A little over 10 years, I rediscovered my love of growing and picking apples. In doing so, I poured through pages and pages of research material on how to best grow them in my climate, which is Hardiness Zone 7. And, because I was going to set an orchard in motion almost from the ground up, I had to learn everything I could about training new growth through pruning. That meant selecting the best pruning shears. The last thing I wanted was a pair that would dull too easily or would come loose at the joint — a poor cut on a fruit tree opens the door to disease and other problems.
Little did I know that my research would also give me a taste of terminology from across the pond, because that’s when I found out that in Britain, you’ll hear these wonderful little tools mostly referred to as secateurs.
That said, what we’re looking at for this article are the best bypass pruners, which are different from anvil pruners. Bypass pruners deliver more of a scissor-like motion, which is ideal for taking care of fruit trees and gardens. After all, it’s not just the location and angle of the cut that’s important to avoid rotting and branch death, but it’s also the way the tool is able to make the cleanest cut.
My workshop is littered with pruning shears, some new and some very old. The list below is my six favorite pruning shears that I’ve had the opportunity to use (and use a lot!) over the past decade:
Corona BP 6250 MAXForged Aluminum Bypass Hand Pruner
This has been my all-time favorite pair, and they’ve been in regular use on my property for at least six years. I almost regret that it took so long for me to discover these Coronas, because I had tried several different brands and models before it. I have gotten a clean cut over and over, and they’re comfortable in hand, which is great when I’ve got rows of trees to take care of.
- Self-Cleaning Sap Groove: Keeps blade clean so you can continue cutting without having to stop to clean sap off.
- High-Carbon Steel Blade Cuts Up To 1 Inch Diameter Branch: Blade is easy to replace.
- Shock-Absorbing Bumper: Allows for a more comfortable cut.
- Slant-Ground, Narrow-Profile Hook: Makes cutting in tight spaces easier.
Felco F-2 Classic Manual Hand Pruner
Felco has a wonderfully loyal following, and the F-2 is the biggest reason for that. They are very popular with professional landscapers and those who work in the gardening/nursery industry. The blade alignment can be customized, and the rubber cushioning in the grip will keep you going (and help save your wrists) on even some of the longest days.
- Reliable: comfortable, light, sturdy handles made of forged aluminium with a lifetime guarantee; blade and riveted anvil blade made of high-quality hardened steel; clean, precise cut; all parts can be replaced.
- Efficient: easy, durable cutting adjustment; wire cutting notch; sap groove.
- Ergonomic: hand protection is provided by the cushion-shock absorber; non-slip coating.
Okatsune 103 Bypass Pruners
This particular brand has the same kind of cult following as Felco, and the durability of the flagship 103 Bypass Pruner makes it easy to see where that kind of excitement comes from (it boasts an 89% five-star rating). It’s the combination of simplicity, functionality, and longevity that have made this one of my favorites to use.
- Length of 202 mm, this model is 20 mm larger than model 101, and 8 mm smaller than model 104
- The blades of this razor-sharp pruner are forged from the finest Japanese steel
Wilkinson Sword Razorcut Pro Angled Bypass Pruner
Wilkinson Sword, admittedly, doesn’t carry the name recognition in the pruning space that some of the other brands on this list do, but that’s exactly the reason it’s worth highlighting a hidden gem such as this. I bought this pruner some time ago because the price was so low that, even if they didn’t work out, I wasn’t going to end up losing too much. Turns out, they’re quite durable — moreso than any other pair you’ll find at this lower-end price point. They were balanced and ergonomic in hand, which are two huge pluses!
- Extra high quality SK5 Japanese steel blades
- Drop forged anodized aluminium handles for extra strength and durability
- Large rubber buffers to absorb shock
- 2 position catch to give medium or large opening
- Wilkinson Sword provides a 10 year guarantee
ARS HP-VS8Z Signature Heavy Duty Pruner
This was probably the best surprise of the ones that I’ve used over the years — I knew nothing about the brand, nor did I know of anyone who had used them prior to my getting them. So, a true wildcard here. They way they handle, the cuts are easier than with most other tools, and it did so on a variety of differently sized branches. A versatile and durable gem that I came across.
- Superior, long-lasting sharpness from ARS
- Hard chrome plated for optimum protection against rust and sap build up
- Ergonomic handles and offset blades for maximum comfort
- Replaceable blades
Garden Elite Bypass Pruning Shears
The SK-5 blade consistently makes a nice clean cut, even on larger branches (the company recommends up to 25mm in diameter). They might be a bit difficult to use if you have smaller hands, but if that doesn’t include you, this pair is unlikely to wear you out any time soon.
- Fast, clean cuts with razor sharp high-carbon Japanese SK-5 steel — the hardest steel on the market designated specially for cutting tools.
- Lifetime warranty: If for any reason you are unsatisfied with your purchase, simply contact the company and they’ll make it right.
- This pair of premium garden cutting shears feature a forged aluminum handle that has been ergonomically designed to fit comfortably in your hand. The handle is coated with non-slip rubber grips for added comfort and an easy-to-operate thumb lock.
What kind of pruners are there?
There are two main types of pruners: bypass pruners and anvil pruners. Bypass pruners have two curved blades and make a nice smooth cut through a branch as the blades pass by each other. Their scissor-like motion is ideal for taking care of fruit trees and gardens and are the preference with any live plant.
Anvil pruners, on the other hand, function more like a knife coming down onto a chopping block — essentially smashing down onto the flat “anvil” bottom of the pruners. This does more to crush soft plant tissue than bypass pruners do. These types of pruners stop the flow of nutrients, prolonging the healing time for the cut surface. Realistically, few people prefer anvil pruners over bypass pruners, and some would say anvil pruners are only acceptable on deadwood.
What are the most popular brands of pruning shears?
This is largely a subjective question, but Corona, Fiskar, and Felco are going to be the three brands you’re most likely to encounter at most hardware stores, from the biggest Lowe’s and Home Depots to the smaller Aces and True Values. That’s not to say that any of these three brands are by and far the best (in fact, we don’t have any Fiskars on our list of the best bypass pruners), it’s just that they appear to have the biggest share of the market and bring enough to the table (in terms of quality and price) to be trusted by a lot of homeowners.
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