Out with the old secateurs, in with the new

Five or six years ago I inherited some Wilkinson Sword W59 secateurs. In their time (the 1960s) they were considered a design classic:


However, they were starting to get a bit grubby and blunt. I was tempted to buy a new Felco No. 2 or No. 8, but I decided to give my old secateurs one last chance by seeing if I could sharpen them.

Although, after all these years, documentation wasn’t easily available on maintaining W59s, I had a look at a few tutorials for disassembling, sharpening, cleaning and reassembling Felcos, like this one:

and thought it was at least worth a try. How different can secateur technology be, across the decades, I wondered incredulously?

I was also going to document step by step, but shortly after I took my first photo:


I unscrewed the main hinge bolt a little too enthusiastically and the whole thing spoinged apart into some dozen separate pieces.

Unfazed, I WD40ed, cleaned, sharpened, wiped, oiled and reassembled as best I could. I’m not sure if you can quite tell the difference in this final photograph:


but I certainly could, both good and bad.

  • They were considerably sharper, and a smoother action; the cut was especially smooth and involved much less effort. That much had worked.
  • However, because the W59’s tension comes from a cylindrical spring running along the hinge bolt, they were difficult to re-tighten back to the same level, and were noticeably weaker to return to an open position.

Reassembling with any kind of tension in the spring was really frustrating, and I think that all along I was missing some kind of specialist tool to help with assembly and disassembly, that would also have let me tighten the spring while doing so.

In their final state, the secateurs’ tension was just too light to feel comfortable: they didn’t return back to their open position as fast as my hand wanted them to. So while I’m happy with the work I was able to do on them, I think that, at least until I can work out how to tighten them further, these are going to be retired in favour of a new purchase, yet to be decided upon.


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