Cuts larger branches more easily than bypass loppers. Anvil design provides more leverage for smaller users. Detachable blades easy to replace when dull. Carbon steel blade with comfort grips.
Handles are hollow, can bend over time. Difficult to open in tight spaces.
Handles soft limbs up to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Handle length is good for thick growth. Requires minimal arm strength. Low-friction coating resists sap and debris buildup.
Handle can break on larger limbs. Blades dull quickly. Some complaints of premature rusting.
Ratcheting action cuts larger limbs. Blades are extremely sharp and durable. PTFE blade coating resists rust. Aluminum handles are lightweight and telescope for additional reach.
Difficult to find replacement handles and blades. Ratcheting action requires 4 pumps of the handle per cut.
Blades can be resharpened by hand. Anvil design, cuts thicker limbs than bypass. Fiberglass handles will not corrode or bend. Compound action increases cutting power.
Blades can break on limbs larger than 1.5 inches thick. Replacement blades difficult to locate.
Generous 39 1/2-inch extension. Telescoping handles lock securely. Carbon steel blade, with sharpening kit available. Cuts limbs up to 1 3/4 inches in diameter.
Handles bend noticeably under stress. Ratchet action requires strong hands. Very heavy.
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A good set of gardening tools can help you maintain your home’s curb appeal. For many people, it’s also just plain fun to work with a set of top-notch gardening tools. One of the stars of the show is the lopper.
Loppers are pruning tools. You can use them to trim down foliage, stems, and branches to achieve the sizes and shapes you want in your yard. You can also use them to get rid of dead, dying, or damaged branches and stems.
Before discussing the different types of pruners and their uses, we first need to explain the terms “bypass” and “anvil,” as you’ll encounter both when shopping for loppers.
A bypass lopper has two blades that slide past each other, much like a pair of scissors. This action renders a nice, clean cut on living stems and branches. However, the tool sometimes becomes jammed when cutting through dead, diseased, or especially fibrous plant material.
An anvil lopper has one sharp blade that closes onto a slightly softer, thicker anvil. The action is something like bringing a knife down onto a cutting board. Anvil pruning tools are great for trimming away dead or diseased branches and twigs because they crush through the dry branches easily. However, this crushing action can rip or tear living plant material.
Loppers are just one type of pruning tool; there are others as well. We explore the different types of tools below so you can make an informed decision as you shop. Many people find it beneficial to keep several different pruning tools in their gardening arsenal.
As the name suggests, hand pruners are small tools that fit comfortably in your hand and have small, slightly curved blades. Use hand pruners for cutting stems or branches that are less than three-quarters of an inch thick. You’ll find both anvil and bypass hand pruners, and if you are an avid gardener, it’s best to own both types.
Loppers share some similarities with hand pruners, but these tools are larger and have longer handles. You’ll want a lopper to tackle branches that are between three-quarters of an inch and two inches thick. Both anvil and bypass loppers exist, and again, if you spend a lot of time working in your garden, you’ll want both. If you must limit yourself to one kind of lopper, however, make it a bypass lopper.
With fairly long handles and blades that cut with a scissoring motion, these tools look like oversized scissors. The blade length makes it easy to cut through many small stems or thin branches with one swipe. Hedge shears aren’t right for trimming thick branches, but they’re great for manicuring lighter foliage.
A pruning saw is a small hand saw used to cut through branches thicker than two inches. These tools are very handy if you need to tackle overgrown shrubs, trees, or even large rose bushes.
When shopping for an anvil or bypass lopper, there are a few things to consider.
The best loppers have hardened or carbon steel blades. This super-strong metal won’t crack or bend when tackling tough branches, and it won’t need sharpening as often as lower-quality steel. Pass by any loppers that have burrs, rough spots, bends, or other visible imperfections in the blades.
Some loppers have a nonstick coating on the blades. While not absolutely necessary, this is a nice feature that helps the blades glide through sticky sap without a mess – a big plus if you prune pine trees or other sappy plants.
Adjustable blade tightness
Quality loppers have a screw that allows you to adjust the tightness of the blades.
Specialized cutting action
While basic loppers are good for most tasks, there are specialized loppers made for tougher situations. Ratcheted blades catch as you squeeze, so you can release without losing pressure before finishing the cut. These are especially good if you have arthritis or hand weakness, as you can “rest” your hand while pruning a thick branch. Geared blades have small gears at the fulcrum of the blades. This gives you more leverage during a cut and thus the ability to tackle thicker branches without excessive effort. Compound action blades have extra hinges in the fulcrum, thereby increasing your cutting power without increasing your effort.
Loppers come in a wide range of lengths; you’ll find some around a foot long and others over 30 inches long. While longer loppers give you more leverage and thus more cutting power, lengthy tools are also heavier and more difficult to work with. Most people find loppers between 20 and 28 inches to be the most comfortable. If you can’t settle on one length, consider a pair of telescoping loppers that allow you to extend the handles several inches when necessary.
Lopper handles may be made of wood, steel, hardened aluminum, or fiberglass. Wood and steel are heavy yet strong. Fiberglass and aluminum are lighter; choose one of these materials if you’re concerned about wielding too much weight.
Your hands absorb a lot of pressure while pruning. For this reason, most good loppers have a cushioned, non-slip grip. Some are ergonomically designed for enhanced comfort while cutting.
First of all, you should know what you’re pruning and when the best time for pruning is. Deciduous trees should be pruned while they are dormant. Early-spring shrubs like lilacs and viburnums should be pruned after they bloom. Late bloomers such as butterfly bush, crape myrtle, and smoke bushes should be pruned before they bloom.
While pruning is something of an art, and there are specialized techniques for creating topiaries and other elaborate forms, some basic guidelines exist that work for just about every type of shrub.
Before you begin pruning, remove any dead, broken, or diseased branches. Cut these away entirely.
Next, look for branches that overlap or rub together. Cut the more awkwardly placed branch back to the nearest crotch where two branches split off.
Encourage new growth in plants with multiple stems by cutting a few of the older stems down to the ground.
Clip away suckers, which are small stems or shoots coming up from the plant’s roots.
Now, shape and size the shrub to your liking. Make cuts on a slight angle, and place the loppers right above a bud on the branch being cut.
Most shrubs look best when left to their natural shape. Don’t go crazy with your loppers; when pruning for appearance, remove just enough to keep the plant attractively shaped. As a general rule, don’t cut a shrub down by more than a third unless you are doing winter pruning.
You can find cheap, basic loppers for less than $20, but these aren’t generally known for their smooth performance. For a quality garden lopper, expect to spend at least $25 and more likely $35 to $50.
Loppers with specialty mechanisms and telescoping handles generally cost the most. It’s a fairly significant investment, but if cared for properly, a good set of loppers will last you a decade or more. For this reason, many people decide it’s worth it to spend a little extra on a high-quality product.
Q. How should I care for my loppers to keep them in good condition?
A. Loppers and other gardening tools will last longer and work better if cared for properly. After each use, wipe away any sap and sawdust. (Pro tip: you can use turpentine to remove dry sap from your loppers.) If the blades are especially dirty, hose them off and use a scrubber to remove grunge. Then, wipe the blades dry and store them in a shed or garage out of direct sunlight and away from intense heat.
Q. Can I use my loppers to prune or deadhead small plants like perennials and annual flowers?
A. You can, but it’s difficult to use large loppers on small plants. You’ll find the task much easier with a hand pruner. Loppers are best suited for the pruning of shrubs, small trees, and large rose bushes.
Q. I want to use loppers to trim branches on a tall shrub. How do I reach?
A. A pair of loppers with a telescoping handle lets you reach a foot or two higher for pruning trees or tall shrubs; you may wish to buy a tool with this type of handle. If you want to prune even higher than that, you’ll either need to balance on a ladder while cutting or use a pole pruner, which has a very long handle designed to reach up into tree branches.