Hand Pruners Buying Guide

Below you will find an extensive guide to choosing the best pruner. We outline the features of top brands like Felco, Bahco, and Corona, and offer expert tips for keeping your new tool sharp and clean for years to come. Read on and arm yourself with one of the more useful landscaping tools you can buy!

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A.M. Leonard's guide to finding the best hand pruners—plus expert tips on maintaining and using your newest tool.

Choosing the right hand pruner for the job is important. Usually, the type of pruner is a matter of personal preference. There are, however, some advantages to the different styles available at A.M. Leonard. Our Hand Pruners Buying Guide helps you find the hand pruner you need to get the job done.

This guide also covers pruner maintenance, sharpening, and pruner techniques. A properly maintained pruner lasts longer and makes better cuts! Mastering pruning techniques can help plants put on new growth AND improve flower and fruit production. Read our maintenance, sharpening, and technique tips below!

Finding the Best Hand Pruner

Types of Pruners

Bypass: Bypass pruners are the best choice for cutting live wood. The cutting blade “passes by” the counter blade in a scissor-like action. The hook shape of the counter blade helps hold the branch steady while cutting. The counter blade slightly crushes the bottom of the branch. Cut from the side of the branch that allows you to position the counter blade under the wood you intend to remove. This lessens the damage caused to the branch. Shorter blades make precision cuts easier, but longer blades give you a little more reach. A greater handle length increases leverage.

Anvil: Anvil-style pruners are the best choice for cutting old, hard, brittle and dead wood. The cutting blade drops into the middle of the anvil, sometimes into a small slot that receives the blade. The anvil supports the branch underneath to reduce the chance of it splintering. The anvil slightly crushes the bottom of the branch on either side of the cutting blade. It is therefore best to use an anvil-style pruner on dead wood.

Double Cut: Some people prefer a ‘double cut’ style of pruner. A double-cut pruner has two cutting blades instead of an anvil or counterblade. The sharp edges of the blades are on opposing sides, so the cutting surfaces do not contact one another. The blades of double-cut pruners nest together.

Types of Handles

There are many pruner handle types and shapes available. There are handles designed for left-handed users and for someone with smaller hands. Ratcheting action can multiply cutting power, but can take several squeezes to make a cut. There are latches positioned in different places along the handle. A nice feature is a latch you can open with just one hand. Rotating and ergonomic handles offer added comfort and reduced blistering for prolonged pruning.

Choosing the Right Cutting Capacity

A pruner’s cutting capacity is the distance between the blades. This measurement does not indicate the size of branch that you can cut. True cutting capacity depends on the hardness of the wood and the strength of the user. If a cutting capacity is .75 inch, you may be able to cut that size linden without any problem. Unless you are unusually strong, you are not going to be able to cut through .75 inches of dead white pine. If you have to strain to make cuts, it can result in ragged cuts and cause damage to the pruner by twisting it. In this case, consider moving to a lopper or saw to prevent unnecessary damage.

The Best Hand Pruner Brands

A.M. Leonard

Pruner Brand Type Handle Type Cutting Capacity Replacement Parts
ART17 Leonard Double Cut Stationary 1-Inch YES
A10 Leonard Bypass Stationary 1-Inch YES
4282 Leonard Bypass Ergonomic 1-Inch YES
1286 Leonard Bypass Stationary 1-Inch YES
1234 Leonard Bypass Ergonomic 1-Inch YES
1212 Leonard Bypass Stationary .75-Inch YES
1550 Leonard Bypass Stationary .5-Inch YES
834 Leonard Bypass Stationary .75-Inch YES

ARS

Pruner Brand Type Handle Type Cutting Capacity Replacement Parts
120DX ARS Bypass Stationary .75-Inch YES
ARS6 ARS Bypass Stationary, Small Hands .75-Inch YES

Bahco

Pruner Brand Type Handle Type Cutting Capacity Replacement Parts
PXRM2 Bahco Bypass Ergonomic, Rotating .75-Inch YES
PXL3 Bahco Bypass Ergonomic 1.25-Inch YES
PXM2 Bahco Bypass Ergonomic .75-Inch YES

Corona

Pruner Brand Type Handle Type Cutting Capacity Replacement Parts
830CO Corona Bypass Stationary 1-Inch YES
80CO Corona Bypass Stationary 1-Inch YES
8COR Corona Bypass Stationary, Small Hands .5-Inch YES
60CO Corona Bypass Stationary .75-Inch YES

Felco

Pruner Brand Type Handle Type Cutting Capacity Replacement Parts
7FEL Felco Bypass Rotating, Right Handed 1-Inch YES
10FEL Felco Bypass Rotating, Left Handed 1-Inch YES
13FEL Felco Bypass Stationary, Extended 1.2-Inch YES
100FEL Felco Cut-and-Hold Bypass Ergonomic .4-Inch YES
12FEL Felco Bypass Rotating, Small Hands .8-Inch YES
8FEL Felco Bypass Ergonomic 1-Inch YES
9FEL Felco Bypass Ergonomic, Left Handed 1-Inch YES
11FEL Felco Bypass Ergonomic 1-Inch YES
6FEL Felco Bypass Stationary, Small Hands .8-Inch YES
31FEL Felco Anvil Stationary, Large Hands 1-Inch YES
2FEL Felco Bypass Stationary 1-Inch YES
4FEL Felco Bypass Stationary 1-Inch YES
5FEL Felco Bypass Stationary 1-Inch YES
300FEL Felco Bypass Stationary .4-Inch NO

Other Brands

Pruner Brand Type Handle Type Cutting Capacity Replacement Parts
RP701 Florian Anvil Ratcheting .75-Inch NO
19T Gilmour Anvil Stationary .75-Inch YES
OK103 Okatsune Bypass Stationary .75-Inch YES
OK101 Okatsune Bypass Stationary 1.25-Inch YES

Pruner Sharpening and Maintenance Tips

Below you can find helpful tips from our experts on how to sharpen and maintain your hand pruners. Proper maintenance results in your pruners lasting for years to come:

  • Always use sharp pruning tools. They cut with less effort and the clean cuts ‘heal’ faster
  • Use a smooth, single-cut mill file or stone on straight edge pruning shears. The 10SS- Swiss Sharpener or OK6-Okatsune Sharpening Stone are the best tools for sharpening pruning shears during assembly
  • Sharpen your blade before it gets dull to reduce effort. Take your file or your stone in the field with you and touch up the blade as necessary. Use a can of WD-40 to loosen sticky pruners
  • If a cutting blade is extremely dull, or notched, you may have to take the pruners apart to repair the damage. In some cases, it is easier to buy a new blade rather than attempting to repair a badly damaged one
  • Maintain the factory angle on the cutting edge. Filing the blade too flat or too thin removes the bevel. With no bevel, the edge dulls quickly. A dull blade can chip or roll
  • Sharpen away from, not toward, the blade
  • Do not sharpen the anvil. Only sharpen the blade
  • Sharpen a bypass pruner on just one side of the blade. Avoid filing the flat side of the blade, except to remove any burrs formed from filing the edge side. A wire brush may suffice in removing the light burrs that may appear
  • Sharpen anvil and double-cut pruners on both sides of the blade
  • Use one straight motion when sharpening. Do not "scour" back and forth as this heats the edge
  • Hooks or notches on straight-edge shears rarely need sharpening
  • You can sharpen wavy edge hedge shears with a tubular, fine stone or tubular file. Do not use a file with a flat side, as it does not follow the wavy contours of the edge
  • After sharpening, apply light machine oil to the entire blade
  • Store your pruning equipment in a protected environment
  • A turbo-cut saw is very difficult to sharpen. It is less trouble to simply replace the blade
  • Impulse-hardened saw blades cannot be sharpened

Pruning Techniques

For gardeners who cannot wait to get outdoors and begin working, late winter and early spring are great times to prune. These are the best pruning times as trees and shrubs have yet to put on new growth. An exception to this rule is for shrubs that flower in early spring, such as lilac or forsythia, which you should prune as soon as they have finished flowering. Ideally, complete this pruning before the plants set seed.

It is essential to choose the right pruner for the job. If you have to strain to make a cut with your pruner, then the pruner is too small. Improper pruning can result in ragged cuts and possible damage to the tool. Do not twist the pruning shear; instead open the cut on the branch. Bend the branch away from the cut to open it and make room for the cutting blade. Here are some more tips to get you pruning like a pro:

  • Use hand pruners for branches no larger than the size of your little finger
  • Do not use loppers for branches larger than the size recommended by the manufacturer. You may not be able to prune to the full maximum thickness, depending on the hardness of the wood
  • When using bypass pruners, the anvil should be on the side of the branch you intend to remove. This helps avoid crushing the branch collar
  • Use sharp tools to ensure good cuts and encourage callousing. If you suspect disease is present, clean your tools between cuts
  • When pruning larger branches with a saw, undercut first to avoid causing damage the tree. Use the “3-cut” technique
  • Beware of overhead utility lines when using a pole pruner or when you are on a ladder
  • Pruning without a good reason may do more harm than good. If you are confused about which branches to remove, start with branches that are: 1) broken or dead; 2) diseased or dying; 3) rubbing or crossed; 4) growing toward the center of the plant
  • In most cases, the only reason for pruning paint is to hide your cuts
  • In a Midwest climate, it is best to avoid any elective pruning from August until we have had a hard frost. The natural response to pruning is growth, and new growth initiated late in the growing season will not be winter hardy.
  • Evergreens should not be pruned during sub-zero weather. It is best to prune pines when the buds are in their candle stage. Spruce and fir are best pruned when the buds are dormant
  • Avoid pruning three tree species until they leaf out: walnut, maple and birch. If they are pruned earlier, they "bleed" excessive sap. "Bleeding" does not hurt a tree, but it may stain the bark. It is safe to prune all other trees before leafing out
  • You can do light pruning at any time. Broken, dead, weak, or heavily shaded branches can be removed at any time of the year with little effect on a plant
  • Remember to step back and look at the plant while pruning to get the big picture
  • Rejuvenating an overgrown flowering shrub like a lilac is a simple process. This process, however, must be done in stages over several years. Most lilacs send up lots of new shoots from the base of the shrub each season. Look at the base of your plant to see if new shoots are being sent up from below the ground. A process referred to as suckering. Right after it finishes blooming, prune out a quarter to a third of the oldest, woodiest stems. Make your cuts an inch or two from the ground. You can also shape the remaining top-wood now. In response, the lilac sends even more sucker stems. Repeat this process yearly and within a few years you will have a whole new plant that is much more compact and productive
  • Avoid removing more than one-third of a plant in a season
  • The narrower the angle of a branch, the weaker the crotch
  • Flush cuts can delay healing and allow decay into the tree. Avoid cutting into the branch collar
  • While young trees and shrubs can readily replace pruned tissue, older trees may not. Avoid thinning of branches on older, established trees

Learning More About Pruning and Buds

It helps when pruning to understand a little about buds. Here is a brief overview:

  • Almost all growth comes from buds
  • Buds can grow into leaves, branches or flowers
  • There are several types of buds: dormant, latent and adventitious
  • Dormant buds formed last season for this season’s growth
  • Latent buds are there, but remain inactive, like an insurance policy
  • Adventitious buds are those that quickly form in response to a need. These buds are not "deeply rooted" and result in weak growth
  • Terminal buds are buds located at the tips. Lateral buds are buds located on the sides
  • Terminal buds give off a hormone (auxin) that suppresses other growth. This process is “apical dominance” and it organizes the growth of a plant
  • Besides pruning for safety, or to enhance the health of the tree, pruning can also improve flower and fruit production
  • Pruning off the terminal buds removes the hormone that delays the lateral growth. This process results in a bushier, fuller plant
  • Prune 1/4 to 1/2 an inch above the bud that you intend to use to direct future growth. Angle your cut away from the bud.