Garden Shears Sharpening and Rust Removal
My garden shears are dull and rusty. What can I do?
Gardening tools like shears see hard use. Cutting through woody plants is tough on the best of edges. Add to that months of hanging in a garage or shed in all weather conditions, and it’s no surprise they're rusty and not cutting as well as they used to. Fortunately, getting your shears back into top condition isn’t as hard as you might think.
Tool sharpening and rust prevention go hand in hand. It’s no good keeping a tool clean and rust free if it has an edge that won’t cut. It’s also not productive to put a great edge on a tool if the rest is rusting to pieces. With that in mind, we’ve put together this article that combines resources from Sharpening Supplies and our sister company, The Rust Store
Take them apart and clean them off
If you can take your shears apart, start by doing so. Not all are able to be disassembled. It is still possible to work with them if they can’t be, but it definitely is easier with them in two pieces.
Then go at them with a wire brush or a scrub pad. Get all the dirt off, and remove any loose rust that you can. There’s no need to go crazy. If rust falls off with a few strokes of the brush, great. If not, rust remover will do the job.
Immerse them in Evapo-Rust
We recommend Evapo-Rust for removing rust. It is a water based, non-toxic rust remover that is biodegradable and has an indefinite shelf life. Instead of using acids as some rust removers do, Evapo-Rust uses a chemical process called chelation to selectively remove rust while leaving other materials unharmed.
Evapo-Rust works best if the rusty metal is fully immersed, so find a container large enough to fit the tool, and use enough to get it covered.
Let them soak
How long to soak depends on how bad the rust is. 30 minutes for light rust to overnight for heavier corrosion is typical. Leaving the tool in Evapo-Rust for a few days will not cause any harm so don’t be afraid to give it some time. If you do let it sit, cover the container so that the Evapo-Rust doesn’t evaporate.
Take them out
When the rust is gone, remove the shears, rinse them and dry them off. It really is that easy.
Evapo-Rust doesn’t lose its potency with exposure, and can be reused. Eventually, it will be used up, but it will be almost black at that point. If the Evapo-Rust is somewhat clear and transparent, it is still effective and worth reusing. Simply pour it into a storage container and seal it up.
Hold them steady
We often think of sharpening as a process where the tool is moved over the sharpening stone, and you could sharpen shears that way. However, large or awkwardly shaped tools are often easier to handle if you clamp them in a vise and then move the sharpener over the tool. If you don’t have a vise, try clamping the handle of the shears to a workbench.
Sharpen the bevels
We recommend diamond sharpening stones like the DMT Double Sided Diafold Kit to make quick work of the job. The kit is versatile and an excellent value, but if you choose to just go with one stone of two grits, we recommend the coarse/fine combination.
Lay the stone on the bevel and slide it along the blade. Light to medium pressure is all that should be needed. Make sure you maintain the original angle of the bevel, which for shears is usually about 35 degrees. Sharpen with the coarsest grit until a burr can be felt along the flat side for the entire length of the blade. Then repeat with the next finer grit and so on.
Don’t sharpen the flat side. In order to cut well, the two flats must come together smoothly, and removing material may prevent them from doing so. The action of the two blades sliding past each other as the clippers open and close will remove any burr left from sharpening the bevel.
Other options for stones
There are other options for aggressive, durable sharpening stones suitable for gardening tools. The Norton Tradesman Utility Stone is a good one. A coarse side and a fine side, both in silicon carbide, will quickly handle a variety of tool edges with ease.
Apply rust protection
You wouldn’t want to remove rust too often or it might stop being fun. So give your shears a good protective coating now to keep them rust free as long as possible. A rust inhibitor like Boeshield T-9 is an effective and easy surface coating that will lubricate and protect from future corrosion. Developed by Boeing Aviation for aircraft components, it will do a fine job on your tools.
Camellia Oil is another corrosion protection option. Camellia oil is a natural, plant derived oil that has long been a favorite of traditional hand tool users in woodworking. It provides safe and effective rust prevention and lubrication, and as a bonus it feels good on your hands as well.
Put them back together and go
Reassemble your shears then open and close them slowly a few times. This will take the burr off the blades left over from sharpening. And that’s it. Now you’re ready to go do battle with that barberry bush that grows by the sidewalk before it grabs an innocent passerby. Happy gardening!