Choosing pruners … for a gift, for you Essay

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.

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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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