How to Sharpen Yard Tools


Shovels, hoes, trowels and spades work best when sharp. A sharp tool cuts through tough soil, tree roots, grass and layers of mulch easily and makes the work easier for you. Store your tools by hanging them in the garage or tool shed to keep the blades sharp, and clean them after each use, since dirt and dampness can also dull the edge. Yard tools will last for many years if they are well maintained.

Step 1

Clamp the C-clamp around the tool, or clamp the tool into the vise to enable you to maintain a consistent angle while sharpening the blade. Clean and burnish the tool with steel wool to remove dirt and rust.

Step 2

Hold the file in your dominate hand and stroke away from you across the edge of the blade at a 45-degree angle. Lift the file away from the blade to bring it back to you. File in one direction only.

Step 3

Clean the file every few strokes with the wire brush to remove metals filings and debris that can clog the teeth of the file, then smooth fine-grit sandpaper over the backside of the blade to remove any burrs.

Step 4

Coat the sharpened blade with a fine layer of machine oil to protect against rust.

Tips and Warnings

  • Wear safety goggles and leather gloves to protect yourself when sharpening tools.

Things You'll Need

  • Vise or C-clamp
  • Steel wool
  • Mill file with handle
  • Wire brush
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Machine oil


  • Cornell Extension: Caring for Your Tools
  • University of Florida: Sharp Tools

Who Can Help

  • Iowa State University: Garden Tools
Keywords: sharpening yard tools, caring for garden tools, how to sharpen tools

About this Author

Cynthia James is the author of more than 40 novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from Modern Bride to Popular Mechanics. A graduate of Sam Houston State University, she has a degree in economics. Before turning to freelancing full time, James worked as a newspaper reporter, travel agent and medical clinic manager.