How to Sharpen Pruning Tools


Whether it's a pair of bypass or anvil clippers, a hedge trimmer, loppers or a pruning knife, your pruning tools must be sharp to prevent damage to your plants. This is a job you can do often because it doesn't take much time, and the procedure is straightforward. Avoid using a grinder with your pruning tools -- it may work efficiently, but it's difficult to control, and you rarely need it.

Sharpening Procedure

Things You'll Need

  • Wrench
  • Alcohol or metal cleaner
  • Rag
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Wire brush
  • Vise
  • Coarse grinding stone
  • File
  • Fine grinding stone
  • Lubricating oil

Step 1

Disassemble the cutters, if possible. Many are connected by a single bolt that you can quickly unscrew with a wrench.


  • Do not disassemble your pruning shears if they are spring-loaded. The spring can unwind violently and injure you.

Step 2

Clean the blades with alcohol or a commercial metal cleaning product and a rag. Remove all sap, resins and other debris left over from cutting.

Step 3

Remove rust from both sides of he cutter blades by rubbing the blades with 220-grit sandpaper. You can also use a wire brush. Avoid sanding or brushing the beveled edges of the blades. Note that on some tools, such as bypass clippers, the edge may be beveled on only one side of the blade. In that case, de-rust the opposite side right up to the edge.

Step 4

Put the blade in a vise -- if you have one -- or hold the tool securely in your hand while you rub a coarse grinding stone or a file along the beveled edge. Before drawing the sharpening implement along the blade, orient if so that it's flush against the bevel. Depending on the implement, a gentle rubbing motion is appropriate and helps remove metal.


  • Unless the blade is pitted or otherwise damaged, you don't have to rub it much -- three or four passes may be sufficient.

Step 5

Refine the edge by repeating the sharpening process with gentle passes using a fine sharpening stone. After you're done with one side of the blade, turn it over and de-burr the other side, if necessary.

Step 6

Put a few drops of lubricating oil on the blades and rub it gently into the metal with a rag. Reassemble the tool -- if you took it apart -- and put a drop of oil in the pivot joint. Operate the cutters a few times to spread the oil.


  • Pruning tools are deceptively sharp and can easily cut you. Wear protective gloves while sharpening them.

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