Around the Yard

How to Clean and Sharpen Gardening Hand Tools

By: Danny Lipford

Using a file to sharpen the blade on a shovel.

Gardening tools, such as shovels and pruning shears, can become dull and rusty over time. To restore gardening tools:

  1. Use a wire brush and steel wool to remove any rust.
  2. Sharpen edges or blades with a file, stone, or grinder.
  3. Apply lubricating oil to any moving parts.
  4. Sand wooden tool handles and apply several coats of linseed oil.
  5. Apply a light coat of linseed oil to metal surfaces to prevent rust.

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Video Transcript

Danny Lipford: In addition to winterizing your power tools, you also need to pay a little attention to your hand tools. And rust, that’s really the enemy, isn’t it?

Julie Day Jones: Especially if you’re like me and tend to leave them out in the rain.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. Like this one right there. Somebody left this one out in the rain.

Julie Day Jones: That one could use a little TLC, I think.

Danny Lipford: Absolutely. Well, first thing, attacking that rust. If you use a wire brush, you can get a lot of that rust off of there. That’s the first step when you have an acute problem like this one. And then steel wool can really polish it up very nicely.

Julie Day Jones: That’s already looking better.

Danny Lipford: Already looking better. And then you can wipe it down and lubricate it with lubricating oil, is always a good idea. And work that in there real well. But you’ve got a little trick about these wooden handles, which is a real vulnerable part of any hand tool. Don’t you think?

Julie Day Jones: It sure is. They’ll get brittle. One day you’re going to be out there working and it’s just going to snap. Take a little bit of sandpaper. Go over them lightly. Just take the splinters out. You don’t have to do a lot of work on it. But get it nice and smooth and then put some linseed oil—a light coat—let it soak in. I’d go ahead and put a second coat and let that soak in. And while you’re at it, oil those blades. Get everything nice and lubricated for the winter.

Danny Lipford: Shovels are something that seem like they’re always so dull and people using a bench grinder to try to put an edge on that. That can be a little dangerous.

Julie Day Jones: Something like this file would be perfect.

Danny Lipford: This works great. I’ve used these a lot. And just paying a lot of attention, and just you’ll see it basically getting sharp right in front of your eyes. And just work it around just like this. All of these kind of things, though, it really didn’t take that long to get all of the hand tools. But it’ll be a lot better come spring, huh?

Julie Day Jones: Sure, especially if they sit in your garage all winter the rust is going to get worse. When spring comes you’re going to want to grab them and go.


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How to Clean and Sharpen Gardening Hand Tools