The Best Secateurs/Pruning Shears For Gardeners

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A good pair of secateurs make spending time in the garden more enjoyable & rewarding

For the sake of simplicity, this article will use the term secateurs instead of changing between pruning shears and hand pruners.

ONE OF THE MOST important jobs in your garden is trimming and pruning. Regular pruning helps ensure your plants, shrubs, and trees grow properly and maintain a healthy size and shape. Pruning can be a very relaxing task, but you do need to have the right tools.

A good pair of secateurs is the perfect tool to make cutting back your plants and pruning trees or hedges a simple task. The problem is with so many different types to choose from, how do you know which are the best secateurs for you?

Secateurs Basics

The first and most important thing is that whether you buy the cheapest or the best secateurs on the market, they are made for a specific task. This is for pruning and trimming back plants. They are not made for cutting larger branches. This type of work is best left for a pruning saw or a lopper.

Typically, a good pair of pruning shears is designed to work on branches or stems that are no thicker than a standard pencil. Anything larger than this is likely to eventually break your secateurs or at the very least dull or damage the blades.

Best Secateurs - pruning a large tree

Secateurs are perfect for when you need to trim by hand, no matter how large the job

The 9 Factors of Good Secateurs

For what may look like nothing more than a pair of fancy oversized plant-cutting scissors, there are many things to consider before you spend a dime. Here are some of the most important things to consider before you buy one or two pairs to hang in your garden shed.

1. Maximum Cutting Diameter

The maximum cutting diameter is best described as the largest diameter of branch the secateurs can safely. One thing you should be aware of is that this number is usually used to describe the maximum diameter of soft or green woods, not hard or dry wood. If you buy a pair of secateurs based on this number for cutting harder woods, be sure to buy ones rated for larger diameters than you plan to cut.

2 .Left or Right-Hand Design

Let's face it, most tools like secateurs are designed for right-handed people, seems as though manufacturers have no idea just how many left-handers there are in the world. The good news is that there are a number of ambidextrous models available. These are the only ones we buy in our house as I am right-handed and my wife is a lefty.

Spring pruning roses in the garden with secateurs

Finding the right fit and feel is important when searching for secateurs 

3. The Right Fit

One thing you will find is that pruning shears come with varying sized handles. You may need to try several different pairs out to find a pair that fits your hands comfortably. This is especially important if you have a lot of pruning to do. If they do not fit your hands properly, they will be very tiring to use and could leave you with blisters.

4. A Safety Catch

Any secateurs you buy should have some form of safety lock such as a sliding catch or a thumb lever that is easy to operate. The goal of the safety lock is to keep the blades locked in the closed position when the shears are not in use.

5. An Adjustable Pivot

The best secateurs have a bolt holding the two halves together not a rivet. This makes it possible for you to adjust the blades with either a screwdriver or a wrench should they become loose.

Best Secateurs - stand out color handles

Finding your secateurs is important 

6. Brightly Colored Handles

Okay, so this might seem to be a bit on the silly side, that is until you drop them in the garden. Brightly colored handles will make them much easier to spot and save you from buying a new pair each time you drop them.

7. Replacement Parts

Any pair of secateurs you buy should have replacement blades and springs readily available. This will help to make your secateurs last much longer.

Pruning of  trees with secateurs in the garden

These much loved secateurs are starting to show their age

8. Coated Blades

Top quality secateurs come with a coating that is designed to prevent the blades from rusting. While this coating may wear off over time, it will help make the blade last longer. Some models come with stainless steel blades that should remain rust-free as long as you take good care of them.

9. Avoid Sharp Points

Some models come with sharp points, in most cases, this is completely unnecessary and should be avoided as the points are more likely to cause injury than anything else. (Trust me, you don't want to poke your hand with a sharp point)

The Three Distinct Types of Secateurs or Pruning Shears

Starting to get an idea of what you need from a pair of secateurs? To help get the job done best there are 3 distinct types of secateurs.

1. Bypass Secateurs

Bypass secateurs work a lot like a pair of scissors in that there is a single sharp blade that cuts as it passes the other blade.

These are the best secateurs if you plan to do a lot of precision pruning of smaller twigs and plants.

Because the blades pass by each other, this design allows you to get up close the to stem of the plant. This allows you to cut side stems flush with the main stem of the trunk.

As long as you keep the cutting blade sharp, these pruning shears will always give you a clean cut, even with softer stems.

One of the biggest problems with bypass secateurs is that if you attempt to cut through branches thicker than the listed specs, the cutting blade can become damaged and may not be repairable.

PROS

CONS

Precise cuts

For smaller stems and branches only

Design allows you to cut close to stems

Can break if used on larger, harder branches

2. Anvil Secateurs

If you need to trim back hardwood branches, chances are good they are going to destroy a pair of bypass pruning shears. The best secateurs for this type of work is a pair of anvil secateurs.

They work in much the same way as a knife on a cutting board. The blade itself is sharpened on both sides and is designed to contact either a metal or plastic plate when closed.

This type of pruning shear can cut quickly through hardwood stems quickly and with far less effort than a pair of bypass secateurs. But, you should know that this design crushes as it cuts and does not leave a clean cut like the bypass shears. This makes them particularly unsuitable for use on softer stems.

At the same time, the size and design of the anvil mean that it is likely to get in the way when you are trying to cut in tight spaces.

Because the anvil tends to get in the way, you will not be able to cut side stems close up against the main stem. If you need to cut in close quarters or cut flush up against the stem, you should buy a pair of bypass secateurs (personally, I recommend you have a pair of both of these style on hand).

PROS

CONS

Stronger than other secateurs

Cuts aren’t as ‘clean’ as other secateurs

Typically easy to disassemble for maintenance

Design leaves room for less precision

3. Ratchet Secateurs

In recent years a number of manufacturers have begun to sell ratchet secateurs. In most cases, these feature an anvil type blade. They have all of the same advantages and disadvantages of this style of pruning shear.

However, they also offer one very distinct advantage. As you squeeze the handles together, the ratcheting mechanism will lock the handles in place. This allows you to make the cut in several stages, meaning you will need to use less force to make the cut. However, using these secateurs can take a bit of getting used to.

As a side note, there are several models of geared secateurs on the market. These use a gear or power lever mechanism that makes them easier to use. Unfortunately, most of them do not have the power as standard pruning shears and are not well-suited to being used on woody twigs.

PROS

CONS

Less pressure needed from your hand

Don’t cut hard branches as easy

Easier to use

Different feel means they can take some getting used to

Here Are Three of My Favorite Secateurs, One from Each Category

Shine Hai

Professional Hand Pruner Bypass Pruning Shears with Safety Lock  

Heavy-duty secateurs with a high-carbon steel blade that can cut branches up to 0.48 inch (12 mm) in diameter. The blade is made from SK-5 Japanese steel and can be used for a number of pruning tasks.

Both sides of the blade are coated in low-friction ILAFLON Resist R coating and feature sap groove to make cutting easier. The cushion-shock absorber system helps to reduce discomfort when using them and there is a wire cutting groove for smaller gauge wires.

Pros

Cons

Heavy Gauge SK-5 Japanese steel blade

Bolt holding blade in place may come loose

Shock-absorbing system to reduce fatigue

Tension spring is not strong enough

Precision ground razor sharp blade

Will not work on larger branches

Spear & Jackson 6758GS Razorsharp Geared Anvil Secateurs

The Geared Action Makes Pruning A Breeze

This pair of anvil secateurs features a geared action that makes cutting much easier. They also feature an SK-5 Japanese steel blade that holds its edge far longer than many others.

The body is made from lightweight aluminum to help reduce the strain of using them over long periods of time. The blade is coated with PTFE (Teflon) for smoother cutting and rust resistance. The grip has a comfortable ambidextrous shape not found in many pruning shears.

Pros

Cons

SK-5 Japanese Steel Blade

Safety catch does not always work

Ambidextrous handle shape

Blade dulls easily

PTFE coated blade

Hard to use by those with larger hands 

Power Drive Ratchet Anvil Hand Pruning Shears

The Ratchet System Adds Plenty of Trimming Power

These secateurs offer a ratcheting mechanism that makes cutting effortless. The more you squeeze them, the more they lock onto the branch you are pruning.

Every time the ratchet clicks into place, more pressure is applied. The design increases the amount of power in your hand by up to 5 times letting the secateurs do the work instead of your hand.

The ergonomic design helps to reduce fatigue when you have plenty of pruning to do. The blades are made from hardened carbon steel that has been heat-treated to help it remain sharp longer and coated with PTFE to reduce friction.

Pros

Cons

Hardened carbon steel blade with PTFE coating

Ratchet pin may break

Ratcheting mechanism reduces effort

Spring comes detached

Ergonomic design for added comfort

Lock mechanism fails

Electric Pruning Shears

Like most garden tools, you can now buy power pruning shears that come with a rechargeable battery and work almost as well as manual shears. They take almost all of the strain out of trimming small trees and plants. Here is my favorite, I bought one last year and have fallen in love with it.

RYOBI Rechargeable Pruning Shears BSH-120

Rechargeable Power that Makes Pruning a Simple Task

Not everyone has the hand power to prune everything in their garden, this cordless tool makes the job simple for just about everyone. It can cut branches up to .48 inch (12 mm) in diameter and will last approximately 120 minutes on a full charge.

Comes with a blade, a blade cover, and a wall charger. Takes about 60 minutes to fully recharge the battery.

Pros

Cons

Makes pruning easy for those with carpal tunnel

Owner's manual not in English

Long life battery

Cutting blades break

Perfect for smaller branches

Not good for larger branches

Taking Care of Your Secateurs

If you want your secateurs to provide you with many years of faithful service, you will need to take good care of them. Fortunately, there isn't much to caring for them.

Keep Them Sharp and Clean

  • A dull blade will not cut anything, instead, it will crush anything you are trying to cut. You can easily keep the blade sharp with a small sharpening stone.
  • Every time you finish using your secateurs, rub the blades down with an oily rag to remove sap and dirt.
  • Never use your secateurs to cut branches bigger than they are designed for, this could quickly damage or ruin them.
  • You should also disassemble them from time to time so that you can clean and oil all of the moving parts.
  • This is really all it takes to keep even the best pruning shears ready to use and ensure they will provide you with many years of reliable service.

The Final Cut

There are so many different types of pruning shears on the market, it can be hard to know which one will be the best secateurs for your needs. If your yard has a range of trees, shrubs, and plants that need to be trimmed, you may want to do like I have and purchase both bypass and anvil style shears. This way you will always have the right ones on hand when you need them. Of course, a set of rechargeable secateurs is not a bad idea either, I love my RYOBI pruning shears.

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