How To: Care for your pruning tools
When was the last time you serviced your tools? Go on, think about it. A while ago? Or perhaps, never?
Dirty, blunt or rusty tools can make pruning a lot harder than it needs to be. But cleaning and maintaining them is not as difficult as you think. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 - clean, sharpen and lubricate. So, let’s get them in good shape for the season ahead.
Words & Images: Tony Matson, CutAbove Tools
A few of us are probably guilty of not cleaning our tools. To start, use a rag to remove dirt and dust. If the blades are gummed up, mix 70% methylated spirits to 30% water in a spray bottle, spray over blades and wipe clean.
For blades (and other metal parts) that are heavily gummed and/or rusting, spray the methylated-water mixture and scrub with a brass wire brush. Brass is a soft metal and will not damage the blade or other metal parts. Avoid using steel wool or a scourer to prevent cuts to your hands.
There is no need to sharpen blades each pruning session. Sharpen as required, particularly if you find pruning more difficult or the cuts are not clean.
There are different ways to sharpen blades. You can use a whetstone (oilstone), sandpaper, diamond stone or tungsten carbide.The latter is recommended as a cost-effective solution and it can be formed into pre-set angles (much like knife sharpeners). To sharpen, simply run the sharpener along the blade three to four times. Not all blades need to be sharpened though, so take note. With bypass secateurs, sharpen the chamfered edge (not the flat side) but on ratchet secateurs, sharpen both sides.
Prior to lubrication, check the tightness of any nuts and bolts. Remember that your tools are moving parts, so do not overtighten. Apply a light mineral oil to the joints between the moving parts and springs. Finally, apply a light smear to the blades to help reduce rust while in storage.
After use, wipe tools to remove any dirt and residue and store a dry place. Inside your shed or garage is ideal.