Secateurs vs. Anvil-Type Hand Pruners
Peter J. Schenk, Jr.
Secateurs are your hand pruners with two bypass blades. I might have entitled this piece "Sharpening the hand pruners," just to be a bit more down to earth, but that would have included those wretched anvil-type hand pruners also, and they should not be sharpened. . .they should simply be thrown away and replaced with secateurs!
The difference between the two is that the bypass blades cut cleanly like big scissors. The two blades slice into the plant stem from both sides and cut it cleanly in two. The anvil style of hand pruners has one blade on the top which closes down on to a flat platform of metal, rather than passing another blade. The pressure of the one blade squashing the plant stem against the anvil does cut it, but it does it a lot of extra damage during the squashing portion of the cut. The mangled end of the plant stem is more likely to rot or die back further than a nice clean cut.
The anvil style does less damage to hard wood branches than to soft plant stems because they do not crush as easily, so you often see anvil style lopping shears, and they are fine. It is best, though, to completely avoid them as hand pruners. Even a cheap and crummy pair of cut rate secateurs is preferable.
The leader of the pack, of course, is Felco. There really is no reason not to invest in a pair of Felco pruners. They are a virtually lifetime investment unless you lose them. They simply do not wear out because the blade assembly is entirely replaceable in addition to being easily sharpenable. So, you can get years of use out of one set of the fine Swedish steel blades, and when they have finally been sharpened into oblivion you simply snap the old used blade off of its mounting on the pruner chassis and snap on another brand new one! You will see them available everywhere, but the most cost effective source is the A.M. Leonard Co....
With thanks to Peter J. Schenk, Jr., former AOL Home & Garden Community Leader.