I have an admission to make. I’m not the best tool caretaker and tend to beat them into the ground and put them away filthy until they’re in such dire straits that I’m forced to finally take action. That was the situation a few weeks ago when I found my pruners buried under a bunch of stuff on my work bench rusted, dull and unwilling to bounce back after I squeezed the grip. Matter of fact, my entire work bench looks like a bomb went off. It’s an inherited trait and one that drives my husband crazy.
Of all my garden tools, my Felco No. 2 pruners are one of my most expensive tools as well as the most used and hardest working. Which hardly makes them deserving of such indelicate treatment. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t irreparable, and nothing a little vinegar, yes vinegar, and a few passes with a diamond file couldn’t fix. There’s something very satisfying about fixing things using common household items and I think everyone has a bottle of vinegar somewhere in the cupboard. If not, save yourself the cost of expensive derusting products and grab a 99-cent bottle of white vinegar.
Well cared for tools make gardening so much easier on the plant as well as the gardener. No tugging at branches and no constant squeezing of the pruners to make a single cut. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. A clean cut heals faster and easier, lessening the chance that any kind of infection or critter will find the weak spot. I know this and yes, I’m guilty of letting things get pretty bad.
Before sharpening the pruner, give it a good cleaning. If you’re not dealing with rust like I was, a little soapy water and a scrubber may be all you need to get the gunk and sticky sap off the blade. Actually, this is something you should do after each use and also something I’m VERY guilty of not doing, which is pretty evident. I am very conscientious about cleaning my pruners with rubbing alcohol when I’m pruning from plant to plant. From what I’ve read, rubbing alcohol is more effective than bleach at preventing disease transmission between plants. I just don’t clean the tool properly when I’m finished using it. Nobody’s perfect.
In addition to the vinegar, I used a copper scrub brush. It’s non-abrasive and really got things tidied up fast. A 3-M scrubber, also non-abrasive, was great for cleaning the spring and getting into areas the brush couldn’t reach. For sharpening, I really like the EZE-Lap diamond files for their ease of use and shorter length. At just 6 inches long, they were ideal for filing a small blade at just the right angle. I also like that the files are made in America and are pretty inexpensive at just $18 for a set of three files – medium grit, fine grit and super fine. You can also buy them individually but you’ll need the rougher medium grit for those first few passes. It did a good job of removing the dings in the blade.
The angle at which you hold the file to the blade is the most important part of sharpening. Hold it at the same angle as the blade as you pass over it. Otherwise, you’re just wearing the edge down instead of sharpening it. Once you’ve decided that the rough spots are smooth, then move on to the finer grits.
And finally, oil it. I used 3-in-One Multi-Purpose Oil but you could use WD-40 or whatever lubricant you like for your tools. Apply to the blade, spring, and gear and work it in, dabbing off any excess with a paper towel. Just be careful that your first cut isn’t to your finger. By now that blade should be pretty sharp. And that’s that. I’m heading out as soon as I finish this post to clean and file the rest of my tools. Then again, maybe I won’t. My daughter just made a cake and I got a hankering for a carb load before I tackle these neglected tools.
Hopefully my YouTube video provides a better visual of how to restore your pruners. And if you like that format, please subscribe to my Here She Grows channel. There aren’t many videos up yet. I’m currently teaching myself to produce and edit garden videos and look forward to showing you all the projects that I plan to bring to life on video in the coming months. It’s going to be fun and I hope you’ll join me for the ride.
For now, garden on my friends, and do it with wicked sharp pruners. And thanks for reading!