One of the most interesting things we see quite often from gardeners and landscapers, is the confusion about which tool to use for the job. There seems to be a misconception, from beginners to advanced, that one tool is good enough for all jobs. This post sets the record straight when to use bypass pruners and when to anvil pruners. At the most basic level, bypass are ideal for pruning and cutting fresh, live green stems. This will make the cleanest cuts, allowing the plant to properly heal and promote new growth. For hard, deadwood, an anvil pruner cuts through this dense material easily, without risk to the plant or tree, or your hand pruner. Read on to find out the why's and why not's for using these tool interchangeably. It will help protect your plants, your tools and yourself.
Bypass Pruners - Cutting Live Stems and Branches
A bypass pruner has a cutting blade that passes the non-cutting hook, much like a pair of scissors. The blade is beveled and sharped on one side with other being flat and unsharpened to pass the hook. When properly sharped, they make the cleanest cuts on live branches and stems, without any damage to the remaining stem. This is important as it helps the plant to heal from the cut, and encourages new growth.
Anvil Pruners - Cutting Hard, Dead Wood
Unlike the bypass pruner, an anvil pruner has a blade that is sharped on both sides. This closes down on a flat anvil, which typically has a narrow channel for the cutting blade, as not to damage its sharpened edge. What makes this great for cutting hard, deadwood is, there is no risk of crushing any stems. In fact removing the old dead wood, help the plant direct energy towards new growth.
The Why Not's for Using the Wrong Tools
This is where confusion and misconception happens is that many gardeners think this one pruner will handle their all their small pruning jobs. However, using an anvil hand pruner on a live stem or branch, will likely crush it. In most cases, it will make the cut, however the remaining branch gets crushed and damaged. The plant must recover from it and will be more susceptible to diseases and pests which could ultimately kill the plant.
Using a bypass pruner on hard, deadwood can be plain disastrous. Since the wood is harder to cut, a gardener is likely to twist and torque their hand, causing the blade to cross over the opposite side of the hook. Not only will this kill your hand, once the cut is made, the blade will come down on the hook, rather than bypass it. This will cause the blade to become damaged or chipped. The worst case, it could cause the blade to snap and potentially become a sharp projectile. Not only are you out a good hand pruner, since this is effectively misusing the tool, it may void the warranty and risk serious bodily injury to yourself.
Do You REALLY Need Both?
It's best to assess what the job is and bring the correct tool for the task. You wouldn't use a screwdriver to drive in a nail. So if your if job is mostly cutting live stems and branches, a bypass pruner is the way go to. If you are cutting out deadwood or even harder, denser plants and trees like mesquite, invest in a decent anvil pruner. Spending a little extra budget will ultimate save you from replacing your good bypass pruners down the road. Or replacing a plant that didn't survive due to a poor cut. Most importantly, a visit to the emergency room when a blade snaps and injures you.
Need more advice when it comes to pruning and proper tool care? Check out Corona's free Principles of Pruning guide packed with lots of helpful tips and information.