Well we’ve finally reached the point where a simple job that has been in the back of our minds is finally coming to light – the sharpening of our garden hoes. It’s late in the season and chances are, your garden hoes (and other tools also) may need a good check-up. As we get ready to sharpen ours we thought we’d bring it everyone’s attention. Instead of leaving you hanging with dull, nicked hoes, we’ll also (hopefully) explain what to do about it toward the end of this post.
Here at Pine Mountain we have several chopping hoes (also called draw hoes) (left), a diamond hoe (right), and a stirrup hoe (bottom).
It's really worth noting that our chopping hoes are not from a hardware store or catalog. Instead our chopping hoes are special in that they are made by our local blacksmith, J.D. Napier. At his place you will find countless objects and machinery amongst a handful of anvils scattered around his furnace and overhead billows. However, in visiting him, all this is very much overshadowed by the massive waterwheel fed by a tank filled from a stream that he has attached a large hammer to. As the water turns the wheel the hammer raises and falls, making hammering the hot steel much easier. He uses saw blades to make the blades for the hoes, along with roof bolts, normally used in coal mining, to attach the blades of the hoes to the handles. If you would be interested in supporting a local craftsman, along with getting a hoe that will truly stand up under time and pressure that many years of gardening will entail, contact us for more information. We’d be more than happy to give you more information about these quality tools!
Chopping hoes are the most commonly used type of hoe because you can dig furrows, cover seeds, weed plants, hill them, and dig those same plants up at the end of the season. I can probably count on one hand the trips to the garden I’ve made without a chopping hoe with me; if not for working then as a precautionary measure against copperheads and rattlers. Because of their prominence, we’ll deal with sharpening these hoes specifically.
The basics are very…well…basic. The only things you’ll probably need are a good mill file and some steel wool.
- The first thing you’ll want to do is remove any rust from around the cutting edge (with the steel wool).
- This would be an opportune time to go ahead and secure the hoe is some manner, whether clamps or vise, whatever you may think of to keep it from moving while you’re working on it.
- Next remove, the best you can, any nicks along the edge by running the file back and forth across the top of the edge, parallel with the blade.
- Before we move on it’s important to notice the bevel on the blade. Most chopping hoes are beveled only on one side. It is very important to only sharpen the beveled edge (see illustration below).
Another important variable that those who have done any sharpening should know about is what angle aaaithe edge should have. In short sharpening at a steep angle gives a more durable edge; sharpening at a aiiiiilow angle gives a sharper edge.
- Once you have throughly filed the beveled edge it's time to "feather the burr." What that means is to take off the tiny part of the blade that has fallen over (on a very, very small scale) to the other side. To do this take your file and lay it flat on the back (non-beveled) side of the hoe. Keeping it flush against the hoe.
- After you've done this lightly run the file on the beveled side, just to freshen it up!
The above information is abbreviated and adapted from Tool Sharpening Basics from Mother Earth News.
Thanks everyone, God bless and happy sharpening!