How to sharpen secateurs quickly and safely

Orange gloved hand using secateurs
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You’ll want to know how to sharpen secateurs if you own a pair. They are an essential piece of garden equipment and keeping them clean and sharp is crucial to them doing their job properly. A dull blade will not only mean more work for you but could also mean trouble for your plants.

Like the best petrol lawn mowers, electric mowers and garden shears, all garden tools with a blade need to be kept sharp. A dull blade will crush and tear rather than cut, meaning your plants will take longer to heal and leave them more susceptible to disease. 

Here we give you expert advice on how to sharpen your secateurs, why it's worth doing and how to fit a new blade. 

How to sharpen secateurs in three steps

Keeping your secateurs sharp is the best way to prolong the life of the tool and get the most efficient cuts. Chris Bonnett, the founder of Gardening Express reveals the steps you need to take to get the best result. 

1. Select a sharpening tool

Before you start the sharpening process, you need to ensure that you have the right tools as Bonnet recommends: “The best sharpening tools for secateurs are whetstone, diamond file or sharpening steel, and don’t forget you’ll also need lubricating oil and safety gloves.” 

2. Clean up your secateurs

Before any sharpening can happen you need to clean up, “Start by removing any dirt, sap, or debris from the blades and handles with a soft cloth or a brush” Bonnet suggests. If you have any stubborn spots use a fine grit sandpaper to help remove.

3. Sharpen the blade and finish

Before sharpening secure the blade – you can use a vice if you have one. To start Bonnet says “Place the sharpening tool against the cutting blade at the same angle as the bevel.” 

He continues, “If you’re using a stone then move it against the blade in circular motions, but if you’re using a file then push it along the cutting edge in the direction away from your body. Once you have finished sharpening the secateurs then you can wipe a small amount of lubricating oil on the blades to prevent rust.”

Is it worth sharpening secateurs? 

Yes, sharpening secateurs will bring some obvious benefits. If you remember how swift your secateurs were at slicing through branches and stems when you first used them, then you will appreciate how well a newly sharpened blade can work.

A sharp blade will mean less effort is needed from you, there will be less strain on your secateurs and the cleaner the cut the better it will be for your plants. Aside from these benefits, regularly sharpening will prolong the life of your secateurs.

But there will come a time when sharpening isn’t a viable option. General wear and tear will mean it's time for change, but other scenarios such as dropping your secateurs and chipping the tip of the blade could also mean it's time to replace.

You can purchase replacement blades like these FELCO Spare Cutting Blades from Amazon – they also offer new nuts and bolts and springs. But it will depend on what type and brand of secateurs you own. Fitting new blades is relatively simple, but there are a few steps you need to know. The alternative is to invest in a new set of secateurs. You can buy new secateurs for a similar price to new blades  

You can get a pair of secateurs like these GRÜNTEK Secateurs from Amazon for less than £15. If you want to spend a little more and get a better known brand you can try these FELCO Model 2 Secateurs from Amazon

How easy is it to fit a new secateur blade? 

It's relatively simple to fit a new blade but you will need a few tools to help make it happen. It's also worth noting that even if you are not replacing the blade, removing it is useful for sharpening and cleaning.

Here we quickly run you through how to change a blade on a pair of pruning secateurs. First remove the spring, it will pull out easily, then loosen the screw on the blade adjuster that is holding the centre bolt in place. Now undo the centre bolt – you might need a spanner for this – and lift off the handle. Now lift off the blade – it might have a screw holding it in place, which you need to undo. 

Now install the new blade, add a little lubricant, replace the handle and tighten the centre bolt. Next, move the blade adjuster back into place and tighten the screw to keep the centre bolt in place. Finally, refit the spring. 

Blue handled secateurs infographic on wooden table

If you want to remove or replace the blade you will need a screwdriver and a spanner (Image credit: Steven Jenkins)

Can you use WD-40 on secateurs? 

Yes. WD-40 is a universal lubricant that is a top choice for use on most garden tools. You can buy the multi purpose version like this WD-40 Multi-Use Product Smart Straw from Amazon. This is ideal for penetrating rusty nuts and bolts to get your secateurs moving smoothly again. And it's good for protecting metal surfaces on garden equipment.

But they also produce a specialist lubricant – WD-40 Specialist Lawn & Garden Heavy Duty Grease from Amazon. This is aimed more at power tools but can still be applied when stripping down your secateurs to help keep them in good condition. 

Steve Jenkins

Steve is Homebuilding & Renovating's DIY content editor, and has been a writer and editor for two decades. He is an avid DIYer with over 20 years of experience in transforming and renovating homes. He specialises in painting and decorating, but has strong all-round building skills, having previously worked in the industry for 10 years.