

  • High-grit sandpaper or steel wool
  • The right files (triangle, mill, etc.)
  • A vise or similar clamp
  • A grinder for larger blades
  • A whetstone for knives and other tools
  • Mineral oil for lubrication, cleanup and protection

Note: Remember to practice safety while sharpening. Wear protective clothing and safety glasses, set up a workstation away from pets or kids, and always have full support for the tool you are working on. 

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ShearsChristopher Boswell/Shutterstock


From long-handled pruning shears to shorter grass garden cutters or long-bladed hedge shears, these blades can quickly wear down after a few seasons of work. These shears have two beveled edges, top and bottom, that both need to be sharpened (trying to sharpen any other part of the blade is useless, so make sure you know where these bevels are). The good news is that, with a little help from a clamp, a basic mill file can quickly give shears back their edge with minimal effort. If you notice the blade is nicked or bent, you may want to buy new garden cutters and make sure to only use them on smaller branches. Important note: Shears – and most of the other tools on our list – can also rust over time, or develop thick layers or grime. It's vital to remove rust and dirt before you start sharpening. This is where high-grit sandpaper is useful: Sand the blades down to a nice shine before you begin sharpening.
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How to Sharpen Lawnmower BladesFamily Handyman

How to Sharpen Lawnmower Blades

Sharpening the blades is an important part of a lawn mower tune up. The hardest part about sharpening a lawnmower blade is detaching the blade safely from your lawnmower. Once the blade is safely removed and held in a vise, a good file is all you need to add an edge to the blade. Just remember to make sure that you are sharpening the right side of the blade! When detached, it can sometimes be difficult to tell which way the sharpest edge is facing.
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ShovelsFamily Handyman


Flat-edged shovels usually don't need much sharpening, but shovels with a curved edge depend on the sharpness of the edge to easily penetrate tough soil, roots, ice and other materials. Keep this edge crisp by periodically cleaning and sharpening the blade. A large file can help add a new edge, but if the shovel has some serious dings and nicks, you will need a grinder to really buff out the edge.
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Chances are good that you have a knife or two lying around for small yard-related tasks. Keep these knives sharp with a diamond sharpening stone or traditional whetstone and a little mineral oil. In this case, you don't really need to clamp anything down for any effective sharpening process.
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There are two general types of rakes. The first is a casual, lightweight rake used to clean up grass clippings and leaves – these don't need to be sharpened. However, there are more heavy-duty rakes that are used to break up very tough soil, dig out roots, and other tough tasks. These rakes can benefit from a periodic sharpening to keep them efficient: Small files can reach around the tines and do a good job.
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Like the shovel, your humble trowel can often benefit from a thorough sanding and sharpening: A grinder is rarely necessary with smaller, hand-held trowels, so this project depends on tough files and a little bit of patience.
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Do you prefer to use a hoe instead of a shovel or rake? Clamp it down and start sharpening—but keep a light touch here, because hoes may not have bevels or be designed for sharpening. Do try to create a cutting edge by lightly sanding and filing. This makes the hoe more efficient.
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Ax or Hatchet

Ax or Hatchet

You can certainly sharpen your axes and hatchets, but you need tough tools for the job. A file can help keep an edge on smaller hatchets, but if your ax is thoroughly worn down, you'll need to use a grinder. Keep in mind that, unlike many other tools, axes can be sharpened on both sides to enhance the cutting edge.