Can You Sharpen Garden Shears With Sandpaper?

sandpaper for sharpening garden shears

Oh boy, y’all – this is my jam. As someone with a great deal of professional kitchen experience, sharpening tools is something I hold dear to my heart. A sharp tool is simply a thing of beauty; whether it’s a knife, garden shears, or even a saw blade, a sharp edge brings a slew of benefits that simply cannot be achieved otherwise. If you’re wondering if you can sharpen garden shears with sandpaper, I’ve got some important tips (probably too many) to throw your way.

In short, no – you can’t sharpen garden shears with sandpaper. However, sandpaper is useful in this process, so don’t just throw it out quite yet.

There’s a lot to discuss today, so let’s just dive right in, yeah?

Sharpening 101

sharpening garden shears

Let’s start with the basics – what is sharpening and why do we do it? After that, we can talk about the actual process – just trust me here, it’ll all make sense soon.

Now without further ado, let’s get going!

Why Do We Sharpen Blades?

First things first – what exactly does the process of sharpening a blade do? We know that it makes the thing sharper, allowing it to cut more easily, but what does the sharpening process actually look like on a microscopic level?

The long and short of it is that when sharpening a blade, you’re essentially stripping imperfections out of the cutting edge. When cutting anything with a blade, if you were watching its edge with a microscope, you’d see something interesting. The edge of the blade would bend, shift, and even crack as you worked! Think about it – if you drag metal along something hard (like fir wood, for example) it’s bound to take some damage.

The process of sharpening, then, is actually equal parts straightening and essentially shaving the blade’s edge. Honing rods (often mistaken for sharpeners) are a common chef’s tool, allowing chefs to straighten out the blade without physically shaving material off (actual sharpening does this).

Now, what about the benefits and harm?

Benefits and Harm of Sharpening a Blade

sharpening garden shears with dremel
Note that this is terrible form for sharpening a blade – highly dangerous.

So the obvious benefit is that it… cuts better. That’s pretty clear – the sharper the blade, the cleaner the cut, as they say. However, there are also a few extra things to keep in mind before making the decision to sharpen a blade:

  • Lifespan:
    • As said above, sharpening a blade is literally shaving microscopic bits of metal off your blade. With that said, it stands to reason that, eventually, you’ll end up with a fraction of the original blade. In short – don’t oversharpen. Try to hone the blade regularly (before each use) and give it 1-2 sharpening sessions over the year before and after your busy season to maximise lifespan.
  • Sharp blades are safer than dull ones.
    • Contrary to popular belief, a sharp blade (shear, knife, or otherwise) is safer than a dull one. This is because a sharp blade cuts more easily through things, reducing the risk of the blade bouncing and catching you. A dull knife, on the other hand, is more likely to get caught, drag, and cause all sorts of issues with control.
  • Cut stuff better!
    • And the obvious one – you’ll cut more efficiently. This saves you time, pain in your arms and back, and most importantly it makes you feel like a boss. So sharpen your shears properly and watch as you cut a swathe of destruction through that pesky hedge!

Now, with that out of the way, it’s time to talk about how to sharpen garden shears.

How to Sharpen Garden Shears

sharpening garden shears

There are two general trains of thought here, but both include the same first steps, so let’s begin there.

No matter how you want to sharpen your garden shears, begin by cleaning them. Wipe them down with a damp (not soaked) rag, dry off the blade, and use fine-grit sandpaper to gently wipe any stuck-on dirt or rust off the blade. Note that I said to use sandpaper to clean the shears, rather than sharpen them.

Now, let’s look at the two trains of though on sharpening garden shears.

#1: Scissor/Knife Sharpener

This is the most straightforward process to do, assuming you have a knife or scissor sharpener. To do this process, follow these steps:

  1. Start by separating the blades at the handle (if possible). This will make sharpening much easier – so just trust me.
  2. Now, just sharpen as you would a regular knife. Begin with the coarsest/roughest sharpening grit, and slowly move to the finest/least coarse grit. This will get the blade’s imperfections removed first, and then bring its edge to a fine point. Do this gently – applying force (your body weight) can crack or bend the blade irreparably.
  3. Don’t oversharpen. Give each blade a test as you’re working after every pass and see how it performs. Just remember what I said above – oversharpening will actively reduce the lifespan of your blades.

#2: The File Method

metal file for sharpening

For those without a knife sharpener, turn to your file. While this is a much more intensive and time-consuming task, I find that it’s actually quite meditative. It’s one thing done over and over with extreme precision until you reach perfection.

The process is as follows:

  1. Using two hands, slowly drag the file at a gentle angle along the bevel of the blade. Be sure to locate the factory bevel before beginning – this will be your guide throughout the process.
  2. Begin at the point and work your way towards the base. The closer to the point you get, the more likely you are to be actively using that part of the blade, so it’s important to keep this extra sharp.
  3. After a few passes, you’ll see factory steel. In short, this is just shinier steel and is very apparent.
  4. Taking that sandpaper you used previously, gently run the length of your blade along the sandpaper to remove any burrs created by the file. This will help smooth out your blade – it will not sharpen it.

It’s worth noting that this process will vary based on your shears. Serrated shears, while not super common, will be much more difficult to sharpen. This is because you’ll need to individually sharpen each tooth, rather than the whole blade at once. The same goes for curved shears – you’ll need to be careful to keep their curve and not accidentally straighten them by oversharpening.


In short, while you can’t sharpen garden shears with sandpaper, it does play an important role in the process. Sandpaper makes it easier to clean rust or dirt off blades, and it will easily remove burrs left by filing down your blade. While I can’t recommend the first method enough (as it’s super easy), the second method is great if you don’t have access to a sharpener.

Now go battle that hedge with your newly sharpened shears – today, you will be victorious!