Pruner sharpening 101 (remedial lesson)

The birds are singing, the Mt. Aso pussywillow (Salix chaenomeloides ‘Mt. Aso’) is coloring buds, crocus are emerging, and it feels for all the world like early-spring outside. Given that we really ought to still be tucked into winter, it would be a little premature to start cutting the garden back quite yet. But unless winter suddenly shows up in the next few Groundhog’s Day weeks, we will be out cutting the gardens back earlier than usual. It’s high time to take a tool inventory and sharpen a few things (and in our case, replace a few) to get ready.

Almost exactly a year ago I did a post on how-to sharpen pruners and I’m sorry to have to print a total retraction now. I had taken a few lessons from my husband (who I reported as having a keen interest in anything at least as sharp as my wit) and what he taught made perfect sense to me. I recommended flattening the flat side of the blade of and touching up the bevel.

Alas flattening the flat side wasn’t a great idea – particularly for the grape shears we use for deadheading. Over the course of the summer, snip after snip seized up, refusing to close and ever snip again. The garden volunteers, quite rightly, wanted my head on a platter. It was that frustrating.

Below is a video produced by DMT, the makers of the diamond sharpeners we use. In it you’ll see that the correct way to sharpen a bypass pruner is to run the file only along the bevel from the inside out, pushing towards the edge rather than away from it. (Away strokes raise a burr.) Check their website for more videos on how to sharpen snips, scissors, knives, etc.

My fingers are crossed that no one ruined any good tools by following my bum advice. I have some hope because the pruners I use daily never seized up or failed to cut properly. And luckily our Felcos are still working properly. (I have deleted the erroneous post from our archives.)

Have you been tending to your tools, getting ready for a spring that might be here before we know it? Do you have any advice – or admonitions – to share?