Sharpening Garden Shears

Sure it may be winter, but it’s the perfect time to prepare for the spring and prep those gardening tools. Just like with any tool that cuts, it is essential for garden shears to be sharp when being used. A sharp tool ensures a better cut and efficient work. As you prepare to sharpen the shears you should also take the time to rid them of rust and burrs that can affect the quality of the cut.

Gardener using shears to trim bush. (Courtesy: Prostooleh at

In this article we will teach you:

  • How to recognize that the shears need sharpening
  • How to sharpen garden shears
  • How to sharpen shears with different sharpening items
  • How to remove and prevent rust
  • How to remove burrs
  • Tips on keeping your shears in tip-top shape

Recognizing That The Shears Need Sharpening

It is not uncommon for gardeners to misunderstand when gardening shears need to be sharpened. For example, when shears stop cutting, it isn’t uncommon for a gardener to assume that the problem is due to a dull blade.

On many occasions when shears don’t cut, the problem is not a dull blade. It is a loose fastening nut that join the blades together.

The process of determining if shears need to be sharpened involves troubleshooting. That means that you need to check various things that affect the cutting to determine what the trouble is.

So, if your shears are experiencing cutting problems, then it is suggested that you check to see whether the fastening nut is loose. If it is, tighten it.

That doesn’t end the troubleshooting process. Next, you should perform a test cut. If the cut is clean, then you don’t have to sharpen the shears. However, if the cut is poor, then inspect the blades to assure that they aren’t bent. If they are slightly bent, straighten them.

To straighten blades, loosen the pivot nut of the shears and separate the blades. Place the shears into a vise and then flex the blades until they are straight.

If your troubleshooting to this point has not alleviated the problem, then inspect the blades to see if they’re dull. If they are, sharpen them.

How To Sharpen Garden Shears

There are a variety of sharpening tools you can use. They include a hand file, bench grinder, angle grinder, or sharpening stone.

It is suggested that if the blades are dull, you should use two sharpening tools.

Each tool is unique in its own right and are used in different ways.

If you wish to sharpen the blades using a hand file, then select a 10-inch long mill file.

It is suggested that you wear gloves to prevent a possible cut.

There are 6 steps to sharpening shears with a long mill file.

1. Clean the shears. To do this, simply rinse the blades with water from an outdoor tap or you can fill a sink or container with water and use it with an old cloth or brush.

2. Remove rust. Rust isn’t only unsightly, it makes it difficult to open and close the shears. Use a medium-coarse steel wool, sand paper or other abrasive material to gently buff away the rust.

3. Wipe the blades with a cloth and apply clean oil.

4. Secure the shears in a bench vise then open them as wide as possible. To avoid accidents, turn the beveled edge of the cutting blade upward.

5. Hold the file in both hands and move it in one direction away from you on the blade. Make one complete stroke from the base of the blade. Do not perform small, jerky strokes because it will cause the file to lose the factory edge. Apply light pressure and keep checking the edge of the file with each stroke to ensure that the path of the factory bevel is being followed. Adjust the filing angle as needed to file the entire edge of the blade evenly. Repeat this motion several times until you expose clean metal over the blade’s entire edge. Once you complete sharpening one blade, work on the other.

6. The filing action often creates burrs on the back of each blade. To remove the burrs, keep the blade flat and lightly sand the back of the blade in a circular motion.

Next we will explain how to sharpen garden shears using a sharpening stone. There are 8 steps to sharpening using a stone.

1. Wipe down the blades with a rag dampened with soapy water, and then let the blades dry completely.

2. Rub the blades with coarse steel wool and rid the sanding dust with a rag.

3. Dampen the sharpening stone with paraffin oil. Hold the stone at a 10 to 15-degree angle firmly in one hand and the shears with the other. Work the stone towards the edge of the blade following the natural curve of the shears. Continue working the stone across each blade until they are uniformly sharpened and you are satisfied with the results.

4. Remove uneven edges using 600-grit dry or wet sandpaper over the blades.

5. Wipe silicone-based lubricant on the blades with a cloth to prevent rust.

6. Test the shears’ cutting ability on a leaf. When you’re satisfied with the performance, stop sharpening.

7. Clean off the burrs left by the stone.

8. Assemble the blades and lightly apply oil on the moving parts.

Maintaining Garden Shears

There are several things you can do to maintain the shears to assure that they cut perfectly every time you use them.

  • Use a hosepipe and a clean rag to remove leaves, soil, and other debris after each use. This will prevent rust from forming on the shears.
  • Store the shears in a dry, protected area in the garage or shed.
  • Hang the shears when storing them so that moisture and soil can’t contact them.
  • Put shears in a bucket filled with clean sand. Lightly moisten the sand with multipurpose oil and place the bucket in a sheltered location. The sand will keep the blades sharp and the oil will prevent rust from forming on the blades.


About Robert Janis

Written by Robert Janis for LawnEq - Your specialists for Lawn Mower Parts and Small Engine Parts. We offer genuine premium OEM parts for Land Pride, Toro and many more dependable manufacturers.