Sharpening larger tools with a metal file

Although I’ve always taken care of my spade and fork, I’ve never bothered sharpening them. But as I was planning to tackle the privet, including some potentially hefty roots, I found a guide online that pointed me in the right direction where a sharpener was concerned.

Sharpening stones are only really good for flat, small blades, but a file sharpens large surfaces well. And if you’re not too worried about the evenness of finish, I found that I didn’t really need any kind of clamp: merely sitting on the rest of the tool, at the top of a set of steps, sufficed to keep it still enough.

It turns out the only place I could find a lone, bastard-mill file in Sheffield’s city centre was Wickes; in comparison, B&Q was particularly bad in terms of choice, only having rather poor sets. Circumstances meant I didn’t have time to check Shaw’s Ironmongers, but if I had a chance again I would probably try there first.

After only fifteen minutes of sharpening each, the spade and fork had good cutting surfaces once again:


There’s a slight roughness to the finish on the spade, but the cutting edge is still perhaps a fifth or maybe even a tenth of the thickness it was before. To be clear, I was putting a bevel on a bevel here: the spade is made to thin slowly, to make the first few sharpening sessions easier, but the cutting bevel thins much more rapidly, over the course of a few millimetres and at a forty-five degree angle to the flat surfaces.

The sharpened tools, then, handled much better: cut into turf much better; clung less willingly to dirt; in general felt like a real improvement. But was all that enough? Tune in later, to find out!



  1. Julieanne · May 25, 2016

    You know, it never occurred to me to sharpen my fork or spade. Which is odd as I’m always sharpening my pruners and telling others to! I might have to borrow your new file sometime 🙂


    • jpstacey · May 25, 2016

      You’re more than welcome to do so! I literally have no other use for it apart from sharpening these big tools, so it’s only going to attract rust if it lies idle in the shed.


  2. Pingback: How I calculated that I won’t be removing the privet | The next square metre

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