Care of your secateurs – sharpening

Autumn, Fruit

March 27, 2011

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Autumn is upon us now and was early in coming this year. The temptation can be to think that following the hectic pace of summer in the garden, when it seems like everything is coming is coming at once, that autumn is a time to slow down. The reality is very different with a lot of work to be done clearing away the spent summer crops and preparing the ground for any winter plantings.

In addition for me the autumn has become a time to start pruning my fruit trees. Conventional wisdom has it that pruning should be done in the winter when the tree is dormant. However I have started to adopt autumn pruning as advocated by Peter Cundell from Gardening Australia. The theory is that by pruning in the autumn the tree has a chance to repair the cuts and is less likely to suffer from disease as a result. The logic seems sound to me.

However regardless of the time of year that you do your pruning you need to ensure your secateurs are sharp. Blunt secateurs cause rough cuts that are more likely to let in disease. I thought I would just talk you through my secateur care process.

As you can see from the first picture the edge on the blade is rather dull.


The dull edge of the secateurs prior to sharpening

I first start with a small whetstone and put and edge on the blade with about a 15 degree angle (picture 2).  I use small circular strokes as you need to follow the curve of the blade.  With all of these I am obviously using two hands.  I have just shown it as one so I can take the photo!


Whetstone on the outside of the secateur blade. Note the roughly 15 deg angle.

I then run the whetstone along the inside of the blade parallel with the blade just to polish the face, not to put an edge on it.


The whetstone on the inside of the secateur blade. Note it is parallel with the blade surface.

I then put a squirt of WD40 or equivalent into the join of the blade and the anvil (the square other ‘blade’ on the secateur).  I also cleaned some of the build up off the anvil with metholated spirit.  This should leave you with a pair of secateurs ready to start your autumn pruning.


The nicely shiny sharpened edge of the secateur blade.

To disinfect my secateurs between pruning each tree or plant I use some metholated spirits and water (about a 70:30 mix). You shouldn’t use 100% spirit as it just dries the bacteria/fungus out and doesn’t kill it so it can come back to life later. Disinfecting your secateurs between each plant is important to prevent the spread of disease.  Now you should be ready to get started on that pruning!

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