How to Sharpen and Clean Your Shovel

Gardening is a hard job! Why make it harder with a dull shovel. When you dig into the soil you dull your shovel by hitting rocks, roots and other buried items. Sharpening your shovel is not that hard. Take a flat mill file and follow the bevel of your shovel. Take long strokes filing down and to the side at a 45 degree angle. File in one direction and always away from you, using both hands. Make several passes over the same area until you see shiney new metal. After you have sharpened the front of the shovel, flip the shovel over and remove any burrs that are left. If you leave your shovel outside and it is rusted, you can use a lubricate spray and fine steel wool to remove the rust. A battery operated drill with a wire brush attachment can be used to remove heavy rust deposits. For shovels with wood handles, apply linseed oil to the handle to preserve the wood. This same procedure can be used on your garden hoe.

Gardening Tip: Take an old five gallon plastic bucket and fill it 3/4 full of clean play sand. Add 1 quart of motor oil to the sand. Each time you use your shovel, stick it in the sand several times. You will clean the dirt off your shovel and oil your shovel to prevent rust. Store your shovel cleaning bucket in your garden shed or garage.

Gardening Tip: If you are adding a new flower bed to your garden and need to remove existing sod from the area, here is how to do it. Take an old garden spade or square point shovel and sharpen the edge on a grinder till it is sharp. Water the sod area and wait for about 15 minutes. Now use the shovel to cut the sod by sticking the shovel under the sod and pushing. It will slice right through the sod.

The Creative Gardener


Gail said…

I will drop my shovels off at 2pm today for sharpening;-) An excellent post and I need to follow your instructions...the handle on my latest perennial spade is wooden!

I am glad you stopped by this morning. Isn't the
witch hazel gorgeous! I don't have the beautiful Amethyst too expensive!

Janet said…
Debbie, you are certainly a handy woman to have with tools. I don't sharpen my shovels, but I keep planning on doing it this year....maybe this time. ;-)
Great tips! I've actually never even thought about sharpening a shovel, but it does make perfect sense.
Aerie-el said…
I just bought some motor oil to do this, so it was good to read the primer on it! Excellent post!
joey said…
With March around the corner, a timely post ... thanks.
Sue said…
I plan on putting a link to this post in my sidebar so I can find these directions again, and so those who read my blog can check it out. If you don't like the idea, let me know, and if I've already done it, I'll take it off.

Thanks for the information!
Anonymous said…
Hi. Good post. Good reminder. My shovel broke last fall thanks to leaving it out in the rain one too many times. (I know you're cringing.) My new shovel, also a D handled one--is lighter weight and sharp and raring to go. My pruners were really annoying me though. They'd stick together after every cut. I did the oil and sharpening trick and voila. Good as new.
You are so right about the importance of a sharp tool. It is also important to be using the right tool for your digging job. I found that there is a great chart from a garden hoe web site that talks about what tool you should be using for what type of job and soil conditions. It is on the bottom of

I hope others find this as helpful as I did.