hand with pruner cuting small branch

Which are the best hand pruners? Things to consider when choosing pruners !

Toso Bozic

Toso Bozic

Tree/Forestry Expert

Throughout my career, I have been asked this question every time when I talk or perform pruning work for a client. To answers this question, I ask a client following:

  • How much pruning work do you do? Few hours, days, or full-time job?
  • How much money you are willing to spend on pruning tools?
  • What kind of pruning do you usually do? Type of tree/shrubs species do you prune usually?
  • Do you have any health/joints issues with your wrist, elbow, or arm?
  • Are you left or right-handed?

So, once you provide some answers to me, I can come up with a variety of tools that I have been using and personally prefer. It still does not mean these tools are best for you. You may not be able to purchase some of these tools at your local store but only through online shopping. Now keep in mind, for online shopping, you may not have the same experience of “ feeling it” as in the store where you can test the tools.

Things to consider when buying hand pruners !

Pruners (also called pruning shears, secateurs, and clippers) are small tools to cut branches and twigs up to 1 inch. There are few things that you need to be aware of including types of pruning shears, ergonomics, locking and spring mechanism, weight, and possible blade replacement.   

There are two types of pruning shears: Bypass and anvil pruners. The difference is that the bypass pruner is cutting twigs while anvil pruners are crushing twigs to make the cut. Also, anvil pruners are usually used in dead wood where you may need that crushing force to cut branches.

Bypass pruners are the most common pruners. The principle is simple, two blades passing one other making cuts. One of the blades is sharp while the other unsharpened blade is thicker. Anvil pruners are little bit different where one blade serves as an anvil/cutting board while the sharp blade crushes twigs to make cuts. I personally use bypass pruners as they are easier to make cuts on live or dead wood, usually smaller and fit for a range of pruning jobs.

Ergonomics is particularly important to consider when buying any pruning tools. If you do deadhead or pruning frequently, you need to protect yourself from wrist injury. Pruners with soft handles that are curved, and blades angled will reduce the strain on your wrist. If you prune daily, you may have soft handles that are curved but also rotate them as well to fit your hands and the grip.

Locking mechanism can be irritating if pruners lock frequently during the work. The purpose of locking mechanism is your safety. It protects you from cutting yourself but also protects the blades when they are not in use.

Pay attention to few important parts !

One way to look about the quality of the pruners is to look at the parts that they are made from. The more plastics, the less quality. Higher quality of good steel metals, the better quality it is.  Blades are one of the most important parts of pruners and having high quality steel blades made of carbon and hardened steel will make your cuts easier. Poor quality blades are easier to damage, become dull very quickly and do not cut properly. Spring helps to reduce the workload of cutting by releasing handles after the cut. They are either wires or metal coil spring. The most important thing for springs is that they are well attached and do not pop off during the work.

Do not forget maintenance !

Part of my services to clients is that I will sharpen their pruners after the work is done. One of the most interesting things is that almost every client has between 5-10 hand pruners while the maximum was 25 pruners in one household. When they bring a box of pruners for me to sharpen, 95 % of them are covered by rust and dirt and they are ALL dull. A few of them have some loose parts.

So, first thing I do is clean up with rubbing alcohol or WD 40 to remove as much dirt and rust. In a few cases, I use a heavier rust removal product. Once I clean pruners, I sharpen all the blades, tighten up a few nuts, and make sure that the spring is good. Then I asked them to go and cut a few branches. Clients are excited to see how it is easy to cut ¾ inch of a branch. Without proper maintenance regardless of what pruners you buy or have, they will deteriorate and not perform proper pruning. Once you finish pruning work – clean up your tools, sharpen blades, add little bit of oil to metal parts and keep them in a dry place. It really does not take a long time to maintain your pruning tools.

Sharpening is probably the most important maintenance task. There are several sharpening tools available and videos of how to sharpen pruners.

My personal pruners choice !

Considering all the things mentioned above, I found out that for me these are the best pruners. I simply like FELCO Swiss product. It may not be the best for you but whatever pruning tools you choose; try to answer the questions above, consider a few things and do not forget to keep up with maintenance and sharpening of your choice of tools.

FELCO F2 Professional Pruning Shears – these are very sturdy reliable pruners I used most of the time. With very hardened steel blade I was able to cut branches up to 1 inch. Medium size pruners fit me the best. You simply can’t go wrong with this durable and exceptionally good Swiss pruner.

FELCO F-15 Pruning Shears – If you do prune every day during growing season, these high-performance pruners with steel blades are pruners that you may consider. Amazing shock absorber is really helping reduce the potential for hand injury. Small sap grove will reduce sap sticking among blades.

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