The Q&A Archives: sharp tools

Question: I always read you should sharpen pruners and even shovels. How do you do that?

Answer: Use a file to sharpen your tools. With pruners, itt is important to sharpen a bevel at the proper angle, the angle set when it was manufactured. To sharpen the bevel evenly, and to follow the proper angle, start by taking a magic marker and coloring the bevel on the cutting edge of the blade. If you are doing the job correctly, your file strokes should remove the magic marker coloring evenly across the full width of the bevel as you work on it. If only a small portion of the blade turns shiny, you need to change the angle of your file slightly.

Grasp the pruner in your left hand (if you are right-handed), holding on to the handle that extends to the cutting blade. Steady it by bracing your wrist against your hip or by placing the pruner on the edge a table. Working under a bright light helps, because it will help you to see the shiny edge that develops as you sharpen.

Start sharpening as near to the throat of the pruners (where the two handles join) as you can. Place the narrow tip of the file at the throat, and push the file away from you, sliding it down the length of the beveled edge. With practice you will be able to use the full length of the file as you run it down the blade.
You need to apply a little pressure as you sharpen, but not much. Sharpening will feel awkward at first, but gets easier as you do it. Watch the magic marker pattern on the bevel, trying to adjust the angle of your file so that the shiny, sharpened, portion includes the entire bevel.

Shovels can be sharpened in the same way. You won't need a magic marker, though. Just file both sides of the blade by stroking the file in a downward fashion.

Best wishes with your project!

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