Tuesday Tool: Blade Sharpener

Have you ever heard that a keenly sharp knife is also the safest knife? Our dull garden pruners probably won’t be slicing our hands, but a very sharp one will certainly lessen the effort it takes to make a pruning cut. This week’s ergonomic garden tool is a sharpener, making gardening easier on our hands and bodies.

Every garden tool manufacturer makes a little sharpener like this Corona, which is available at garden centers for about $7. It’s only 5” long, easily slipping into your pocket or tool bucket. The handle is coated in a nonslip red plastic, and at the other end under the black cap is a 3/4” piece of carbide steel. That carbide is harder than your steel tool blade. Passing the edge of this carbide block over your blade, at the original blade angle, will peel off a small sliver of the cutter blade, putting a fine edge on small tools like pruners, loppers, and knives.

This tool is incredibly easy to use, and will save you the time and expense of taking your tools to someone else to be sharpened. To learn how to handle the sharpener, I highly recommend this YouTube video from a master gardener (below). One thing I would clarify in his instructions is that when he says to run the “edge” of the sharpener along your tool blade, he means the bend itself and not the flat or side edge of the little carbide insert.

It is easy. It is fast. It is inexpensive. Four little passes of this edge over your pruner blade and it’s sharp as new. I’ve sharpened every tool in my own bucket and encourage you to give it a try, too.

I hope you find this tip handy and will check back in two weeks when we discuss anvil hand pruners and my longtime favorite tool, the ratchet pruner.

Vivian Mizuta is a native Puget Sounder who grew up with gardening parents. She’s been an occupational therapist and Skagit County master gardener, and loves to try any tool or technique that will make gardening pleasant and easier. She and her husband, along with their Havanese dog Ghilli, have been busy renovating their 1960s garden in West Seattle.