How to guide for maintaining your secateurs...
If you’ve invested in good quality secateurs, it’s highly likely that they will be made from high carbon steel rather than stainless steel. Japanese secateurs (such as Niwaki) in particular are renowned for using high carbon steel. They are incredibly sharp and can be re-sharpened – meaning they will provide you with a continuously better cut over the years in the garden. However, as they aren’t stainless steel, they will tarnish (from tannins in plant sap etc) and form surface rust relatively easily if they are left in a damp environment. It’s not a problem structurally, but they will cover in surface rust which will affect their ability to cut (and not look great either!). It’s really easy to maintain your secateurs though – you just need to get into a maintenance mindset to look after them and keep them sharp.
It’s an easy three step process - you can follow the steps below, or you can watch Edd's instagram video where he shows you how to do it.
- Clean your secateurs using Niwaki Crean Mate. This is a scouring block that needs soaking in water for a few minutes before using it. Think of it like a mildly abrasive eraser – you simply rub it all over your secateurs and it will clean up their surface. Ensure you work across all of the cutting area – as most good quality secateurs have a bypass mechanism - where the blade glides past the lower jaw – so you need to clean it all to keep it working well. Remember to keep your fingers away from the edges whilst you rub it over the cutting blades. Just wipe away the reside with a cloth to see the blade coming clean and you’ll soon begin to hear the difference if you test them. If there is any surface rust on the secateur handles you can use the Crean Mate, or if you need something more abrasive you can use some wire wool or a wire brush.
- Sharpen secateurs using a whetstone. Invest in a small whetstone which can be easily used on secateurs rather than using a large one designed for kitchen knives. The Niwaki 1000 grit whetstone is an all-purpose one that suits most people (you can get coarser or finer grit should you need to remove more or get a finer polish). Find the angle of the secateur blade by resting the whetstone on top in the same direction. Then simply work the stone using small circular motions using the same consistent angle. Work over the entire blade to just put the edge back on. Remember to turn blade over and lightly run the whetstone over it to remove any burs from the other side.
- Protect secateurs – Camelia oil is perfect (and the preferred choice in Japan) because it isn’t acidic. You only need a few drops onto a sponge and you simply wipe it over the secateurs. The sponge will hold the camelia oil so keep this in your maintenance kit. It will act as a surface barrier on the carbon steel, offering some protection when you next use them.
We recommend cleaning and protecting your secateurs as regularly as you can – as this avoids build-up of rust and also reduces the risk of transferring any diseases around your garden via your secateurs. Then, as and when needed, you can sharpen them.
If you can get into a Tinker and Fix Maintenance Mindset you’ll have your garden tools for life (if you’ve bought good quality ones to begin with!). Cleaning them off after each use, before you put them away, makes a big difference and means that your regular maintenance checks become less arduous. To read our other blog about cleaning other garden tools (spades and trowels etc) just click here.