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Buying Gardening Tools – Secateurs

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On Saturday I outlined what you need to look for when buying hedge shears/clippers. Today I am going to outline what you should look for when buying secateurs. I had said this would be a three part series but it looks to me now like it will be more, so stay tuned.

Aussie Green Thumb garden tool buying guides:
Buying guide: Shears
Buying Guide: Secateurs
Buying Guide: garden rake
Buying Guide: loppers
Buying Guide: garden trowel
Buying Guide: spades and shovels
Buying Guide: pruning saw
Buying guide: garden fork

When it comes to gardening you really won’t get far without a good pair of secateurs. But what makes secateurs good? What should you look for when you are shopping for secateurs? One thing many gardeners don’t know is that there are actually three different kinds of secateurs, Anvil, Bypass and Parrot Beak. Very quickly, Anvil secateurs have an upper blade which pushes down onto a flat lower ‘anvil’. Parrot Beak secateurs have two blades which cut by meeting together in the middle and looks like a parrot’s beak. The third kind of secateurs is called Bypass secateurs.  They work by having two blades which bypass each other in a similar way to scissors. The big difference between Bypass and Parrot Beak secateurs is the shape of the blades, with Parrot Beak having two identical blades compared to Bypass which has one large and one small blade, the large blade being convex in shape and the small blade being concave in shape. Bypass secateurs are the main type used and sold and will be the focus of this entry.

When buying secateurs there are a few things to consider. One of the most important things to check out is how they feel in your hand. When you are out shopping pick up a few pairs and see how they feel. Feel for weight, feel for grip. Most secateurs handles will be shaped with little divots for your fingers to go in, find the pair whose divots best fit your hand.

Another key tip is to make sure the secateurs you are keen on have a safety latch that is easily engaged and disengaged with one hand. When you are pruning a plant, if you have to stop and use two hands to engage the safety latch it is more likely that you won’t. A safety latch is only useful if it is likely to be put to use.

Try and look for secateurs with plastic covered metal handles. Metal handles are strong but are cold to work with and plastic handles are a sign of cheap manufacturing and are not likely to last as well as metal handles.

There are three different blade types, stainless steel, coated steel and carbon steel. My preference is for stainless steel but carbon steel works well two. Either of these kinds will stay the sharpest for longer periods of time. The only real upside to coated steel is that it cleans more easily. Cleaning your secateurs after use is extremely important but having blades that remain sharp are better for the job at hand.

The general rule of thumb with secateurs is, strangely enough, don’t try cutting plant limbs that are thicker than your thumb. If you try and cut limbs that are too thick you will damage the blade and therefore your tool that you have invested in will not last as well for as long.

Prices range from $5-$10 at the cheap end right up to $150-$200. Again for a household gardener I’d say a you could probably get a pair that will work ok for $20-$40 but a good pair at around $50 may well last you a decade or more. My Grandma had a pair that I know was much older than I was when I was 10, good tools well looked after last a while.

Good luck with your shopping for secateurs!

So You Want A Better Garden?

All my best articles have been collected into what I’m calling the ultimate gardening toolkit – make sure you take a look, there’s a heap of great gardening advice available. I’ve also published a series of gardening ebooks that you might be interested in. Good luck!

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  • Bronte

    What a coincidence!
    Today I picked up a pair of secateurs identical in appearance to those on this page. I tried to cut something with the that was fairly hard.
    And they snapped off at the base of the handle!
    Am I going to be doing the best thing by avoiding garden hand tools (anything at all?) made of cast aluminium?
    I have always been wary of it.

  • aussiegreenthumb

    The photo there is of a generic pair of secateurs, not necessarily one I recommend sorry!

    The key isn’t so much what it is made of (though that is obviously a consideration) but the overall quality. These day’s I wouldn’t go cast aluminium only because there are so many good, light weight, affordable carbon fibre and the like varieties.

  • Having been a nurseryman for most of my life I have learned a few thngs about pruners/secateurs. As Bronte says in above comment. “You get what you pay for”. Cheap secateurs do not last long and they either break or fall apart. There are other knockoffs on the market that look like the good ones for a fraction of the price but don’t touch them, not worth it. Spend at least $35.00 – $60.00 and get good quality.

    For many years I used one very good brand of secateurs. I still have these after about 25 years and they still work great. But….
    My hands no longer do! Between Arthritis and Carpal Tunnel i struggle to prune and believe me, I need to do a lot of pruning with 75 acres of tree production.

    My problem has been at least partially solved with Anvil type, ratchet hand pruners which cut with much less hand pressure and at the end of the day my hands are not tired out. The type I use also has a soft rubber type grip and a finger guide making them easy to use.


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  • Diana Quilliam

    I too am developing a good handful of osteo arthritis. Ive had 2WP ratchet secateurs for quite some time but they need replacing as the convex bit has lost its cork or whatever was in it. Im very hard on secateurs and would be grateful if you could share with me which brands you have found to be good.