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!

Jan12

A Topiary Calendar – When To Prune

When do you prune? Below are a few pointers on when you need to think about your topiary and hedges this year, so you can make sure you clip at the best time and not waste any effort doing work you don’t need to do… January & February Roses, fruit trees and wisteria is where the focus lies. Yes, it is cold and the work can be unpleasant because you are often stood on a ladder with your secateurs, barely moving enough to warm the body, but get these jobs done well, with care, and you can enjoy the fruits …

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Jan11

The English Garden Magazine – On Our Topiary Workshop

Last September when I and topiary artist (and mentor) Charlotte Molesworth ran a weekend of topiary masterclasses we had a visit from the garden writer Non Morris. You can read more about Non and her garden design work and writings here. She has written a lovely article for the February 2022 edition of The English Garden Magazine about her afternoon working with us and learning about topiary – I’m really thrilled by the piece, because she mentions not just a little of the wonderful history of Balmoral Cottage and how the garden grew, but also shares a little of how …

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Nov17

Topiary Provocation Autumn 2021

This Autumn I have presented another ‘Topiary Provocation’ to keen gardeners and designers. If you want to know more about topiary, the report on what we discussed and where modern topiary is going can be read by clicking the link below: Topiary Provocation Report Autumn 2021 This report is free to post on your own website or blog, just credit Modern Mint, and don’t change anything within it. Alternatively you can just share it with keen friends… or enemies? I did a similar meet-up with garden designers in spring 2021. Here is where you can read the Topiary Provocation Spring …

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