DIY Safety: How to Sharpen a Tree Pruning Saw Properly

How to Sharpen a Tree Pruning Saw

Last Updated on June 3, 2021

When it comes to using a tree pruning saw, the one thing you want over and above anything else is for it to be as sharp as possible. Anything other than a sharp saw blade will not only lengthen the time you spend trying to prune, but you will also end up ripping at the branch rather than cutting it.

Now, companies out there will sharpen your pruning saw for you, but we don’t want to really use them. Instead, we will show you how to sharpen a tree pruning saw yourself and how to do so with minimal fuss.

The Problem With a Blunt Pruning Saw

A blunt pruning saw brings with it a number of problems.

First, as we said at the outset, a blunt saw blade will struggle to get through the branch. You end up trying to apply more pressure, and that’s just not going to work.
Instead, you need to allow the weight of the blade to pull through the branch or stem to get that clean cut. Ripping at it will only damage the tree or shrub, and that’s something to be avoided.

A Dull Gardening Tool Is Not Good

The problem with this particular gardening tool is that it does lose its effectiveness quite quickly when the teeth are dull. You need to use a specific method in order to complete the job of cutting down branches successfully, and a dull saw is not going to help.

When you are struggling with your saw, you need to think of a solution, and that solution is to carefully get sharpening files out and get to work grinding down the teeth to create a sharp edge once more.

Only then will you be able to successfully cut through the branches or plants without hacking away at them.

How to Know When the Blade Is Blunt

But how do you even know when a pruning saw needs to be sharpened? Well, it’s easier to spot than you would initially think.

Making the Initial Groove Cut Is Hard

The first sign is often linked to how tough it is to make that initial groove cut in the branch. You know you need to sharpen a pruning saw when the blade could not make that initial impression in the branch. You feel as if you are sawing and sawing while still getting nowhere, and that’s frustrating.

The Saw Doesn’t Move Freely

Another clear sign is that the blade does not move freely through whatever it is that you are cutting. At times, this may mean you simply need to get out the lubricating oil as perhaps the blade is dry rather than you need to sharpen it, but that’s not always the case.

Instead, it is primarily due to the teeth on the blade needing sharpening, as they cannot slice through the tree branches as efficiently as they used to.

A Step by Step Guide on How to Sharpen Your Pruning Saw

So those are just a few of how you can tell that it’s time to sharpen the blade on your pruning saw, so how do you even start sharpening it?
Well, you are going to require a few tools to do a good job.

The Tools

You need more than just the sharpening tools here. You also require cleaning materials, brushes, and protective gear. Also, look at a grinding rod and some taper saw files to make life easier.

Step 1: Cleaning the Pruning Saw

Before you try to sharpen the saw blade, you need to clean it. Get some water, brushes, clothes, and get your protective gear on before you do anything else.

With the cleaning part, you will want to work your way across the blade and remove any signs of wood chips that are stuck in the teeth. It is a common problem with a pruning saw, as small fragments of wood chips can get in there and remain stuck on the teeth. You cannot then successfully sharpen them if you are unable to gain access.

Step 2: Check for Marks

You should also look for any marks on the blade. It can mean broken parts of teeth, as well as signs of rust on the blade itself. Rust can effectively slow down the blade and make it harder to cut through anything, and that’s going to make your job a whole lot harder.

If you find marks, then you need to look at dealing with them even before you get to the sharpening part.

Step 3: Scrub With a Brush and Water

Before sharpening the blade, you need to scrub it with a rough brush and some water. Now, we aren’t saying you have to soak the blade at this point, as that’s not the case. However, you do need some force to remove some of those wood stains stuck on there.

The aim here is to remove any fragments and also sap that may be stuck on the blade. You want things to be as clean as possible, so check the side of the blade for any remnants and keep on scrubbing until everything is removed.

Step 4: Remove the Saw From the Frame

After cleaning, you need to remove the saw blade from the frame. Exactly how you do this is going to vary slightly depending on the type of pruning saw you own, so check online for exact details to help you with this, as it’s an essential part of the process.

Step 5: The Grinding Rod

Now we are going to move onto the actual sharpening process, and you start with the grooves between the teeth. For this part of the process, get a grinding rod, and you need to put that rod in the groove.

Once you have it in the groove, you need to push the rod forward. You need to do this around half a dozen times for each groove, with you pushing the rod across the saw file to sharpen in at the groove.

Step 6: Look For Burrs

It’s important that you look for burrs when doing this. Burrs are small parts of metal that remain after the sharpening process, and you don’t want to leave them on there.

To remove them, use a file to sharpen those small pieces of metal and keep on pushing it against the burrs to get things as sharp as possible.

It is more important than you think when sharpening the saw. It causes the teeth to push away from the branch you are trying to cut. As a result, you do not get a clean cut.

Step 7: Use a Metal File

The easiest way to remove those burrs is to go to the back of the saw blades. Use the file to sharpen the blade and to remove the burrs.

Step 8: Lubricating Oil

Once you have been able to sharpen the teeth and grooves using the rod and then remove the burrs, you need to think about lubricating the pruning saw.

You have to remember that saw blades are made from metal, and you need them to be lubricated to glide through the branch successfully. At the same time, the oil will mean your pruning saw will not develop rust, which extends the lifespan.

Step 9: Test the Pruning Saw

The final step is actually to go ahead and test the pruning saw. If you are still struggling to work through branches or creating a flat surface while cutting, then you may need to go back to sharpening the blade.

Even just two teeth on the saw being missed with sharpening can have a detrimental effect on how well the saw works. It also puts pressure on the other teeth, and the chances of them starting to become dull will increase.

If this is the case, you need to go back to the earlier steps and use that file to sharpen the missed teeth.

The sharpness of each tooth will be directly related to how it can cut through the branches. You need to be able to cut at any angle you want, and if you struggle, then you need to start all over again.

Additional Tips

We do have some additional tips to be aware of when trying to sharpen the saw. Keep them in mind, as they will make a difference in how you tackle this particular issue.

Pay Attention to the Edges

You really must pay close attention to the edge of each tooth. It is where you want things to be as sharp as possible, so carefully work on each edge until you have covered the entire saw.

The edges of the teeth will be worn down first, so it makes sense for you to check how sharp they are before you do anything else. It will apply no matter how you use the blade, so look for nicks and damage, as well as it is blunt, as that can be a clear indicator that you need to go ahead and start sharpening the tool.

Debris Is an Issue

Debris on the saw blade is a real issue. Dirt, sap, and rust can all have a bad effect on the sharpness of the blade, so you need to remove it all before you get those files out and start the sharpening process.

Always Wear Protection

Please always wear protection. Gloves and goggles are key, as small parts of wood chips or metal can come off, which will hurt if it hits your eyes. Also, you are dealing with blades and files so that accidents can happen, so carefully follow each step and don’t rush.

Use a Flat Surface

Where possible, use a flat surface to help. Of course, you need to get between the teeth, so having a vice-like contraption to hold the blade in a secure method will be the ideal solution. Look at adding a vice to a work table, and that should make a difference.

Sharpen on a Regular Basis

We recommend sharpening pruning saws regularly if you are heavily involved in gardening. Oil the blade, check for rust on a regular basis and determine if the teeth are dull and the saw is not functioning as it should.

The key here is to maintain your saw regularly, and don’t leave it until that time when you need to go and cut back a shrub or part of a tree. The last thing you want is to get out a file and work sharpening things when all you want to do is get on with the job in question.

This Can Be Done to Any Pruning Saw

This process can be used on any pruning saw, so even one attached to a pole will be able to be sharpened in a matter of minutes.

Please don’t forget to clean the saw before you start. Trying to sharpen dirty blades is never something that we advise, as it will make a significant mess of things. You should try to clean the saw after every use to make life easier for yourself in the future.

Start Sharpening Your Pruning Saw

As you can see, learning how to sharpen a tree pruning saw is not a difficult process. Yes, you need to take your time to complete the job in question successfully, and you must do so safely. However, grinding down those teeth to create that brand new sharp edge is easy.

Gardening is fun, so make sure you have the right tools to help. There’s no need to go out and buy new saw blades all of the time when this cost-effective measure is here to help.

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