Skip to Content

How to Sharpen Pruning Shears in 4 Easy Steps

Pruning shears are an important part of maintaining your garden and ensuring you get the most out of your plants. A good pair of pruning shears is a gardener’s best friend, but even a top-notch brand of shears will need its edges honed from time to time.

How to Sharpen Pruning Shears

Read on to learn how to sharpen pruning shears in an easy, safe way to ensure your shears continue to serve you for many seasons to come!

Supplies You’ll Need to Sharpen Pruning Shears

How to sharpen pruning shears

One of the primary things you need to know about how to sharpen pruning shears is the proper tools required for the task. Having the appropriate items will ensure not only a good, lasting cut and a long life for your shears, but it will also help cut back the time it takes to complete the task.

Typically, you will be choosing from three types of tools to sharpen pruning shears:

A grinder is the quickest option as it will remove dull edges very quickly; however, grinders run the risk of overheating the steel, which can soften the metal and cause your pruning shears to dull more quickly in the long run. Because of this, grinders are primarily recommended for those who have the time and practice to invest in developing a delicate hand that will ensure they can sharpen pruning shears without damaging them.

A file is the most popular and arguably the easiest tool overall to sharpen pruning shears, but it can tend to leave a rough edge rather than a razor-sharp one, which may make pruning a more difficult task overall. If you choose to go the route of files, it’s recommended to use a medium or fine mill file.

Lastly, you may opt for a sharpening stone to sharpen pruning shears. This will give you the sharpest edge of them all, which can be great for the sort of quick, precise cuts needed in pruning to ensure no harm is done to the plant in question. Sharpening stones come in a variety of natural stone and manmade materials, some requiring a honing oil or water, some working just fine dry. You’ll remove less steel when you sharpen pruning shears with a sharpening stone as opposed to a file, but that will help produce that coveted razor edge.

There are benefits and drawbacks to each of these common tools used to sharpen pruning shears; it’s ultimately up to you which works best for your specific needs.

Once you have chosen a sharpening tool, you will need to gather a few more supplies:

  • A wrench, preferably one with an adjustable grip size.
  • Soap, water, and mineral spirits
  • Abrasive materials such as steel wool or sandpaper
  • Oil intended for metal
  • A rag, cloth, or other scrubber
  • A bench vise or other clamp (optional)
  • A silicone-based lubricant or recommended oil

With all these items secured, it’s time to dive into the details on how to sharpen pruning shears!

Steps to Sharpen Pruning Shears

Pruning roses

How to Sharpen Pruning Shears: Disassemble and Clean Your Pruning Shears

The best approach for sharpening pruning shears begins with setting yourself up for success. While it’s an optional step to disassemble your shears, this is arguably the easiest and safest way to proceed.

Most pruning shears will have a hinge bolt or set of screws that allows the shears to crank open and shut. Using your wrench, remove the bolt or screws.

At this point, you may begin cleaning your pruning shears. You can start by running them under an outdoor tap if they are particularly dirty, but you will need to do a more thorough cleaning with soap and water to scrub away caked-on dirt, sap, and other residues; it is also recommended to apply mineral spirits to dissolve any buildup of stains or resin.

Be very careful when performing this step! You don’t want to cut your fingers on even a dull edge while you sharpen pruning shears. It’s recommended to wear sturdy gloves when cleaning your shears.

How to Sharpen Pruning Shears: Remove Rust From Your Pruning Shears

How to sharpen pruning shears

The next important step for how to sharpen pruning shears is to tackle any rust that you find present on your shears. Rust makes your pruning tasks more difficult by inhibiting the ease of opening and shutting the shears and can cause them to wear out more quickly in the long run.

To remove rust when you sharpen pruning shears, you will need to use your abrasive material to gently buff the rust away, then wipe the pruning shears clean and apply your metal-friendly oil.

How to Sharpen Pruning Shears: Secure and Sharpen Pruning Shears

How to sharpen pruning shears

Now that all dirt and rust are removed, it’s time for the most important part of sharpening pruning shears: the sharpening process itself!

At this point, if you have a bench vise or other clamp, now is the time to employ it, bracing the shears open if they are still joined by a bolt or screws or securing one half at a time if they are separated. If you don’t have a bench vise or clamp of any sort, you can brace the pruning shears on your lap, a countertop, or some other sturdy surface, but be extremely careful not to cut yourself.

Once secured, it’s time to sharpen your pruning shears. Grip the file or sharpening stone in both hands and move it in, out, and away from you, from the base of the blade to the tip in a single complete stroke. Avoid using small strokes, as this will compromise the shears’ edge.

With the proper file or sharpening stone, you should be able to sharpen pruning shears well in just a few strokes; but be sure to check the edge after every stroke for a smooth and clear path through the metal, which will show that you’re making progress. Be mindful to adjust the angle of your file or stone as you go so you sharpen the edge evenly.

Once you have exposed clean metal on the pruning shears’ entire edge, you can switch to the other blade and repeat the process. At the end, both edges should be showing completely clean metal.

Lastly, if you sharpen pruning shears with a stone, take 600-grit sandpaper that can be either dry or dampened and run it over the blades to keep the edges even; if you sharpen pruning shears with a file, you will want to use a similar abrasive to remove “burrs” of steel that can crop up on the back of the blade during the filing process. Then, wipe the shears clean using a damp cloth.

How to Sharpen Pruning Shears: Seal with Lubricant

Pruning shears

The final step in how to sharpen pruning shears is to lubricate them, which will slow down future rusting and ensure your shears remain reliable for as long as possible. You won’t need much; just apply a bit of a silicone-based lubricant or oil to each blade, being mindful of the sharpened edges.

With all these steps completed, your sharpened pruning shears should be ready for use!

How to Sharpen Pruning Shears: Safety Considerations

When learning and preparing yourself to sharpen pruning shears, safety is a primary concern.

Please ensure that you are securing your shears properly before sharpening them—be that by using a clamp to secure them, or by bracing them on some other dry, stable surface.

Wear gloves that you can reasonably work in, and when it comes to testing how well you’ve sharpened the pruning shears, be sure to use them in action—such as by snipping a leaf or weed stem outdoors—rather than feeling the edge of the blade with your thumb or fingertip.

By following these steps, you’ll learn how to sharpen pruning shears and be able to enjoy using them without any complications along the way!

Wrapping Up How to Sharpen Pruning Shears

Feeling prepared on how to sharpen pruning shears? There’s even more to learn about the pruning process! Check out our website’s pruning section to learn all the things you need to know about pruning.