Best Loppers for Pruning
Many gardeners and landscapers are faced with the task of cutting through smaller branches and twigs that are 1"-2" in diameter - branches that are too big for pruning shears to handle, and not big enough to require using a pruning saw. This is when garden loppers can come to the rescue! A garden lopper is a long-handled pruner that empowers gardeners to reach farther and higher, and at the same time allows them the necessary power to cut larger branches.
There are various types of garden loppers you can choose from, depending on your particular needs. The most common types of garden loppers are anvil loppers and bypass loppers. Anvil loppers do the hardest work of trimming back or chopping off the thicker dead or live branches (up to about 2"). Select a ratcheted anvil lopper when working in tight spaces cutting the hardest, thickest branches. A bypass lopper is your choice for trimming back overgrown healthy trees or shrubs up to about 1 1/2" thick and will provide you with the cleanest cuts.
Both anvil and bypass loppers are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and prices. The lopper that is perfect for you will depend on how much pruning you'll be doing, your physical strength and size, and on how much you'd like to spend. This article will discuss and evaluate the 5 best garden loppers on the market today and will also include our editor's choice of best all-around garden lopper.
The true effectiveness of a garden lopper should be determined by the comfort and weight of the lopper, the handle lengths, and the strength and quality of the lopper blades. Lighter loppers are a better option for smaller users or those with physical disabilities who might want to purchase a garden lopper for the smaller branches, and a pruning saw to take care of heavier branches.
The Top 5 Best Loppers for Garden Pruning
Tabor Tools GG12 Lopper
5 out of 5
Fiskars Bypass Lopper
5 out of 5
Fiskars PowerGear2 Lopper
4.5 out of 5
Corona FL 3420 Lopper
4.5 out of 5
WOLF-Garten Bypass Lopper
4 out of 5
Here are my top 5 best loppers for homeowners:
- Tabor Tools GG12 Compound Action Anvil Lopper: best overall value garden loppers for homeowners.
- Fiskars 28 Inch Bypass Lopper: best inexpensive loppers.
- Fiskars PowerGear2 Lopper: best geared loppers for homeowners.
- Corona FL 3420 Compound Action Anvil Lopper: best anvil loppers.
- WOLF-Garten Power Cut Telescoping Bypass Lopper RR900T: best high end bypass loppers.
HOW TO PICK THE BEST LOPPERS
There are a number of things to consider when searching for the best garden lopper...
Grip type is important. Comfort grips are usually less slippery than traditional grips. But the trade-off is extra padding can become more damaged or compacted with use. Ergonomic grips are built to allow a good grip, while at the same time providing intuitive finger placement. Unfortunately, these grips tend to be more slippery.
Bumpers on both handles are a perc for bypass loppers because they stop the handles from becoming too close together.
Blade type is important. Make sure you buy a reinforced carbon-steel blade or something similar.
If you purchase a more expensive garden lopper, the chances are good that there will be replacement parts available. Cheaper garden loppers may not disassemble easily since they are frequently meant to be replaced instead of repaired. If you're a gardener or landscaper that would rather maintain than replace, make certain that the lopper you purchase has available replacement parts.
The weight of the lopper is also an important consideration. Remember that you will be holding this tool either over your head or straight out in front for extended periods of time. If the lopper is too heavy, it will affect your arms and cause them to tire faster. On the flip side, if the lopper is too light it will be much more susceptible to bending or breaking.
QUALITY OF THE BLADE
Sharp, strong blades are essential for garden loppers. Using a lopper with a dull blade would be the same as trying to lop off a 1-inch thick branch with a pair of children's safety scissors. Choose a garden lopper that has reinforced steel blades (high-quality carbon steel) and a coating that will allow them to resist sticky material and sap, and provide ease of glide and rust prevention. The blades you select should open and close as tightly as possible so you can adjust them to your own preferences and specifications.
WHAT LENGTH DO I NEED?
Despite what they say, longer handles aren't always better. A longer handle expedites reaching into the most difficult areas, like the tops of tall bushes or branches high overhead, but at the same time longer handles make loppers more unwieldy. Before purchasing your garden lopper, think about what particular jobs you'll be using them for - if you need to deal with cut branches at arm's length or for lower woody growth you should be fine with a shorter set, but if you need to trim taller trees, you should probably purchase a longer-handled lopper.
A good alternative for the indecisive gardener is the option of getting a telescoping handle. These handles can be set to the preferred arm length and are lightweight, which is a bonus for people with shorter arms or diminished arm strength. The negative side of telescoping handles is that they're not solid but hollow and tubular, so their chances of becoming warped or bent are significantly increased if you're cutting thicker wood. In any case, make sure to lock those telescoping handles at the preferred height.
Before purchasing a garden lopper consider what you are going to be cutting. If you have a small to medium sized yard with a smaller amount of woody trees, you should be fine with a lopper that can lop items that are between 1" and 1 1/2" in diameter. On the other hand, if you have a lot of woody older growth in your yard, you should look for a lopper that can cut approximately 1.5" to 2" (any greater diameter and you should probably be purchasing a pruning saw). Loppers with greater cutter capacity will need more operator strength, more leverage, and more mechanical power generated by a compound action, gear, or ratchet lopper to be able to cut those branches successfully.
The best garden loppers will let you adjust how tight your cutting mechanism is so that your lopper blades are held firmly against one another. There are three basic types of mechanisms that will augment the strength of your cuts and ease the amount of effort needed to cut through thick branches - geared loppers, compound action loppers, and ratcheting loppers. Geared loppers feature a geared mechanism at the point where a lever turns to move the blades providing you with additional leverage when cutting. Compound action loppers use multiple moving parts and pivot points to cut and require opening the lopper further for the blades to fit around a branch. Ratcheting loppers latch and click when you close the handle, which gives a gardener more pressure to exert on whatever they're cutting. Pump and click a few times, the exerted pressure will increase, and it becomes easier to cut through thicker branches. Those people who have limited arm strength will be happiest with a ratcheting lopper.
Ratcheting loppers make a clean cut, they're easier and faster to use than saws, and they're able to tackle branches that are 2"-2 1/2" in diameter. A good ratchet lopper can cut cleanly without very much effort on the gardener's part, but can't fit into cramped spaces because its blades have to open up to fit themselves around the wood to be cut.
A great feature of ratcheting loppers is that when you squeeze them, they latch, allowing you to release and squeeze, dividing up your pruning task into easy steps. A disadvantage of a ratcheting lopper is that it takes more time to use since you'll need to pump its arms 4 times instead of once to close them.
Ratchet loppers work best on thicker hardwood branches, and for users that have limited arm strength.
Geared loppers possess a gear set that is located immediately below the lopper's cutting blades. Whenever you open up your lopper and place it around a branch, its gears compound (use two or more functions or actions) the lopper's cutting power. This type of lopper can require more elbow room to use since the user has to open up the handles all the way and then set them before they can close and then re-employ the gears.
Compound action loppers (also known as lever action loppers) give the user more leverage, which means that very large arm movements will only move the cutting blades a bit. This type of lopper is preferred for cutting thicker branches more easily. If you're using a lopper that is more than 18" long for cutting hardwood that is thicker than 1/2" you should be using either a geared or compound lopper. Watch out if you're on a ladder and can't back up, because a compound lopper that is spread too widely can give you a punch in the chest when you attempt to close it.
Most lopper blades are constructed of steel. When choosing a steel blade, select one that is made of top quality carbon or hardened steel. The better quality the steel, the longer the blade lasts, and the less likely it will be to bend, warp, nick or require frequent sharpening. If your garden lopper sports a poorer quality blade material, the blade will most likely not maintain a sharp edge, and that results in more damaged branches and a much longer pruning time.
Manufacturers often coat their steel lopper blades with special non-stick coatings that repel sticky materials like sap. Choose a coated lopper blade if your property has a lot of pine trees that tend to ooze pitch or sticky sap when pruned.
Make certain that the blades you choose are flat, and have no burrs, bends, or rough spots on the blade surface or cutting edge. If your blades are of lesser quality, they will tend to bend a bit, particularly when you're pruning thicker branches, which translates into additional damage with every cut you make.
Bypass loppers consist of 2 blades that function by sliding past one another like scissors. A bypass lopper is at its best cutting live wood, doing less damage and allowing the tree or plant to heal more rapidly. They work well closed, like scissors. The downside of bypass loppers is that they are likely to jam while cutting dry, dead branches, and the blade may be bent. They can also break, bend, or flex apart (usually when you're trying to unjam them by twisting them).
Anvil loppers consist of 1 straight blade which cuts wood while closing on an anvil (flat edge), similar to the motion of a knife and a chopping board. An anvil lopper is powerful, works best when it's snapped closed, and frequently completely crushes the stems that it is cutting. For that reason, most gardeners prefer to use anvil loppers on dead wood, or for trimming back thicker branches of live wood before finishing up the job with a pair of bypass loppers. Anvil loppers are less likely to bend, break, or jam.
When choosing between curved or straight anvil loppers, remember that it is extremely difficult to sharpen a curve-jawed blade so that it aligns perfectly with the anvil. The blade on a straight-jawed lopper can be easily adjusted to align correctly with a sharpened blade.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I EXPECT TO PAY?
The garden loppers that are reviewed here today range in price from $16 to $70, which proves that you don't have to break the bank to purchase a good quality product. Bypass loppers generally run between $10 and $90; compound anvil loppers run between $20 and $95, and telescoping loppers between $20 and $90.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHEAP AND EXPENSIVE MODELS
It's a general truism that you get what you pay for, and that holds for garden loppers as well (although 3 of our favorite loppers come in at the lower price range). We went to an online retailer and read the reviews and features of the least expensive telescopic bypass lopper ($20) and a more expensive product for $85. The $20 product features extendable handles, a maximum cutting capacity of 1 3/4", and a precision ground steel blade. The $85 model is a 7.9' to 12' extendable pruner that eliminates the need for a ladder, features two-handed control and a rope-free design, has a lifetime warranty, and includes a 15" WoodZigsaw blade with your purchase.
The least expensive compound anvil lopper sells for $22, weighs 2.8 pounds, and has a carbon steel blade and aluminum handles. The $93 compound-action anvil lopper features tempered carbon steel blades; aluminum handles with shock-absorbing rubber bumpers, curved blades, and a 5-star rating from its only reviewer!
The least expensive bypass lopper sells for $16, is one of our favorite tools, and is also a bestselling item online. It features a precision-ground, fully hardened blade with a low-friction, rust-resistant coating, a 28" length and a lifetime warranty. The most expensive bypass lopper ($90) weighs 2.1 pounds, features a high-carbon steel blade, a cutting capacity of 1.5" (good for its compact size) and is praised for its extreme sharpness and easy maneuverability.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR LOPPERS
If your bypass lopper is jamming or catching, it's probably the result of the jaws loosening from overuse. Lock your lopper in a vise to adjust the blades' passing clearances by tightening up the blade nut by using 2 wrenches on either side of the nut. If your lopper has a bent blade, you can tap it several times with a hammer, which should straighten it out.
Sharpen loppers before each workday with a fine file. Hold the tool as steady as possible (a vise is probably your best bet), remove any burrs you can find on the blade's flat side, and then restore the lopper's sharp edge by doing a touch-up on the original angle and shape. If you're doing an extended day of pruning, it's wise to resharpen blades at lunchtime.
Anvil loppers that get dull blades can be easily sharpened using a file. They'll also benefit from smearing automotive grease or some WD-40 on the blade's outer surface to reduce friction and make the cutting of thicker branches easier.
Clean your loppers and pruners after work each day by wiping off any sap or sawdust using a rag and a generous squirt of WD-40 or similar solvent. This application should remove rust from an older tool that hasn't been used for a while.
After a careful consideration of a great number of garden loppers, and perusal of hundreds of online reviews, our editor's choice is the Tabor Tools GG12 Compound Action Anvil Lopper. Reviewers overwhelmingly praised its super sharp hardened carbon-steel blade, its rubberized comfort grip, its ergonomically designed handles, and its professional grade construction.
Satisfied customers remarked that this lopper effortlessly cut through small, medium, and larger branches "like a hot knife on butter", its solid built, powerful jaws, smooth action, and the vendor's very informative pruning guide. It is reasonably priced, built to last, and handles the gamut of trimming jobs (cutting large roots, trimming back branches, cutting dead branches) smoothly and efficiently.