A guide to sharpening secateurs

Alan Titchmarsh offers advice on sharpening secateurs, in this No Fuss video guide.

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Secateurs are an essential tool for every gardener and a piece of kit we use almost every day. But it’s important to keep them sharp. Heavy use clogs them with plant sap and blunts the blades which can tear plant tissue and allow disease in.

In our video guide Alan Titchmarsh highlights the importance of looking after your secateurs by oiling and sharpening them every few weeks so that they are always safe and easy to use.

For help in choosing secateurs see our Best secateurs round up, Buyer’s Guide and reviews


You Will Need

  • WD40
  • Sand paper
  • Sharpening stone
  • Oil
  • Cloths
  • Replacement blade (if needed)

Step 1

Cleaning garden tools bypass pruners secateurs pruning use scouring pad to clean edges and blades 17/11/2014 171114 17112014 17th 17 November 2014 Autumn Joe Swift WTDN photographer Sarah Cuttle location Linnette Ralph Warner Road London practical seasonal maintenance step by step
Cleaning bypass pruners secateurs 

To clean the blade, spray with WD40 and then remove the sap by rubbing with sand paper or a scourer. Do this on both sides of the blade.

Buy WD40 from Amazon

Step 2

Gardening mistakes - sharpening secateurs
Gardening mistakes – sharpening secateurs

To sharpen a blunt blade, use a sharpening stone. Holding it flat rub it across the surface of the blade. Then turn the secateurs over and position the stone so it is at the same angle as the bevelled edge and work it along the blade.

Buy sharpening stones on Amazon

Step 3


Many brands of secateurs can be taken apart to help you give them a really good clean and they will usually provide a tool to do this with. Unlock the screws and carefully dismantle the secateurs, remembering where each piece went. You can then remove the blade and sharpen it on a flat sharpening stone, oiling the stone first. When you’re finished, fasten the secateurs back together.

Step 4

If the blade is damaged and broken you may also be able to buy a new blade and simply take the secateurs apart and swap in the new blade.


How to sharpen secateurs: transcript

To a gardener, a good pair of secateurs can be his best friend. It’s rather like in a Western – a six-shooter in the holster for the gardener. It’s these – a pair of secateurs in a lovely, in my case, warm, battered holster that shows where it’s been and that I did once paint a fence blue.

The thing is, it’s most important to keep them sharp. These get used almost daily, but look what happens to the blade. It starts to get discoloured because this is nothing more than dried sap; and a blunt pair of secateurs are dangerous. They tear tissue, they allow in disease and they, generally speaking, are not a useful implement. Much better to try and keep these blades clean and sharp. And the way to do it on an almost daily basis is, first of all, to spray that blade with some WD40. Just a quick blast of it on there and then take sandpaper or emery paper and clean off that dried sap. You’ll find that with the help of that WD40, the blade starts to come up to its true colour. Do both sides and don’t forget that little lip bit down there that the scissor action is cutting

You see, it’s five minutes work and you can almost hear the fact that they’re cutting smoothly now.  There’s a bit of oil on that joint, that WD40 is doing its trick down there as well, making it run much more smoothly. The spring’s working too, but then the point will come where this edge here, the sharp edge starts to get little dents
in it or it does get blunt; and then you can get one of these special little sharpening stones. Now this side of the blade is flat. And that’s how you want to use this little sharpener, absolutely flat. Don’t be tempted to put it at an angle. You’re gently rubbing off any chafes on there and it’s this little edge here which has got an angle on it and that’s the one that you need to match with this sharpening tool, so that it’s at the right angle and just work that all the way along it.

Now, if you’re using your secateurs a lot, you can do this every two or three days. For most of us, every two or three weeks is enough and you’ll then find they’re as good as new. They give you a good, clean, sharp cut; much less likelihood of disease entering and much easier to use.

However, sometimes things go wrong. And when you’re clumsy as I was and you drop your secateurs and they land on the corner of the blade there, well, then you’re only getting part of a cut. You’re losing that last bit, which you often need. So, you can buy a replacement blade and take this whole thing apart and put a new
blade in.

But if you really want to give them a good sharpen, you can also take them apart to sharpen the blade. You’ll get a little tool like this, which allows you to unlock these screws, all of them, and take your secateurs apart. Try and remember what goes where. Carefully dismantle this. Out comes the blade, and now you can either
replace it with a new one or you can sharpen this on a sharpening stone. A bit of oil on there and there’s your flat side. Give it a really good rubbing round. So that’s the flat side done and now, being careful to get that angle correctly, you can just… At the end, you’ve got a blade which has got a good edge on it and you can then, just fasten your secateurs all the way back together again. They’ll come up good as new. Satisfying sort of job for a
sunny afternoon.