My shear sharpening routine before clipping

Home » Advice » My shear sharpening routine before clipping

I thought sharing my pre-clipping routine maybe of interest. I always sharpen my shears before clipping. Sharp blades achieve a cleaner cut, which helps the topiary recover quicker.

I start by dipping the shears in a bucket of water with a splash of bleach. The water is frothy in the video but I don’t know why. There is nothing else added so it must be the brand of bleach I’m using. Works the same though to disinfect the blades and reduce the risk of spreading box blight. Also removes any dried sap that might be left on the blades after clipping.

I wipe the blades with a cloth, which I keep in my back pocket solely for this purpose. I then start using the sharpening stone that has been soaking for at least five minutes in water. You will notice bubbles appearing in the water as air is forced out of the stone.

Everyone has a different technique when using a sharpening stone. This is the way I find most comfortable. I hold the stone between my thumb and second finger, and at a 15 degree angle to the blade. You only want to sharpen the edge of the blade that has a slight incline, not the flat side. Wedging the handle of the shears against my leg to hold them steady, I run the side of the sharpening stone up and down the edge of the blade, putting a little more pressure on the downward motion than the upward. I work my way from the base of the blade to the tip and back two or three times.

Next flip the shears over and rub the flat side of the stone against the flat side of the blade to remove the burr that has built up from sharpening the other side. Remember, this is not to sharpen the flat side, just smooth it so the two blades pass cleanly together when clipping. Then flip the shears over and repeat the process on the other blade.

I like to use the Niwaki sharpening stones. Their shape is designed for secateurs but they work just as well with shears.

Niwaki Sharpening Stones
Niwaki Sharpening Stones

The stones come in the three different grits- rough, medium or fine. I use the dark brown (medium grit) stone the most but it is worth owning all three. The rough grit stone is useful for creating a new edge on blunt shears and the fine one is good at refining an already sharp edge. Take care not to drop the stones as they will shatter.

I go through my shear sharpening routine at least twice during a day’s clipping. Maintaining a sharp edge is a lot simpler than sharpening a new edge on blunt blades.

By James Todman

Topiary Specialist based in The Cotswolds, UK.

8 replies on “My shear sharpening routine before clipping”

James you are completely brilliant. What a great teacher you are. I don’t do the clipping but I really enjoyed the lesson. Your posts and the work you do is amazing.I will show your video to Peter now and we will follow your advice. Thank you.

That is a Super Video James. I’ve never sharpened my clippers !!! I would be terrified to do it !!!! Now that I see how you do it I must try. First I have to get one of those sharpening stones !!!! Wish me luck. Thanks a million for this video. Cheers,

Hi James,
A quick question please? I live in Austin Texas – where our summers are really sunny and hot.

When is the best time to clip my box? Early morning before sun is up? Or in the early evening? Or should I not clip at all during the summer?

I want to avoid the edges of my box leaves burning after clipping by being exposed to the sun.But I do want them to keep their shape.

Any advice would be great appreciated. I just bought a pair of your sheers, really amazing!

Many thanks


The angle you sharpen at seems way more than 15 degrees? Am I right in saying that although there is an an angled side to the blade the cutting edge is angled differently again and very small in comparison?

Yes Alan, it does look a bit more in the video. The aim is to grind just the edge of the blade. If you could draw a line with a black felt tip pen along the edge of the blade then you just want to remove this mark with the sharpening stone. You are right in saying that the cutting edge is very small in comparison to the sloping angle on the blade.

Leave a Reply