Sharp Operator

Looking after your Garden Tools, Productive Garden Workshop

Text by Miranda Gavin; All photos by Lisa Barber

Twitter: @mirandagavin     @lisabarberphoto    Instagram: @lisabarberphoto

Andy teaching how to use the bench grinder

Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses gives teaching sessions on the last 2 Sunday mornings of every month starting at 10am under the workshop title: The Productive Garden. The workshops involve hands-on learning. I’m a novice gardener with a basic knowledge of tools and lots of enthusiasm so the chance to learn how to sharpen, maintain, repair and use gardening tools (Sunday 19 February) was appealing and I wasn’t disappointed.  Unfortunately I couldn’t attend the entire session and arrived halfway through. But excitingly, there were sparks—a participant was using a bench grinder when we arrived. Bench grinders are recommended for sharpening shears, hoes, turf edging tools and spades but not, so I learned for shovels. If you don’t have a bench grinder you can use a grind stone, wet stone or file.

The atmosphere was informal and conducive to learning—we could ask questions freely and also have the chance to use some of the tools. With about 10 participants in total, heavily weighted to a majority of women, the workshop was both informative and fun.

We learned that it is better to clean soil or dirt off a tool first using a stiff brush while rust can be removed using fine sandpaper or a file. I also learnt how to use a flat-edge metal file to rub down the bumps on a spade edge, and with the guidance of the workshop leaders, Andy and Cat, I set to work. Sharpening tools by hand takes longer but the effort is worth it and the results were impressive—the dented spade had a new lease of working life. To keep tools rust free they need to be oiled regularly, WD40 does the trick.

If you are just starting out, there are a few basic tools that can be used for sharpening and maintaining your garden tools.

Basic Kit

Flat-edge (curved) file;   Sharpening stone – portable, doesn’t break, no oil needed. Felco make good ones.

Cat with workshop participants

Carborundum stone – be careful, if you drop it can break!   WD40 fine oil;   Sandpaper – Grit size 40/60 to 120; Gardening Gloves

Andy assessing a spade


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