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Is there a simple way to sharpen garden scissors without using a dedicated tool for that?

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Sandpaper works for straight edged tools. A 120 grit or finer will take the little nicks out of the edge. Of course, regular sharpening and not trying to cut things that are too hard or too large means less work to sharpen.

For secateur and other tools with a curved blade any sharpening surface with a fixed edge works better.

There are any number of sharpening tools available for a nominal price which do a better job. This item has worked for me for five years on multiple tools.

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    The proper sharpening tool is the proper tool for a reason - it will sharpen well AND prevent damage. Most sharpening tools, even good ones, cost much less than the tools they were designed to sharpen. In an emergency it might make sense to sharpen a scythe on a rock, but anywhere else you are much better off using the proper sharpening tool. Think of it this way - you bought the proper tool for a gardening task. You wouldn't use an ax to complete the tasks for which you purchased the garden scissors. Why would you not use the right tool to sharpen the scissors. – That Idiot Aug 29 '16 at 22:32
  • I'm told sandpaper won't do in this case as garden scissors' blades are far too thick for it to work. – drake035 Sep 1 '16 at 9:28
  • @drake035 it works for me although it does not do much more than take the nicks out of the blade – kevinsky Sep 1 '16 at 10:36
  • Sandpaper will work just fine on any thickness tool if applied correctly. Try AlZn in a belt sander for an eye-opening sharpening experience. Be sure to have safety glasses over those open eyes, and don't mix sparks with sawdust or you may have a fire up to several hours later. Of course you might have to disjoint the garden scissors to get them on the belt sander effectively. – Ecnerwal Sep 4 '16 at 1:44
  • @Ecnerwal Surely you're making a joke? A belt sander! That's like using a plane to go across the street. – kevinsky Sep 4 '16 at 12:47
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You can pick up a rock and use that. If you find that some rocks work better, you're on your way to re-living the history of the natural sharpening stone industry in microcosm. It started with rubbing tools on rocks.

It helps if you understand edge geometry and what you should be aiming for - a tool like @kevinsky linked to takes much of the thought and skill out of the process, replacing them with mechanical constraints, which is convenient.

Without those mechanical constraints, you need to be thinking about and observing what your particular rock is doing to the blade, and what needs to be done to the blade to make it sharp, and manipulate things until one becomes the other. If that's not your idea of fun, the dedicated tool will work better, for sure.

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