THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Oct06

How To Sharpen Shears

We often get asked – how do I sharpen my shears?

Update – a video tutorial on how to sharpen your shears!

In this blog, we will give you simple to follow instructions on exactly how to do it. But first, you have to have the right shears and the right equipment….

shears gifts

Our hedge shears of choice are these red and white handled ones from Japan.

Hedge Shears Featured Image

They look the bees knees. And they are.

The steel is incredible, meaning it is sharp enough to cut the vegetation you want cut down. Because the steel is so good, you can also sharpen it back to factory sharpness.

Cheap steel, once blunted, stays blunt. A waste of money.

It took about ten years of gardening before I took the plunge and spent my money on these. Now, of course, I can’t go back to using anything else (and have now used them for over a decade!) Working for a landscaper back in early March of this year, I picked up another pair of shears from a colleague as they happened to be next to me at the time. I began to use them to cut down a Miscanthus and they felt awful….!

Every cut was a fight with the plant, stems got bruised instead of clipped, the tool felt like they would break and my wrists and arms had to work hard to make anything happen.

It would have taken less energy to walk back to the van and pick up my own Japanese shears (that will teach me for being lazy…)

Hedge Shears 2 Gallery Image

The balance and weight of these shears is amazing – but if you’re wondering if they are too heavy, it really is useful to pop into Niwaki (who sell them) or find a keen gardener who has a pair and give them a try.

The amazing lightness and balance of these shears make them ideal for anyone – male or female, right or left-handed – and because they cut so cleanly they make lighter work of your topiary or mixed hedges.

How To Sharpen Your Shears

Finally, we get to the important bit. How to sharpen them. First of all, get a whetstone – we prefer the traditional Japanese whetstone as it doesn’t tear the steel of the blades. You can use a diamond sharpener, but it is likely to tear the steel… the better the steel, the more need for you to be so so gentle….

Sharpening Stone Box Gallery Image

1) Make sure the whetstone is wet. At least 30 seconds in water or under a tap should soak it. One sign is the water stops bubbling!

2) Move any part of the stone gently across the edge of the blade – whether shears or secateurs. I use a small, circular motion. Others use a forward and back motion, so the stone comes towards your body and then away from your body.

3) Move along the blade. If you feel the stone drying, dip it into water or under a tap again.

4) If you do this for a couple of minutes you will see a line of fresh steel along the blade. The more you do it, the better your eye will be at discerning when the blade is sharp. It does take a little practise, and also time… but the results are always better!

5) Turn the blade over – there will be a burr on its backside. Run the whetstone along this side of the blade once or twice, from bottom to top, to remove the burr (and any sap or stone that is left on this side of the blade.)

6) A little squeeze of oil onto the blades, then wipe it clean with a cloth, will keep the steel your tools in great condition.

camellia-oil-featured-image

The oil should last a long time as you don’t need much of it. (Though I now use it on other tools as well, so do get through it a bit quicker!)

Again, the above photo is the traditional oil used in Japan, made from camellia, but any oil will do (including olive! But not WD-40!)

I just happen to like tradition so use the camellia oil.

There you go – a short tutorial on how to sharpen your shears. And there is a new video here on sharpening, as you may find it easier to watch what to do.

Any questions please do contact me, otherwise enjoy your shears and the clipping you will do!

Happy topiary-making!

May03

Selection Of Topiary Videos To Help You Clip

Over the last two years I have been involved with a couple of projects that have ended up being recorded, then placed on Youtube or Instagram. I’m hoping they will be useful to you, so I have decided this morning to pop them together in one handy blog post so that you can bookmark the page and revisit when you need some inspiration for your topiary. See below then, a few videos about topiary I have recently been involved with… Garden Masterclass – Provocations of a Modern Topiarist Transforming Topiary Topiary Teacher Put On The Spot https://www.instagram.com/p/CTj-EfOKRL6/ In the above …

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May03

Mark Zlotsky – Topiary Tango In New York

Mark Zlotsky is an artist based in New York, and today I just wanted to share his project ‘Topiary Tango’. In his introduction to the project he talks of topiary being a forgiving art, which I love and is soooooo true…..! For proof, just take a look at some projects I have made with a sharp pair of shears, a hedgetrimmer and a pruning saw. Do check out Mark Zlotsky’s project, because although his interest began by looking at topiary through the prism of architecture and the relationship of one building to another, he touches directly onto a way of …

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Apr27

Gardenista Interview – I Talk About Modern Topiary

Gardenista, the online magazine about gardens and design, have interviewed me about topiary. The article is called ‘Rethinking Topiary: A Garden Tradition Loosened Up’ and was published this morning. Written by the excellent garden writer Clare Coulson, I share some thoughts on using deciduous plants, how to clip (name-dropping Anne Lamott and her book on writing at one stage… oh, how I wander off subject sometimes!) and how to improve topiary by what you plant around it. Do take a look at the article in Gardenista. Or for more about my topiary work, check out the topiary page.