How to Sharpen Secateurs: Complete Guide

Are your pruners not as sharp as they used to be?

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Secateurs are an essential tool for any gardener. However, over time, the blades can get blunt and sap and rust can reduce their efficacy.

In this article, we explore how to keep them at their best.

Why sharpen secateurs?

A sharp tool requires less force to make a cut, offering greater control and reducing the chances of slipping or overcutting.

Gardeners should sharpen important tools periodically to ensure they are effective for each gardening session. For the sake of longevity and ease of use, take some time every winter to bring your tools back to life.

A sharp pair of hand pruners makes cleaner cuts that heal more efficiently.

For infrequent gardeners, one sharpening a year may do the trick. It only takes 10-15 minutes to sharpen your pruning tools if you’ve kept them in good condition.

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Step 1: Wash the blades

Before you get to sharpening, you’ll want to ensure your secateurs are clean.

Use warm soapy water and a cloth to wash the blades. Rinse and dry completely before moving on.

Step 2: Remove rust and sap

Use sandpaper or steel wool to remove the rust and sap from your blades.

Place a strip of sandpaper or steel wool on a workbench, hold one blade at an angle to it with two hands and rub in circular motions until all signs of rust disappear.

To get rid of stubborn sap residue, scrub both sides with soap first then follow up by rubbing away any remaining spots caused by trapped oil.

Rinse and dry before proceeding.

Step 3: Secure the secateurs

If you have a bench vice, clamp the handles of your secateurs into it and tighten.

If not, use a heavy object on one side of the blade so that it’s held securely in place while you sharpen with the other hand.

Step 4: Sharpening

Use a sharpening stone or handheld sharpener to grind along the bevelled edge (maybe one or both edges) in smooth strokes. Be sure not to round the edge or change the shape of the blade.

If your blade has two bevelled edges, hold one side of the blade in your non-dominant hand and use short strokes to rub it against the sharpener with medium pressure, alternating sides every few seconds until you reach an even angle on both sides.

If you have multiple diamond blades with different levels of coarseness, start with the most coarse and finish with the finest.

Step 5: Lubricating or Oiling

To finish off, rub some mineral oil onto all surfaces of the cutting blades.

Alternatively, you can use a lubricant like WD40.

Once complete, wipe clean before storing away again.


Can you get secateurs sharpened?

Yes, many garden suppliers will sharpen secateurs. However, not all have the equipment to do so and it can be more expensive than sharpening your own blades. Secateurs that are very blunt can be resharpened by taking them to a specialist for grinding with an electric grinder.

What to look for when buying secateurs?

Secateurs should be sharp, sturdy and comfortable to use. They should have a non-slip grip so they can be used for prolonged periods of time without hurting your hands or wrists.

How many types of secateurs are there?

There are three main types and each serve a different purpose. Anvil secateurs are the strongest. They have a blade that cuts through the stem by pressing down on it against cutting surface. Bypass secateurs have two blades that cut from either side of the stems and do not touch, thus avoiding crushing or bruising the stem. Ratchet pruners are similar to bypass shears but instead of using handles, they are designed to be operated with just one hand.

What are the best secateurs for arthritic hands?

Look for secateurs that are lightweight, have a smooth and ergonomic handle design, and an adjustable grip. Secateurs should be relatively well-balanced for ease of use with one hand (some models come pre-equipped with a finger ring to help balance them). To reduce the strain placed on the hand, consider powered options like the Bosch Powered Secateurs.

What secateurs do professionals use?

Professional gardeners tend to favour the larger, heavier-duty models that can cut through tough stems. Secateurs come in a variety of shapes and sizes: some are straight; others have curved blades for cutting around obstacles more easily. It’s worth noting that many secateurs are designed for left or right handed use only.

Which secateurs does Monty Don use?

Monty Don is a gardener with over 40 years of experience, so it’s no surprise that he has his own favourite secateurs. He likes the Felco Pruners and recommends them for their lightweight design as well as how easy they are to adjust.

Photo of author

Steve Kropp

Based in Melbourne, Steve's passion is vegetable gardening, and he’s been writing about it for almost 5 years. He also loves all things DIY, and is always up for a new project. When not working on his own garden projects or blogging, Steve enjoys spending time with his family, cooking delicious meals from fresh produce picked from his garden, and coaching his son’s footy team.