How to Sharpen Tree Loppers

Working in the garden can be hard work. I know from my own experience, the list of jobs seems endless and one task can lead straight into another. At times like these it is easy to cut corners and miss off tasks which are important, but do not seem urgent at that particular time. One area that most often gets overlooked in this way is tool maintenance.

The process for maintaining many garden tools is relatively straightforward, a wipe down, a top up etc. But some tools, most especially cutting tools need a bit more effort. Here we are going to take a look at how to sharpen tree loppers and why this is a good idea. Why go to the trouble and expense of buying the best tree loppers if they quickly become unusable due to lack of maintenance?

Why Sharpen Your Tree Loppers

With any cutting tool, your job will go a whole lot easier if you have a sharp cutting edge. This is perhaps self-evident, but when it comes to your garden there is another reason why getting a sharp edge is important.

Unless they are dead, when you cut a plant you are effectively cutting off something that is growing. It exposes the inner parts of the plant which can, just like a cut in a human, be an opportunity for damage or disease to occur if the cut is not allowed to heal quickly and naturally.

When cut, the plant will exude sap. This tends to cover the damaged area and dry off forming a plant version of a scab. Beneath the scab healing occurs, shielded from external threats such as fungal infection, insect parasites or just extremes of temperature or moisture.

If the cut is not clean, the plants ability to shield the wound from these external factors is impaired. Trees can be particularly susceptible to these type of problems which is why, if you are a good gardener, and I am sure that you are, you will want your tree loppers to be as sharp as possible.

Using tree loppers often involves you working at height, or the very least stretching up. If your cutters are not sharp you are going to have to work harder to make those cuts in awkward circumstances.

Tree Loppers come in different shapes and sizes. However, generally they will either have a saw blade or be cutters that are either anvil cutters or bypass cutters.

Sharpening cutter blades can be awkward. Image source: Fiskars

Saw Blades

Step 1

Clean the blade thoroughly. Dried sap may be almost welded to the blade so you may need a wire brush to remove it. WD40 is also a great solution for lifting stubborn marks. The washing of the blade should also remove any debris from the last time the loppers were used.

Step 2

Place the blade with the serrated teeth pointing upwards. This may be easier if the head of the lopper can be removed.

Step 3

Examine the blade, one edge of the teeth will be the cutting edge. Make sure you sharpen this edge and not the other. Place your sharpening rod between the first teeth and drive the sharpener forward. Do not saw back and forth, for another pass, lift the rod out and place it back at the beginning so that the sharpening motion is in one direction only. Repeat six to ten times until the edge appears clean and burr free.

Step 4

Repeat the process for each of the saw teeth.

Step 5

Once complete, spray the saw teeth with WD40 or some form of lubrication and wipe down. This will prevent moisture from creating rust and undoing your good work.

Anvil or Bypass Cutters

Step 1

Clean the blades with a scrubbing brush or wire brush as necessary. As with the saw blade using a lubricant such as WD40 may help in removing stubborn areas of dried sap.

Step 2

Clamp the blade in a vice so that the cutting blade is horizontal. This can be quite awkward to achieve as the handles may get in the way.

Step 3

Place a metal file at a slight angle to the flat part of the blade and file outwards and upwards, sharpening the cutting edge of the blade as you go.

Step 4

Return the file to the start and repeat however many times you need to be satisfied that the edge is once more as sharp as it can be. Wipe away any burrs that have formed at the end.

Step 5

Wipe the sharpened blade down and oil sparingly, making sure to coat the whole blade with the lubricant to prevent rusting or other corrosion.

In Summary

Most of us have seen blades being sharpened at some time. The process of sharpening the tree lopper is similar to this, the only real problem being that access to the blade is potentially awkward. However, once you have it in position the whole process need not take long, a maximum of 15-20 minutes and will make all the difference the next time you use your tools for cutting.

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