CANTON — There is so much to consider when we think about our gardens in the spring. There are the seeds and plants, soil temperature, compost, mulch, shade and sun.
While gardeners make those decisions, it might be a perfect time to get your tools out of the shed and sharpen them.
Last Saturday, at Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, the second floor filled with a scritching sound as Jerald “Tam” Iverson led a class in pruner sharpening.
Mr. Iverson has been sharpening blades since he was a child.
His grandfather showed him how to hone a blade and when he became a Boy Scout, he was teaching his peers so they could get their Totin’ Chips, the card and badge that shows a scout knows how to handle a pocket knife and other wood tools safely.
“I don’t like dull blades,” Mr. Iverson said, adding that’s why he used to carry an EZ-Lap diamond round sharpener until his partner pointed out the tool was almost as good at putting holes in pockets as it was honing blades.
“Sharpening is like developing a relationship with your tools,” he said.
Shears and pruners aren’t any more complicated than a knife blade as soon as you figure out how they work.
Mr. Iverson sketched out how two blades work together on garden tools and had his student examine the tools they brought.
“The ideal way is to take them apart if you have the opportunity,” he said.
Mr. Iverson recommends a series of diamond-encrusted sharpeners ranging from coarse, medium, fine and superfine. He starts with medium, then moves up through fine and superfine while checking the blade with his thumb—a testing technique he doesn’t recommend with a wink. He rarely uses coarse tools. The idea is to sharpen the blade while removing the least amount of metal possible.
Sharpening tools, he said, is his yoga.
“If you don’t mind being patient, you can turn on the radio or listen to a podcast and spend a little while getting to know your blade,” he said.
Taking apart garden tools, he said, gives you better access to the blades and sometimes, just putting them back together with a bit of oil and tightening up the device can do as much good as sharpening.
Mr. Iverson, who recently received a master’s degree from the University of Tartu in Estonia, and has degrees in folkloristic studies and applied history, noted that tools have been part of human existence for centuries and each is designed to serve a specific purpose.
“They want to be used in a certain way,” he said. “Dull blades can’t fulfill their purpose.”
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