5 Best Files for Sharpening a Shovel

Most people don’t think about sharpening their shovels, but doing so will make the tool more effective and easy to work with. However, you must know which files are the best for sharpening shovels and ensure the process is as easy as possible. So, what are the best files for sharpening a shovel?

The best files for sharpening a shovel are bastard-cut flat files. They work well at sharpening shovels, and they also work well at sharpening many other garden tools. Other suitable files for sharpening a shovel include half-round files, round files, triangular files, and square files. 

Want to learn more about the best files for sharpening a shovel? Keep reading to learn more!

1. Flat File

Flat files with bastard cuts are some of the best you can use to sharpen a shovel. The flat rectangular shape allows you to sharpen large sections of the shovel at once. Plus, the bastard cut ensures the file is coarse enough to complete the job.

In case you’re unaware, most files come in different coarseness levels. They are: 

  • Smooth cut: Teeth are close together, creating a smooth surface.
  • Second cut: The teeth are a little further apart.
  • Bastard cut: Teeth are much further apart, creating a more coarse surface.

Some files come in a coarse cut, which is even coarser than a bastard cut. But in most cases, you can think of a bastard as the strongest.

Smooth is the finest cut and the least coarse, so it won’t be the best choice if sharpening is the main objective. Second cut is not very smooth, but it’s also not very coarse, so it’s in the middle. In most cases, a bastard cut is the coarsest option and generally the best for sharpening metal tools like shovels.

So if you want to purchase a flat file for sharpening your shovel and other garden tools, ensure it has a bastard cut.

You also need to consider whether you want a single or double-cut file. A single-cut file is a file with teeth only going in one direction. In a double-cut file, the teeth are crisscrossed. Double cuts are better for sharpening, as they get the job done quicker. Some files will have a double cut on one side and a single cut on the other.

2. Half Round File

A half-round file is versatile because it has a flat and round side, so you get the best of both worlds. You can use the rounded side of the file for carving your shovel’s round edges and the flat side for the other parts or garden tools. 

Like with the flat file, it’s best to go with a bastard cut if you choose a half-round file, as it will be coarse enough to sharpen the file.

It’s also best to go with a half-round double-cut file rather than a single cut to ensure you get the sharpest result. Generally, one side will be single-cut while the other is double-cut. After using the double-cut side, you may need to smooth over the surface with the single-cut side. 

3. Round File

Round files are not ideal for sharpening entire shovels, but they work well for filing small sections. You can use a round file, but it will take longer than a flat or half-round file. Locksmiths often use round files for different key-shaping techniques.

However, if you want to fine-tune small sections of the shovel or focus on small curves, a round file is a good choice. You could even use it with another file, like a flat one. Round files are sometimes called “rat’s tail” because of their slender tail-like appearance. They’re generally a lot slimmer than flat files.

If you want to use a round file to sharpen a shovel, it’s best to go with a bastard cut. As you know, this cut is the coarsest and will make the process quicker and more convenient. 

4. Triangular File

Another type of file to consider for sharpening a shovel is a triangular file. Triangular files have three sides due to their triangular shapes, all of which you can use to sharpen your shovel. Like round files, triangular ones are on the smaller side, so they’re best when you want to file down smaller sections of your shovel.

The best types of triangular files for sharpening shovels are double-cut and bastard-cut. 

5. Crossing Files

Crossing files are similar to half-round files, but both sides are somewhat round. In the case of crossing files, one side is more round than the other. These files are generally coarse and double-cut, which is excellent for sharpening tools like shovels.

The ends of these files are tapered, giving you a more even finish when using it on your shovel. Crossing files are bigger than round and triangular ones, so they’re better if you want to file large sections at once.

How Coarse Should a File for a Shovel Be?

A file for a shovel should be at least somewhat coarse. At a minimum, use a second cut file to sharpen your shovel. A second cut file should be able to adequately sharpen your shovel without it becoming too rough.

If the shovel is particularly blunt, and you want it to be as sharp and precise as possible, it’s better to go with a bastard cut file. However, a bastard cut file might leave the shovel rough around the edges, so you may need to smooth it with a smoother file afterward.

Consider a Grinder for Sharpening a Shovel

If you want a quick method that doesn’t require much work, consider a grinder for sharpening a shovel. A hand grinder is an example of a tool that can sharpen objects within seconds, so it’s an excellent way to save time. However, you must have some patience when sharpening with a standard file. 

Also, it’s easier to remove too much metal at once with a grinder due to its strength, so you need to be highly careful when using one. If using a hand grinder, ensure you don’t keep it in the same spot on the shovel for too long. Otherwise, it will get too hot and might cut away too much metal.

To learn more about using a hand grinder to sharpen a shovel, check out this Youtube video by Granworks Workshop (skip to 6:10 for information on using a hand grinder):

You can also use a standard grinder (one that sits on a workstation). You must place the shovel into the grinder and turn it on when using this grinder. These machines typically have coarse and fine settings, so you can choose your setting depending on how sharp you want the shovel to be.

When using grinders, it’s essential to wear safety equipment, like glasses and gloves. The glasses protect your eyes from flying sparks, and the gloves should protect your hands from becoming too hot.

Also, you should only use a grinder after carefully following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Is It Necessary To Sharpen a Shovel?

It’s not necessary to sharpen a shovel, but it’s certainly a good idea if you want it to be easier to use. When a shovel is freshly sharpened, it can dig into the soil and break things up better than a blunt shovel, making your life easier.

You should only sharpen a shovel when it needs to be sharpened. It likely doesn’t need to be sharpened if you have no issues breaking into the soil with it.

If you want to learn more about keeping your garden tools clean, sharp, and rust-free, check out my other article: How To Keep Garden Tools Clean, Sharp, and Rust Free (9 Helpful Tips)

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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