Tool Number One in the gardener’s armoury may well be the secateurs. You can cut easily and cleanly with one hand with this indispensable implement which is used for a variety of purposes from trimming slender stems to pruning not-so-slender branches.
Secateurs, a scissors-like gardening tool, are held in one hand. The hand spans the handles and the fingers and base of the thumb press the handles together, causing the blades to come together. Unlike scissors, secateurs are spring-loaded so they open automatically as you decrease pressure on the handles.
Secateurs’ blades move across one another; they are a ‘bypass’ cutting tool like scissors. Closely related to secateurs are another hand-held gardening tool, namely anvil pruners. This tool from the same family as secateurs is also used to prune and cut plants and small trees; however, its blades do not have a bypass action. Instead, one sharp cutting blade comes down on the other supporting ‘blade’ which is not really a blade but is a narrow, flattish surface that is meant to support or hold the branch.
Secateurs have been around for two centuries. With their very long history, they have been through many designs, iterations, and refinements. In general, they comprise two handles with one shaped for the four fingers to get a good grip, and the other for the thumb and the base of the thumb. The upper cutting blade is wider and its cutting edge is convex while the lower counter-blade is narrower and the edge is concave. The blades are made of some or another type of steel, such as hardened steel, carbon steel, or SK5 steel.
Secateurs are the gardener’s go-to tool for all kinds of lighter cutting tasks (See What Are Secateurs Used For? underneath). This is because they are easy to use over an extended period of time, cut smoothly with little effort, cut cleanly and surgically, and cause minimal injury to the plant. And, probably more than anything else, because their blades are (or better be!) razor-sharp. These desirable attributes are present to a greater degree the better the quality of the secateurs.
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Below we ‘slice and dice’ through our five recommendations.
Okatsune makes these ultra-sharp secateurs for ‘samurai gardeners;’ with the cleanest, most surgical cut possible, they are fully worth their premium price.
Okatsune makes secateurs in three sizes of which the middle size, model 103, is reviewed here. It is the most popular model. It measures 26 x 7.4 x 2 centimetres and is a lightweight 227 grams.
This 20 centimetre-long tool is rated to cut branches up to 25 millimetres in diameter, which it does with consummate ease. Try it on 30-millimetre branches!
Japanese steels and blades are world-renowned and the blades of these Japan-made secateurs are made of Izumo Yasugi steel. The blades, therefore, boast a Rockwell Hardness (HRD) of 60 to 61. Note that Yasugi is one of ancient Japan’s steel-making centres which used to make swords for samurais. Now they make shears for you and me! However, the blades are prone to rust if you do not care for them and oil them or use a compatible rust inhibitor.
Calling these secateurs’ blades ‘razor-sharp’ would be an understatement. It would be more accurate to call them ‘sharper than a razor.’ On which note, you need to be ultra-careful to avoid any contact with the cutting edge.
Okatsune secateurs make just about the cleanest and most surgical cut possible so as to inflict the least amount of injury or damage, thus allowing the branch or stem to heal quickly. The cutting blade is ground at two angles for maximum cutting efficiency. The counter-blade is designed to make sap flow away and outside from the blades.
These secateurs have torsion springs (think safety pin) instead of the more common compression springs. The pressure as you squeeze and allow the secateurs to open is springy but smooth. They have the traditional locking clasp at the base; these work very well.
These secateurs makes a loudish and crisp snipping noise; some will like it and others won’t. They cut cleanly and effortlessly and are easy to use for prolonged periods.
We feel the handles are the one area that could use some improvement. They are smooth and are somewhat slippery, especially if you perspire on a hot day, and do not have a knurled grip or sufficient curvature; as a result, one’s hand can slip-slide toward the pivot depending on how you grip. For these same reasons persons with really large hands may find that Okatsune Model 103 does not suit them very well.
The red and white colours of the handles are an element of clever design; these hues make the secateurs very easy to spot if dropped or forgotten in overgrown grass or dense undergrowth.
Its mechanical power, unmatched slice-through capability, and overall good design wins it our Top Pick placement.
- The finest quality steel in razor-sharp blades that give the cleanest and most surgical cuts.
- The unusual spring and the conventional clasp are both very good.
- The handles’ colours are a smart choice because they contrast strongly with, and stand out amid, all shades of green.
- The handles are smooth-ish and can feel slippery, and may cause your grip to move toward the inside of the handles.
- The blades are prone to rust if you do not protect them with mineral oil or rust inhibitors.
Basic and simple but so light yet effective, these secateurs from Wilkinson Sword will leave you wondering how such a quality tool can be so inexpensive.
Wilkinson Sword’s basic no-frills secateurs cut through surprisingly chunky branches. They are designed for fresh, green branches of up to 20 millimetres in diameter. It slices through 10-millimetre green branches with no effort, making clean cuts without ragged ends.
As these secateurs’ blades are made by one of England’s most renowned steel- and tool-makers from the steel region of Sheffield, it shouldn’t be surprising that they are very sharp. They are made of carbon steel and have a non-stick coating. The body is made of aluminium and the grips are rubbery. In general, these secateurs are simple but effective.
Although the overall feel and cutting experience certainly does not compare with those of top-of-the-line secateurs, this pair is still a pleasure to use because the overall size is suitable for most persons, the grips are comfortable, and the spring’s pressure and resistance are just right. It is nearly, but not quite, as good as secateurs costing over twice as much.
An unnoticed plus is the safety clasp. It does not keep falling back as some have an annoying habit of doing because you can flip it over and down the handle where it stays put.
Only 19.5 centimetres in length and weighing only 204 grams, Wilkinson Sword’s kit is an excellent choice for persons with small-to-normal-sized hands.
It cannot easily be disassembled which makes sharpening a bit of a nuisance, and parts cannot be replaced, making this a disposable tool. But at the price, who’s complaining?
For a tool of such good quality to be so inexpensive is nothing short of amazing. It is a no-brainer purchase for those who want unbeatable value for money in a secateurs and lands our Value Pick spot.
Wilkinson Sword provides a ten-year guarantee against faulty material and workmanship.
- On the small and light side, these secateurs offer unexpectedly good performance.
- One of the best locking clasps; it does not annoyingly come loose or get locked.
- Excellent cutting capability in view of the rock bottom price makes it a top deal.
- As a lightweight and low-budget tool, it cannot handle thick branches.
- Not meant to be disassembled, meaning that it cannot be serviced.
- Parts are not replaceable.
Felco’s secateurs are the choice of pros for good reasons: they are Swiss-made precision tools that deliver surgically-clean cuts and last for a lifetime.
Felco makes secateurs in several styles, each of which has a different model number. These have varying shapes especially the handles. Here we review the Model 2, labelled ‘Original Secateurs.’ These are Felco’s traditional, middle-of-the-road model, which is also the most popular one. It has dimensions of 21.5 x 10.2 x 2.5 centimetres and is designed for right-handed persons.
The blades are made of hardened steel and the handles are of aluminium alloy. They have a wire-cutting notch and a sap-channelling groove.
This Swiss-made tool is the choice of many professionals in the gardening, horticulture, and fruit-growing occupations. Its super-sharp blades cut through branches up to the rated 25-millimetre diameter. But, with a degree of effort, it can deal with stouter branches too!
A word of de-confusion. Felco uses the term ‘anvil blade’ in its marketing materials which may lead you to believe that these are anvil pruners. Not! These are bypass secateurs. Consider this oxymoronic sentence on Felco’s website: “When the blade and the anvil-blade no longer cross, . . .” Felco uses the term ‘anvil blade’ wholly incorrectly to refer to the counter-blade.
The locking lever is screwed to the base of the cutting blade’s handle and catches on the central ratchet. This is a smart design where ease-of-use and ergonomics are concerned; however, it requires inordinate care to operate the catch as it is too close for comfort to the cutting edge of the blade. Be warned that this locking lever is tight and stiff, and it can get stuck.
New pairs sometimes stay closed as if jammed and the spring doesn’t do its thing. If so, give it a few drops of mineral oil or a puff of WD-40.
Somehow you feel more confident and decisive when using a Felco secateurs, perhaps because of how they feel like an extension of your arm and how they seem to amplify your strength. At the same time, the rubber cushion pads result in a soft, cushioned, closure.
Felco’s traditional red handles make their gardening tools hard to lose: misplace them where you may, they stand out in any sea of green.
These ageless secateurs stay sharp forever and are very long-lasting and very durable. Nevertheless, all parts are replaceable and, for a fee, Felco service their products.
Felco’s Model 2 weighs a very moderate 240 grams.
The package includes an Adjustment Key.
Felco provides a lifetime guarantee.
- One of the very finest secateurs that cuts thick, green branches easily and cleanly.
- Very long-lasting and durable, it is no wonder that Felco provides a lifetime warranty.
- The locking lever is pretty tight and stiff, and you require a bit of thumb strength to push it.
- The locking lever needs to be handled with alertness considering its position, and how stiff it is.
Not the most robust but good for medium-duty pruning, these light, small and easy secateurs from JEOutdoors perform admirably and are a top budget buy.
JEOutdoors secateurs’s blades are made of high-carbon steel with anti-rust processing. The handles are made of hardened PC material; however, the lack of a rubber or other soft grip can make them slip in the hand.
These secateurs cut through stems and branches of up to 20-millimetre diameter with no fuss. Moreover, for a budget kit, this one makes impressively clean cuts.
The locking catch is riveted to the inner base of the cutting blade and catches on a notch on the outer base of the counter-blade. From the perspective of ease-of-use and ergonomics, this is a smart design; at the same time, you cannot afford to be careless or even casual as the catch is very close to the cutting edge of the blade. Caveat aside, the catch is easy to operate yet is firm and stays in place.
Weighing only 159 grams, these lightweight and relatively small secateurs have a smooth and easy action, and, therefore, are ideal for young women, and for those with smaller hands or with any hand disability or weakness. While they cannot be compared with higher-end secateurs, in their price range they are certainly a standout.
JEOutdoors’s kit is not particularly robust and should be seen as a medium-duty kit. However, it is a very inexpensive budget buy yet is as good in usage as secateurs costing twice as much.
The package includes a spare spring.
With respect to the Value Pick, it was a toss-up between this very low-priced kit and the Wilkinson Sword pair; and though the latter brand is our choice as the Value Pick, we would understand if you disagree!
JEOutdoors provides a life-time warranty if you register your purchase within 14 days.
- Basic and simple, these secateurs are more than good enough for stems and thin branches.
- One of the best pairs of secateurs for persons with small hands and for young women.
- Within its price range, the performance it provides is quite outstanding.
- Not a very robust kit and not meant for thick branches.
- The handles are too smooth and lack a good grip or proper cushioning.
- With the locking catch kissing-close to the blade, you cannot afford to be at all careless with it.
These slightly bigger and heavier secateurs from Davaon are unexpectedly good for persons with hand disability or weakness and have some excellent features.
Davaon’s secateurs measure a sizeable 21.5 x 5 x 9 centimetres. They have hardened SK5 carbon steel blades with a non-stick coating. They cut through fresh green stems and dry deadwood with equal ease, and sap is dealt with courtesy of the sap groove.
These very sharp and crisp-cutting secateurs’s effectiveness is enhanced by the simple yet ingenious rotating handle design. The lower handle’s grip rotates as you bring the handles together. This design cannot be called good or bad; it is purely a matter of personal taste. It depends whether or not you can get the hang of utilising the rotation to roll your fingers under and around as you press the handle, and then back as you release pressure and the handles diverge.
This kit has a finger guard similar to a sword guard. This is an unusual but sensible addition to the handle, protecting as it does the gardener’s fingers from thorns and from the usual scrapes and bumps, and also when cutting branches amid a dense tangle.
The grip width and cut width are adjustable in two positions. The shock-absorbent spring cushions the closure of the shears. Though the grips are also supposed to be shock-absorbent, we do not find them to be particularly so. However, the upper handle itself has a cushiony feel.
Though these secateurs are relatively large, the rotating-handle design and soft cushiony handle are a boon for arthritis and carpal-tunnel sufferers. It is unfortunate that those who suffer from hand pain and problems but have small hands will not be able to take advantage of these secateurs.
These sturdy and chunky secateurs are at the heavy end at 331 grams.
Davaon is an unusually responsive manufacturer cum seller and provides excellent customer service.
- Smart design protects fingers and knuckles when pruning thorny branches or amid a dense tangle.
- A couple of design elements make these largeish but adjustable secateurs especially good for arthritis sufferers.
- Davaon provides one of the best, if not the best, after-sales support and service.
- Just a bit too heavy at over 300 grammes.
- Lack of a good soft grip or cushioning in the bottom handle is an unfortunate miss.
- The same feature that makes these secateurs easy to use, that is the innovative rotating lower handle, will be a turn-off to some.
What Are Secateurs Used For?
Secateurs are used for pruning shoots, stems, and branches of plants, bushes, and smaller trees. This specialised tool has razor-sharp blades and resembles an oversized pair of scissors and is specially designed for delicate pruning. Unlike its cousin implement, the anvil pruners, it gives a sharp, clean, surgical cut so that the newly-cut surface is smooth, is neither crushed nor bruised, and causes minimal injury to the plant.
Secateurs are used by gardeners of all stripes, of course. They are used not only for pruning and trimming but also for deadheading, cutting back, etc. However, they are also used by orchardists to prune trees, by landscapers to prune saplings, by nurserymen to give plants a haircut, and even by florists to trim stems. Over and above these regular and routine uses, good secateurs are also perfect for some once-in-a-way gardening tasks like dividing rhizomes and tubers.
How To Sharpen Your Secateurs
Sharpen your secateurs with a dual-sided diamond blade-sharpening tool for best results. You can also use a more traditional whetstone.
To sharpen secateurs most effectively they have to be taken apart. This is simple enough: simply loosen and remove the nut or bolt that holds the two sides together. Spray a penetrant like WD-40 on the blades and clean them thoroughly.
Next, put a few drops of mineral oil on the coarse side of the blade-sharpening tool. Hold one of the two blades with the point away from you, and with its sloping surface face up. Disregard the other, flat, surface.
Rub the coarse side of the sharpener at an angle from the base of the blade’s edge to the point. Repeat as necessary. As you are sharpening the blade, you will actually see that the blade is getting shinier and honed. You will notice that some lengths of the edge are getting shiny while other small lengths are not; these are being missed by the sharpening tool. Run the tool over these missed parts separately so that the length of the blade’s edge has as uniform a shine as possible; doing so will result in the blade being honed uniformly along the length of its entire cutting edge.
Then use the smooth side of the sharpening tool over the sharpened edge in exactly the same way. The aim is to buff and smooth the cutting edge, not dissimilar to sanding a piece of wood after working on it.
Repeat for the second blade.
Re-assemble the secateurs and while at it, pour a few drops of the mineral oil or spray a brief burst of WD-40 over the nut or bolt at the crosswise juncture of the blades.
Kersie learnt the basics of gardening as a toddler, courtesy of his grandfather. In his youth he was an active gardener with a preference for flowering plants. He is a professional and vocational writer and his freelance projects have spanned various kinds of writing.