February is pruning month and with all the rain its time to get out the pruning tools. A dull, unsharpened tool can be dangerous to use so it is wise to sharpen them before use. Some general rules about sharpening tools.

First, always wear gloves when sharpening tools. Most of us remember the old sharpening stone used to sharpen steel tools and implements through grinding and honing. My father had a hand driven sharpener and I love to sharpen tools so as to watch all the sparks fly. This type of sharpener has now been replaced with electric motors, but the idea is the same. Electric sharpeners are only to be used for sharpening lawn mower blades, shovels, hoes, and hand held hedge clippers. Again wear gloves and eye protection when sharpening tools. Never use electric sharpeners to sharpen hand pruners – it’s not safe.

So, how does one safely sharpen hand pruners? There are a few new hand-held sharpeners on the market now. One is a small hand held sharpener that has two sharpening blades and has a hand guard. This is a very safe type of sharpener and is available at most garden centers. The second small sharpener is the old 8-inch long sharpening or whetstone. This type of stone requires some motor oil to allow blade-to-stone contact. This is the best way to sharpen hand pruners and branch loppers.

There are many YouTube videos on how to use a sharpening stone or whetstone and I would suggest investigating them to hone your sharpening skills. If anyone needs some extra advice on pruning techniques or what to prune, please contact me at gritlys@gmail.com.

Until next month, Happy Gardening!
John Nowak, Plant Sale co-Chairperson