Choosing pruners ... for a gift, for you.
Useful any time of year, new pruners are especially welcome tools at Christmas, when the winter the pruning season begins. If you plan to buy a pair of hand pruners or loppers, you may be surprised at the number of different designs now on the market. Even so, all are variations of two basic types: bypass pruners and anvil pruners. Both kinds are shown above.
More popular with gardening and landscape professionals, bypass pruners ($10 to $40) have a blade and hook that make straight, clean cuts; they cut closest when you're trying to nip off a branch flush with the adjoining trunk. If you try to cut too big a branch with them, however, the force can push the blades apart laterally and ruin them. (As a rule, if you can't cut the branch by squeezing with one hand, you should switch to a larger tool.)
When you shop for bypass pruners, look for blades of forged steel; they're usually stronger and hold a better edge than stamped steel blades.
Useful for fast, general pruning, anvil pruners ($5 to $15) can take more abuse. Many gardeners avoid them because they can't make a flush cut (they leave a stub about 1/8-inch long), and most can bruise or slightly crush the branch they're cutting. But recent tests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that a slight stub may be beneficial, since it provides a natural decay barrier between branch and trunk. Bruising and crushing can still be a problem with soft-wooded plants such as roses, but aren't significant with most trees and shrubs.
Because anvil pruners aren't easy to spring--even a slightly misaligned blade will cut well against the broad anvil-- manufacturers have devised four ways to make them cut bigger branches with less effort on your part and no damage to the pruners (even if you do damage them, you'll find replacement parts more common for anvil than for bypass pruners).
The first variation (not shown in our photographs) has gearing that allows blades to open nearly parallel.
The second design, availabel on both pruners and loppers, uses a ratchet to gradually increase leverage on the cutting blade. You cut with a series of firm squeezes instead of one hard squeeze of the handles. Between squeezes, the handles open up all the way--a benefit since you can apply more force to open handles than to partially closed ones.
The compound action design, a common feature of bolt cutters, uses four pivot points instead of one to increase leverage. Jaws open nearly parallel and cut easily. You'll find this design only on loppers.
Geared loppers use two pivot points and a special gearing system to make cutting easier.
Photo: Close-up shows the big difference in hand shears. Bypass pruner at left has overlapping blades, cuts like scissors. Anvil pruner at right squeezes one blade against a flat surface
Photo: Loppers are for heavier pruning. Bypass type (left) cuts closest; others are designed to cut with less effort. Prices are approximate Compound action anvil loppers $21 Standard bypass loppers $15 Ratchet anvil loppers $40 Geared anvil loppers $28
Photo: Needle-nose shears ($13.50) are useful for clipping small growth and cutting flowers
Photo: If daylight shows between blade and anvil of closed pruner, it cannot cut cleanly. When you buy, check for perfect alignment or buy pruners with adjustable anvil (above right)
Photo: To keep blades from sticking in sap, top pruners have grooved lower jaw. Bottom pair has a nonstick coating, which also makes cutting easier but eventually wears off
Photo: Your pocket is the holster for anvil pruners. Round-nose blades close flush and lock together so they won't jab or cut
Photo: Top of the line bypass shears ($30) come apart with crescent wrench for replacement of blades ($6) and spring ($1)
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|Date:||Dec 1, 1984|
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