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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Sharp tools essential for gardeners

STILLWATER, Okla. – Having the right tools for any job is essential. A carpenter will not get far without a tape measure or hammer. A mechanic is always in need of a wrench and a nurse will use a stethoscope multiple times per day. In order for these workers to be productive, they must have the right tools.

The same is true for gardeners, said David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist.

“Having the right tools is important. However, you must make sure your gardening tools are in good working order,” Hillock said. “With gardening season just around the corner, making sure blades are sharp on your lawnmower and other gardening tools will not only make sure your gardening task is easier, but will help you do it properly and safely.”

Hand tools can easily be sharpened using a file, a high speed rotary tool or grinder. Power tools such as grinders can eat away quickly at the blades so be very careful to not damage the tool. Also, be sure to keep safety in mind and always wear protective equipment such as safety glasses and gloves. For those who may not feel comfortable sharpening your own tools, there are businesses that offer this service.

Try to sharpen blades at the same angle as they were when they came from the manufacturer. When sharpening with a file, use long, diagonal strokes to give a more uniform edge.

“Lawn mower blades should be sharpened regularly so they provide a clean cut,” he said. “Sharpen both beveled edges of the blade and then hang it on a nail to make sure it is still balanced. File more off the heavy end of the blade, if necessary, to balance it.”

Just as your automobile needs oil to lubricate the engine, your gardening tools also need oil on their moving parts. Applying a light machine oil or penetrating oil to the blades helps prevent rust and corrosion.

Hillock said even tools without moving parts will benefit from a little oil. Tools such as shovels and trowels can be kept with the blade down in a bucket of sand that has been mixed with a quart of used motor oil.

Wooden handles on tools can become dry and splintery so they occasionally need maintenance. Remove rough spots with sandpaper and rub with boiled linseed oil to preserve the wood. Severely damaged handles should be replaced to prevent injury.

“We all know how frustrating it can be when the tools we need to complete a job aren’t working properly. By starting now, you have plenty of time to get your tools in shape for the gardening season,” Hillock said.


Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Higher Education Act), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, genetic information, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, or status as a veteran, in any of its policies, practices or procedures.  This provision includes, but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services. The Director of Equal Opportunity, 408 Whitehurst, OSU, Stillwater, OK 74078-1035; phone 405-744-5371; email: has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Director of Equal Opportunity. Any person (student, faculty, or staff) who believes that discriminatory practices have been engaged in based on gender may discuss his or her concerns and file informal or formal complaints of possible violations of Title IX with OSU’s Title IX Coordinator 405-744-9154.

Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
Oklahoma State University
136 Agriculture North
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)
405-744-5739 (fax)

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078