Whether you’re handling a heavier farming or arbor-culturing job, or simply have a small garden and need to do some flower arranging, pruning shears are an essential item. There is more variety than you might think within the types of pruning shears available, and you’re definitely going to want to navigate yourself properly through your options so as to ensure you’ll get your gardening job done properly. Here are some tips on how to shop for pruning shears.
Pruning shears can largely be divided into three styles or design types: anvil, bypass, and parrot beak. Most operate with a spring mechanism for opening and closing and sometimes with a safety catch for locking handles in position. Most shears are suited to have a ¾ inch cutting capacity or more.
Regardless of the style or design you choose, make sure your blades are made of carbon-steel, as it’s the most durable kind that won’t rust. If they are coated with a non-stick substance, like Teflon, for example, they’ll bear more of the brunt in effort, requiring less from you. There are also shears that have serrated blades, though these are best used on ornamental grass, and are generally harder to operate and take a bit of practice to master.
It is important to always keep your blades as sharp as possible to reduce stress on your hands and get the best cut, and to replace shears entirely if one of your blades gets chipped or damaged. To keep them in good condition, it’s also essential to clean and oil your blades and not use them for anything but cutting plants. If you also use them to cut other sorts of material, especially harshly-textured ones, it will dull and wear out your blades much faster than if you limit yourself to their intended purpose.
Above all, you’ll want to make sure the shears you choose are easy and comfortable for you to use. Most shears have short handles and are supposed to be operated with one hand-- there are even some kinds you can get that are tailored specifically to the right or left hand. Rotating handles can reduce hand-to-handle friction, tension, and stress with repetitive use. Telescopic shears use both of your hands and arms, have the option to be adjusted to reach out much farther out than traditional shears, and operate with a rod system within a size-adjustable pole between the blades and handles.
Long-handled shears, or loppers, though allow less flexibility in size adjustment, are also good for circumstances that require a long reach, but are best suited for branches that are one to two inches thick in size. For other large cuts, especially those with bigger leaves, an alternative cutting device option is a single sharp knife blade or a saw.
Electric shears are better for larger yards and/or frequent and big pruning jobs. The main advantage to electric shears is that they’re much easier to use and faster working than manual shears. They’re often very versatile as well, and can be used either on small delicate stems, or on smaller trees.
Cons of electric shears include the precision and texture of their cut—you’re just not going to get as clean or as nice a cut as compared to using manual shears that allow for more control. Make sure that if you choose electric shears that you get a model that can be entirely dismantled fairly easily for cleaning. Getting debris jammed in your electric clippers can create very unsafe situations and compromise the quality and integrity of your pruning generally.
Ratchet mechanisms in pruning shears allow for more force, making thicker branches much easier to cut. Especially if you don’t want to put too much pressure on your hands and wrists, or if you have an injury, this is a good option for you, as it literally multiplies your hand’s power. As you’re cutting deeper into your branch, ratcheting mechanisms work automatically to kick themselves up a notch, increasing their power gradually as you move through your cutting.
Most ratchet pruners have non-stick coatings on their blades so you can also use them in brush cutting. Though, often times, replacing the blades on these types of pruners can be a pain, as important as it this task is. If you have branches or stems to cut that are larger than ¾ inches thick, you might want to consider using a lopper.