Gardening Articles: Care :: Tools & Equipment
Maintaining Your Edge (page 2 of 3)
by Beth Marie Renaud
Types of blades
Bypass pruners or loppers work like scissors, except that the blades are slightly curved to hold a stem or branch in place. Sharpen only the beveled side of the cutting blade. Do not sharpen the flat side of the cutting blade, or any part of the opposing blade because you will create a space between the blades that will prevent their clean, scissorlike cutting action.
Anvil pruners and loppers have a cutting blade that comes down on an anvil, cutting a stem as if it were laid on a chopping block. The cutting edge is beveled on both sides, like some knife blades. Sharpen both sides of the cutting blade from the base of the blade to the tip. Take care not to remove too much metal; you want to retain the original shape of the blade so it will meet the anvil completely.
Hedge shears, like bypass pruners, also work like scissors; the cutting blade is beveled on the inside edge. Lock long and somewhat unwieldy blades like these into a vise to ensure a smooth, even stroke of the file. Sharpen the cutting blade with a medium-grit mill bastard file, running it from the bottom of the blade to the tip. Put a fine finish on the blade by switching to a fine mill file. File the outside of the cutting blade and the opposing blade lightly to remove any nicks or burrs.
Shovels, spades, and hoes hold up best with blunt cutting edges, since they are used for digging. Go at them with a medium-grit mill bastard file. It will not remove too much metal or put too fine an edge on them, but can work out the nicks and chips and make a straight bevel. Brace the tool against a solid surface (or fasten it into a vise if you have one) and push the file forward along the tool's cutting edge, in one diagonal direction--from left to right, or vice versa, depending on the type of file you're using--so the file is gripping the steel. For all three tools, smooth sharp edges and remove burrs with a fine-grit file or small whetstone.