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How to keep your pruning tools happy.

Sharp hand tools can cut your pruning time in half. Here and on page 136, John Mynatt of Filoli Center, in Woodside, California, shows how to clean and sharpen clippers ,and hedge shears.

First take tools apart, clean off muck

For clippers, follow the sequence shown here. The spring pulls off easily with your thumb and forefinger. After unscrewing the locking tab (step 1), use a crescent wrench to undo the center nut and bolt. The center bolt releases the catch plate, and the two handles from each other. To make reassembly easier, lay out the parts in the order in which you remove them.

To disassemble hedge shears and less expensive clippers, remove the center bolt. To remove pitch, sap, and tar from blades, scrape and polish with a chisel, wool, and a solvent such as mineral spirits or paint thinner. Clean all individual parts as well as blades.

Sharpening things up

For hand clippers, you need a sharpening stone with both coarse and fine surfaces, and light machine oil to moisten the stone. Start with the cutting blade. Holding the blade flat as shown in the first picture of step 3, push the blade back and forth across the coarse side of the stone, exerting even pressure through the stroke. At intervals, wipe the blade to remove oil and grit. Check to see how evenly you're sharpening: shiny spots show where the blade is making good contact with the stone; dull spots still need work. When the whole blade is shiny, finish it on the stone's fine side.

Next, sharpen the bevel (the slant at the blade's edge). As you hone this side, keep the bevel at its original angle-about 220. At the stroke's end, slide the blade to the left, following its angle and curve.

As you sharpen the beveled side, a tiny burr of metal rolls up over the cutting edge. To remove this, hold blade's flat side flat against fine stone and rub.

Smooth the anvil blade by giving its flat inner side a few strokes on the stone.

Reassemble by reversing the disassembly process. Before replacing the center bolt, grease with petroleum jelly where the two blades pivot. Put a small drop of oil on the bolt and screws so they move freely. Adjust the center nut so blades move freely and don't stick, but don't wiggle either.

For hedge shears, fasten one blade at a time in a vise, as shown above. Sharpen with two files first a coarse one, then a finer one to finish. Pull the file across the blade toward you, holding it throughout the stroke at the same angle as the bevel of the blade.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jan 1, 1989
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