04.Our test plus what to look for
- Our test measured cutting performance, by mounting each pair of secateurs into a bench jig and measuring how well they cut an 8 mm piece of pine dowelling, a 10 mm and 16 mm piece of freshly cut willow branch.
- Our test measured the widest diameter the secateurs could cut, how clean the cuts they made were (was there any cell or bark damage, or splitting of the wood?)
- How much force was needed to operate them.
- For ease of use our panel of four experienced gardeners, two men and two women, rated each pair of secateurs for comfort, usability, ease of reassembly after cleaning, ease in performing light and heavy work and the quality of their instructions.
What to look for
- The best way to choose a pair of secateurs is to try them in your hand before buying (most are packaged to allow you to do this).
- Handles should fit your hand comfortably and you should be able to open and close them repeatedly without them hurting your hand.
- Brightly coloured handles mean you can find the secateurs easily if you drop them in a pile of cuttings.
- The safety catch is operated by a thumb lever or a sliding catch. Check that the catch is easy for you to operate. Also see Left-handed.
- Avoid blades that have sharp points that stick out at the end — they’re generally unnecessary and you could accidentally cut yourself with them. Both the FELCOs, the BAHCO and the GARDENA 600 have sharp points on their blades.
- The pivot (the bolt holding the two blades together) should be easily adjusted with a screwdriver or a small spanner. A pivot with an adjusting nut that locks into position is your best bet to avoid it coming loose.
- Teflon coating is supposed to keep the blades from rusting, although the coating could come off over time. Any blade made of stainless steel or aluminium should be relatively rustproof, as long as you take care of it.
Left – handed
Unfortunately none of the models on test is specifically for left-handed people.
If you’re left-handed:
- look for secateurs that have an ambidextrous safety catch — see the table for tested models that do.
- a company called Left handed Products Australia makes garden tools especially for left-handed people, but we haven’t tested them and so can’t comment on their performance.
- FELCO also makes secateurs specifically for left-handers.
More about secateurs
Anvil or bypass - what's the difference?
Secateurs fall into two categories: Bypass and Anvil
- Are far more common, which is reflected in our test: 14 of the 17 are bypass.
- Bypass secateurs work like scissors. The plant rests on the curved bottom blade and is cut by the sharper top blade as it slices past the bottom blade.
- With bypass secateurs you can cut branches off right against the stem.
- They’re also great for reaching spots that are hard to get to.
- Have a flat blade at the bottom.
- The top blade does the cutting, as with the bypass, but instead of slicing past the bottom blade it comes down onto it (like a guillotine).
- Anvils are supposed to be better for cutting thicker, woodier stems.
- Bypass, on the other hand, are said to be more suited to cutting softer, stringier living stems.
- Our test results didn’t totally support this, though. Of the three best performers on pine in terms of the amount of force required to cut (the SPEAR & JACKSON Premium, CYCLONE Ratchet Bypass Pruner and WILTSHIRE RatchetGard), only the WILTSHIRE has an anvil blade.
Care of your secateurs
- Keep your secateurs sharp — besides making them less effective, blunt blades can also damage a plant — by sharpening them on a small oil stone.
- Don’t leave your secateurs out in the elements to rust.
- Once you’ve finished a clipping or pruning session, clean off the sap by rubbing the secateurs with an oily cloth.
- Some experts recommend replacing the blades on your secateurs from time to time. See the table for which models have replaceable blades.
- Don’t use your secateurs to cut branches bigger than they’re capable of cutting — it could break or damage them.
- Pull your secateurs apart occasionally and oil the moving parts, including the pivot.