How to Clean and Sharpen Pruning Shears

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Ask any gardening enthusiast to list the equipment and tools that they regard as essential for maintaining their garden and almost all of them will include a set of pruning shears

Used for cutting branches and stems from flowers, bushes and small trees they certainly have quite a workload which means they will ultimately need some maintenance to keep them effective.

For that reason, we are going to explain how you can clean and sharpen your pruning shears including what equipment you will need, how to maintain your pruning shears safely, and take you through a step by step process to get them as close to 100% clean and sharp as possible.

Equipment Needed

As with most items that need to be cleaned, sharpened, or both, there are many ways these can be done, and all sorts of equipment that can be used.

For that reason, it must be pointed out that what you are about to read does not specify the only way pruning shears can be cleaned and sharpened, however, it is the recommended way to keep them in good condition.

The equipment you will need for the cleaning and sharpening processes are is as follows:

  • Eye goggles or safety glasses
  • Gloves
  • Wrench or screwdriver
  • Course + fine steel wool
  • Medium/fine sandpaper
  • Course diamond file
  • Cleaning/drying cloths
  • Wire brush
  • Basin or bucket of hot, soapy water
  • Cleaning solvent
  • Lubricating oil
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You will have noted that the first two items in the list of equipment are safety goggles and gloves. Now you might think that cleaning and sharpening a pair of humble pruning shears is not exactly a high-risk activity, and in most cases, it isn’t.

Nevertheless, you are going to working with tools that have sharp edges and liquids, that could accidentally splash into your eye.

For both of those reasons the old adage that it is better to be safe than sorry comes to the fore, so we highly recommend that you wear your gloves and goggles at all times while you go through the processes of cleaning and sharpening your pruning shears.

Disassembling Your Pruning Shears

The first step is to disassemble your pruning shears. Before you panic, this is actually very simple to do, and based on how they are constructed will only require you to either undo a bolt or a couple of screws.

Once you have undone them, carefully separate the two blades, and you should then be able to remove the spring from the handles.

Here’s a  couple of tips to make this easier. First, do the disassembly over an old towel so there is less chance of anything rolling away and getting lost. The second tip is to make a note of each piece so that when you put them back together you can check every piece is present.

Step by Step Instructions For Cleaning Pruning Shears

  • This is the main cleaning step where you want to scrub each blade with the wire scrubbing brush and some hot, soapy water. If you do not have a wire brush, a nail scrubbing brush or even an old toothbrush will suffice. You want to make sure that as well as the main parts of the blades that you clean out any dirt which has been trapped in little crevices.
  • Although step No. 1 should get rid of normal mud and dirt you will want to go a stage further to remove the likes of rust, plant sap, and dirt which is determined to cling on. This is where you would use the coarse steel wool or sandpaper and in order to make this part of the cleaning process even more effective, some cleaning solvent can also be employed.
  • The final stage of the cleaning process is to ensure that you dry every part of the pruning shears that you have cleaned thoroughly using a cloth. If you want to give the blades some sheen you can rub them at this point with the fine steel wool which should bring them back to looking their best.

Step by Step Instructions for Sharpening Pruning Shears

Before we go through the steps, we just want to point out that many people worry at this point that they might sharpen their pruning shears and damage them in some way. While it is possible, it is highly unlikely, so do not make that a reason not to sharpen them.

You do not have to get this bit absolutely perfect, besides sharpening your pruning shears even 50% right, is better than you not sharpening them at all and allowing them to deteriorate completely.

  • If you look at each blade you will see it has a shiny part, and this is the bevel which you are going to sharpen. If you cannot locate this, then it is likely that your pruning shears are completely worn or damaged and need to be replaced.
  • Place the tip of the file on the inner part of the blade’s curve, ensuring that you hold it at the exact same angle as the bevel that we mentioned in step #1. Pull the file across the curvature of the blade and towards the blade’s tip and as you do so ensure it remains angled correctly.
  • For normal sharpening repeat this movement of the file a minimum of 10 times, up to a maximum of 20 times. However, if either of the blades is in poor condition you may need to increase the number of draws of the file to as many as 50 to get it sharpened properly.
  • To check that you have sharpened your pruning shears sufficiently, reassemble them and then use them to cut through a piece of paper. You are not so much looking to see if they can cut through the paper (if they don’t there’s a big problem!) but rather that they create a curled shred.

Assuming that your pruning shears are sufficiently sharpened, the finishing touch is to add just enough lubricating oil to cover the surfaces of the blades to protect them and guard against any corrosion.

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