You are ready for a detailed makeover of your garden. You want to remove all the unwanted bushes and self-growing plants. You have invested a good money in buying new plants for your garden and now you are marking the digging sites. What you need the most besides plants is a shovel. A sharp shovel!

How to Sharpen a Shovel

What is a shovel?

A shovel is a simple tool with a long handle and a concave spade with sharp edges.

What is shovel for?

It is used for digging. You can dig a hole small enough for planting and as big as a pit or graveyard. Its also used for uprooting trees.

Types of shovel:

1. Digging shovels: They are meant for digging and designed with pointed or sharp-edged flat tips. They are used in lawn edging, planting and removing waste bushes and unwanted plants.

2. Shovels for trenching: They have sharp tips and squared sides for better trenching.

3. Scooped shovel: They move the loose materials so have a more curved body than others.

Applications of shovels

They have been in use for ages. Their applications are a wide range. From digging in agriculture to lifting up and shifting of loose materials like concrete, coal, sand and crushed stones in construction. They find great applications in mining too. Different types of shovels are used in moving heaps of grains from fields to storehouses.

Advantages of a sharp shovel

  • It increases the functionality of the shovel.
  • It increases the working life of the tool.
  • It helps in accomplishing more work with less effort and time.

How it becomes blunt

A shovel, like other tools, requires care and maintenance. The blade is prone to undergo wear and tear due to various factors. This could be due to repeated use on a rough stony soil. Or maybe due to exposure to excessive moisture and chemicals. A rusty blade is a blunt tool good for nothing.


Before you move on to the basic steps, it is important that you get the required things near you. You can easily get these things from a hardware store in your nearby market. They include a rust remover, a filer (mill bastard type)about 10-12 inches long, clamps, an angle grinder and a steel wool sponge.

Types of filers:

  • Flat metal fil: It is a simple filer with a 10-12 inch file. It should have a holding handle for a better grip and avoiding the risk of injury from row teeth.
  • A double-cut flat filer is a coarse tool for removing much of the debris for creating a sharp edge. This type is especially useful when you cannot locate the original angle and the tool is really out of shape.
  • A single cut mill file is very fine in its working. It gives a finishing look to the edges.

You can choose any according to the condition and working of your shovel.

How to Sharpen a Shovel – Steps for sharpening

  • Scrub away any dust or rust; the first and vital step is cleaning the shovel blade. Remove away any mud, debris and rust.
  • You can easily wash the soil, mud and any dirt by simple washing, cleaning and drying, but rust needs special treatment. Scrub it all away by scrubbing and scraping with the rust remover.
  • If any rust is left it can hamper the filing process. So be vigilant in removing any itchy pitchy of rust. You can use an angle grinder with a metal grinding disc for making the edges smooth before filing.
  • The upper surface is fixed; the upper concave surface is made fixed by holding its handle tightly either in your knees or someone can hold it for you. However, a better approach is using a clamp to fix on a tabletop.
  • Once it’s done the handle is fixed and the shovel blade is free but fixed for sharpening.
  • If you can locate the original angle of the edge, then you can proceed with the filing from the angle towards edges. Use steady strokes.
  • If you cannot find the original angle, you have to estimate it yourself .once a calculated guess is made you can continue to work along the inside edge.
  • Edges of the blade are now filed with a mediocre pressure. The direction of rubbing is forward and sideways at an angle of 70 degrees. Backward filing is not beneficial so it should be avoided.

Pros of sharpening

    • Effective and easy working of the tool.

Cons of sharpening

    • It can make it brittle. Sharp pointed edges can lose their tips.

Stop sharpening

When you will be able to appreciate a sharp raised edge, you can assess it by moving your fingers along the outside edge.

When you can feel a burr. This burr is also known as wire or feather edge. This is finally formed due to the thinning of the edges to the extent that further filing creates unbearable tension. This leads to curling over the adjacent side. you have to efficient in not breaking the burr, otherwise, edges will become blunt.

You can also see a nice, silvery shine once the edges are grinded well enough.


  • After each use it should be freed of mud and debris. After cleaning it properly, lubricate the blade with a mixture of motor oil and sand.
  • Never leave it unkempt on the ground.
  • Try to put anti-rust spray on and off.
  • Don’t file the outside edge, just stick to inside edge for sharpening.
  • If you are using a grinder then you should make sure its not done for too long at a spot as it will just heat up the metal surface more.
  • You should keep your fingers out of the grinder blade’s rotation once it starts operating.
  • You can use up to 20 strokes of the filer. It would be enough to cater your needs.

In a nutshell

A sharp shovel helps in easing out the digging process. So keep up its working by cleaning, scrubbing the rust and finally sharpening with a filer at 70 degrees.