How To Sharpen A Shovel With 12 Simple Steps

If you are a gardening enthusiast or just a frequent user of a shovel, then you know that a sharpened shovel will really get you to do many tasks. A blunt shovel needs greater pressure from you to slice through hardened soil, sods and roots. This increased effort can eventually lead to fatigue and for some, injury.

However, in reality not many are sold to sharpening their shovels and this is not done regularly. Sharpening the shovels has many benefits aside from extending its life. A sharpened shovel will surely make your digging woes go away and alleviate your burden. Digging through the dirt with a sharpened shovel will make your gardening tasks easy and breezy.


Those who have tried sharpening their shovels the first, instantly becomes interested. The task is easy and the rewards are considerable. Best of all, it can be done in just few minutes and you can see the difference the next time you use it.

Prior to sharpening your shovel you need to prepare these materials:

  1. Double cut flat file
  2. Single cut mill file
  3. Scrub brush
  4. Sand paper
  5. File brush
  6. Hand held grinder
  7. Safety glasses and gloves


1. Put on your safety glasses and gloves. Clean the dirt that has caked-on in the shove by using a scrub brush and water. Dry it thoroughly with dry rags. Use steel wool to remove the rust by rubbing the surfaces. Sharpening a rusty shovel will wear down the file. For a heavily – rusted shovel, you may use the file brush. Finish the rust removal by using the sandpaper.

2. Secure tightly the shovel with a vice in a strong workbench, so that it holds in place. If you don’t have a vice, place the shovel on the ground with the top edge facing up. Place your foot on the area where the blade meets the shaft. You may also position the shovel between your knees and hold it tightly. Better yet ask somebody to hold the shovel in place while you’re working.

3. Locate the bevel of the blade (a bevel is the angle on the edge of the cutting blade). You can do this by slowly running your finger on top of the blade and in the underside of the blade. You will notice that one side is sharper than the other. Shovels are made so that the top side is the cutting side and only this side is angled. If you cannot find it, use an angle of 45 degree to sharpen the inside edge of the shovel. This angle is the most suitable for most digging tools.

4. Sharpen the beveled angle only. You cannot sharpen the two sides of the shovel as this will make it weak. Use a double cut flat file (has a coarser grade) for shaping. With your both hands holding the file, place the its flat edge against the edge of the shovel. File along this edge of the shovel and move from side to side, not up and down. File away from you with long strokes down, lifting the file off on the return strokes. Do not pull the file towards you so as not to damage the teeth of the file. Use straight and even strokes.

5. In using a grinder or any power tools, remember that they can remove metals quicker than a file. Thus, one should be mindful when to stop sharpening. Too much sharpening is also not good for the edge as this will render it weak. It will be easier to damage it when you use it again to dig.

6. When the bevel has formed, use the single cut mill file to sharpen the edges. You will continue to sharpen them until you feel a burr (a slightly raised edge) along the underside of the bevel. For better sharpening, you should remove the burr since it will break by itself, the bevel will become blunt. Use the file to make a few light strokes along the underside that will remove burr. Go back to the top side and run the file gently along the bevel for the final sharpening strokes.

7. You may observe that there are lots of materials removed from the shovel and that the file gets a build-up. You can use a metal brush to remove this build up. Sharpen the shovel with adequate number of strokes, enough to see the shiny and defined beveled edge.

8. When the top edge of the blade is curved, start sharpening at one side and move towards the center. Repeat the filing strokes then work on the other side going to the center.

9. When you are satisfied with your work, you can turn over the shovel or flip it in the vise and run the file over the bottom edge to smooth out the rough edges. You can also use the steel wool.

10. Sharpening the entire blade is not necessary as most of the digging and cutting occurs few inches from each side of the tip.

11. Apply lubricating oil to the sharpened edge when the shovel is to be stored or if it is for immediate use, wipe off the oil first.

12. The frequency on which to sharpen the shovel depends on the use and the type of soil where it was used. If the shovel will be used often and the soil is rocky or sandy, then it should be sharpened often.

Prior to storing, after the end of each gardening activity:

  • Rinse the caked-on dirt, mud or soil with the hose.
  • Scrub the stubborn dirt with scrub brush
  • Wipe shovel with a dry rag and air – dry or expose them in the sun.
  • Apply lubricating oil to the edges of the blade.
  • Hang it in a dry place.
  • Please remember not to rest the edges on the ground as to prevent it from dulling easily.

About The Author: Lindy Schwarts of AmazingMachines.info. I'm a very active women. My passions in life are Fitness, Yoga, Golfing and Garden. I started earlier this year playing a Little around with websites and I can say that's a new challenge unlike anything else!

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How To Sharpen A Shovel With 12 Simple Steps
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Lucy M. Clark

Hi there! I’m Lucy, and I’m a self-confessed garden fanatic. Gardening has always been a passion of mine and will always be my favorite pastime. Now that I am married and have one adorable son, I have the time to write and share my personal experiences with other garden enthusiasts like me.

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