How To Sharpen Shears, Hedge Trimmers and Other Garden Tools

Updated: Jan. 24, 2024

Proper gardening tool sharpening, such as pruning shears and hedge clippers, make your work easier, and the sharpening can be done on a single rainy afternoon.

Next Project

An hour or less






Gardening and yard work can take a lot out of your tools. As pruning shears and hedge clippers wear down and blunt, everyday gardening gets a little more difficult. Make your work safer and easier by restoring your tools' original edges. You need only a few basic materials, a way to secure the garden tool and a little bit of elbow grease.

Tools Required

  • File
  • Safety glasses
  • Socket/ratchet set
  • Vise

Edger and Sharpening Tools laid out on Wooden SurfaceDan Stout for Family Handyman

Project step-by-step (7)

Step 1

Clean the garden tool

  • Take off any big chunks of mud with a hose.
  • Clean off any rust with a wire brush or wire wheel attachment on a rotary tool or drill.
  • Treat stubborn rust with a vinegar soak or treatment with a rust remover like CLR.
    • Keep wood handles clear of the soak. Vinegar can stain wood black.
  • Disassemble the tool if needed.
      • Sometimes rust forms between the blades of garden shears or hedge clippers, you may need to disassemble them for a thorough cleaning.

Edger In VinegarDan Stout for Family Handyman

Step 2

Secure the garden tool

  • Seat the tool in a bench vise or hold it to a work surface with clamps.
  • Adjust your light source or tool to allow a clear view of the edge while you work.
    • If you have an adjustable work light, angle it so you can see the tool’s edge.
    • If your light isn’t adjustable, you may need to shift positions to get the best illumination.
  • Skip the vise or clamps entirely by threading long-handled tools such as shovels through your legs.
    • Set the head of the shovel over your left thigh. (If you’re left-handed, reverse these directions.)
    • Slip the handle between the right thigh and calf, allowing the end to rest against the ground.
    • Bring your right foot back to apply pressure on the end of the shovel. It will now be secured with three points of contact, and you can begin sharpening.

Edger held in ClampsDan Stout for Family Handyman

Step 3

Identify the edge

  • Identify the tool’s factory edge, and let it guide you in terms of angle and bevel. The “factory edge” is the edge as it was sharpened when it left the factory. Unless your tool has a serious dent, it’s easier to follow the outline of this original edge than create a new angle.
  • Check both sides of the tool to see whether it’s a double or single bevel.
    • A double-bevel edge is shaped like a ‘V’ that comes to a point in the center of the blade (like an axe head).
    • A single-bevel edge is flat on one side of the blade (like a chisel).
    • Bypass loppers or pruners use one beveled blade and one flat blade. In this case, sharpen the beveled blade and smooth any nicks or dings on the flat blade.
Step 4

Sharpening with a file

  • Begin by using the rough file. Push away with a steady, even movement, following across the factory edge.
  • Watch for a change in the metal coloration as you file.
    • Shiny metal emerging from the dark shows where you’ve removed metal to re-establish the bevel.
    • If some parts of the bevel are still dark, adjust your angle and try again.
  • After the bright color is present along the whole bevel, switch from the rough file to the fine file to refine the edge.
    • If the edge was in good shape to begin with, you can skip the rough file, and simply clean up the edge with the fine file.
  • For single-bevel edges, proceed to de-burring (the next step). For double-bevel edges, sharpen the opposite side of the bevel as well.

Sharpening Garden Tools with a rough FileDan Stout for Family Handyman

Step 5

De-burr the tool

As you sharpen the edge, a metal burr will form on the opposite side of the bevel. If this burr isn’t removed, it can interfere with the movement of the tool and catch on whatever material you’ll be cutting through, whether that’s plant stems or dirt. (Or in the case of bypass shears, the other half of the tool!)

  • Pause occasionally as you sharpen, and carefully feel the back side of the edge. You’ll be able to feel (or even see) the burr forming.
  • Knock off the burr with the file or sandpaper.
Step 6

Reassemble and fine-tune the tool as needed

  • Reassemble any loppers or pruners. This is a good time to put a drop of oil on pivot points.
  • Check lawnmower blades for balance by hanging the blade on a nail by its center hole. It should sit evenly, like the top of a T. If it tips one way or the other, file a bit more material off the heavy side to even it out.
Step 7

Preserve the tool

  • Prevent rust damage by treating the tool with a protective coating.
    • I like to use boiled linseed oil, but you may prefer WD-40, 5-in-1 oil or another treatment.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and dispose of any rags appropriately (watch for spontaneous combustion!).

Edger Before And After SharpeningDan Stout for Family Handyman