Sharpening pruning shears: A home gardener’s guide

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Dull pruning shears can’t slice through branches and are likely to slip and become hazardous. Fortunately, it’s easy to learn how to sharpen pruning shears.

To sharpen pruning shears, start by cleaning the pruning shears. Particularly dull shears may need to be taken apart to clean inside hidden crevices. Then, use a carbide sharpening file at an angle, sliding the blade from the base joint to the tip of the blade. Remove any burrs from the back of the blade with the file. Then oil the blades, wiping off any excess oil with a rag.

Read on for all the details about how to sharpen pruning shears.

How to sharpen pruning shears

How To Sharpen Pruning Shears

Give the pruning shears a quick rough cleaning before sharpening. Wipe off any visible plant debris or sap. If the pruning shears are very dirty or overly dull, consider taking them apart to get into the crevices and clean them out thoroughly.

Supplies for sharpening pruning shears

  • Pruning Shears
  • Steel Wool (or Lemon + Salt)
  • Rubbing Alcohol (or Hand Sanitizer)
  • Sharpening File
  • Sandpaper Block
  • 3-in-1 Oil (or Linseed Oil)
Supplies for sharpening pruning shears

Steps for sharpening pruning shears

  1. Clean off dirt with a brush and warm soapy water. Rinse.
  2. Clean off sap with cloth and rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Rinse.
  3. Clean off the rust with lemon and salt, or with steel wool. Rinse.
  4. Position the file at an angle of the blade, and slide from joint to tip. Repeat, usually 10-20 times.
  5. Check the back of the blade for burrs. If any, remove with the file.
  6. Oil blades with 3-in-1 oil.

Tips for keeping pruning shears sharp

  • Clean, dry, and put away pruners daily
  • Keep a wire brush handy to knock off soil and rust
  • Sharpen the beveled edge monthly
  • Polish the metal parts with steel wool
  • Oil the metal parts to prevent rust
  • Store in a dry place

“Buy fewer tools. Buy the very best-quality ones you can afford. And look after them. That way, they will be a pleasure to use for years and years.”

Kitchen Garden: A Month-by-Month Guide to Growing Your Own Fruits and Vegetables, by Alan Buckingham


Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a gardening expert and founder of Home for the Harvest. She's also a professional engineer, certified permaculture garden designer, and master gardener in training. Mary Jane has been featured by publications such as Real Simple, Mother Earth News, Homes & Gardens, Heirloom Gardener, and Family Handyman.