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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 my 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.
Quick look: my top 5 best loppers for homeowners:
- Tabor Tools GG12: my choice for the best overall garden loppers for most homeowners
- Fiskars 28 Inch Bypass Lopper: high quality, inexpensive bypass loppers
- Fiskars PowerGear2: very good geared loppers, very powerful and strong with soft grip
- Corona FL 3420:
high qualityanvil loppers, replaceable blades
- WOLF-Garten RR900T:
telescopicingloppers, great for reach and storage, expensive, but good brand
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 Blades
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 and curved blades.
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.
1) Tabor Tools GG12 Compound Action Anvil Lopper
- 22″ extra leverage professional comfort ergonomically contoured grip handles
- Compound corrosion resistant action blades have innovative precision ground moving parts that multiply by 3 any force applied to them
- Unique anvil lopper straight blade cuts while closing on a flat edge, and can often cut thicker-sized branches than other bypass loppers
- Some users found the balance and shape of the handle to put too much pressure on wrists, hands, and elbows
- Handles are hollow, not solid material
The Tabor Tools GG12 Compound-Action Anvil Lopper has been specifically designed for chopping effortlessly through 2″ branches. Called the “King of Loppers”, this red and black GG12 was built expressly for professional-grade applications. Not only does it allow speedy removal of dry woody growth, but it’s also the perfect tool for cut-to-length work and preparatory cuts before the final clean cut, and makes the cutting incredibly easy by its use of compound action power and extra leverage.
The GG12 measures 10.63″ x 15.35″ x 1.18″, is 30″ long, weighs 3.6 pounds, and features non-stick, low-friction coated gliding blades made of hardened carbon steel which will keep their razor-sharp edges even after heavy use. These steel blades can perform any cut desired and are an excellent choice for older gardeners. The multiple moving parts and pivot points in this compound lever system increase by 3 any force that is applied to the blades. Replacement cutting blades are readily available.
A much-appreciated feature of this compound-action anvil lopper is its rubberized comfort grip on its handles. The handles are ergonomically designed to provide a comfortable, optimal grip that makes cutting all branches easier. Gardeners enjoy using this 30″ model that gives extra leverage and strength to navigate dexterously around higher limbs. The “King of Loppers” is a powerful, dependable, well-balanced tool that will quickly become your favorite gardening companion.
2) Fiskars 28 Inch Bypass Lopper
- Comes with a full lifetime warranty
- Solid and well made, with nice sized, soft, rubberized comfort grips
- Sharp blades cut through tree limbs easily
- Handle, and grips are flat which forces the grip to bite into your hands
- Requires lots of upper-body strength to cut thick branches
The Fiskars Bypass Lopper is the perfect choice for extensive cutting tasks for homeowners on a budget. It provides easy, smooth cuts on tree branches as thick as 1 1/2″ in diameter, uses sharp, hardened, precision-ground blades that have a low-friction non-stick rust-resistant coating, and can glide effortlessly through
The Fiskars Bypass Lopper has shock-absorbing bumpers for all-day comfort that eliminate the jolts experienced at the conclusion of cuts. This lopper weighs 2.4 pounds and measures 10.5″ x 1″ x 28″. Online reviewers are very happy with this product. They mention that it cuts softwoods that are 1 1/2″ thick, hardwoods like hazel and manzanita that are 1 1/4″ thick, and pines that are 2 1/2″ thick.
These very inexpensive garden bypass loppers are ideal for cutting thicker branches, and its low friction coating stops the blade from becoming gummed up with debris and sap. Its steel construction provides strong, lasting durability and its Softgrip touchpoints allow comfort as well as control.
#3) Fiskars PowerGear2 Lopper
- Patented PowerGear technology provides 3 times more power for cutting through branches up to 2″ thick
- Bypass style fully hardened steel blade features a low-friction coating that ensures less gumming, rust resistance, and smooth cutting, plus stays sharp through heavy usage
- Ergonomic Softgrip touchpoint rounded ergonomic handles improves control and comfort
- Geared lopper requires much more room to open than other non-geared, traditional loppers
- Since these loppers aren’t heat-treated, there is a potential for breakage if they are turned the wrong way
The Fiskars PowerGear2 Lopper is considered one of the finest geared garden loppers in the marketplace today. This superior lopper is 32″ long and can cut branches and woody matter up to 2″ thick. It features a special patent-pending designed cam mechanism and modified gears that focus on cutting through the middle part of branches (the hardest part of any cut). The PowerGear2 has advanced steel blade design and an improved blade geometry which simplifies cutting in very tight spaces. It also has longer handles for increased adaptability, comfortable oval-shaped grips, riveted handles, and blister-preventing perfectly placed Softgrip touchpoints.
This Fiskars PowerGear2 weighs 4 pounds and measures 33.5″ x 1.25″ x 10.75″ and is a highly effective garden lopper. It has a replaceable top cutting blade and can cut neatly through any branches that fit into this lopper with practically no muscle strain. Online reviewers frequently remark how they can cut much larger branches with minimum effort than they could using older traditional cutters. The PowerGear2 does work that would have required a pruning saw in the past.
Reviewers also commented on the ease with which this lopper’s precision blades greatly simplified their work, whether trimming large crepe myrtle woody stems, “trash trees”, or thicker rose bush branches. It can cleanly cut directly next to a branch or trunk and performs faster than a saw. Its extra length is appreciated when cutting overhead branches or prickly bushes where a shorter tool will increase unnecessary jabs. In addition to coming with a good limited lifetime warranty, this lopper is economically priced, ergonomic, and is a reliable provider of smooth, efficient cutting.
4) Corona FL 3420 Compound Action Anvil Lopper
- Non-stick, resharpenable coated steel blade makes cutting dead wood a snap
- Replaceable anvil and blade facilitates multiple season use
- Features 6″ comfort extra-long foam grips and 24″ fiberglass handles
- Some users blades rusted
- Difficult to get replacement parts
The Corona FL 3420 Compound Anvil Lopper is an excellent lopper for precise and quick cutting and removal of woody and dry growth. It features 24″ fiberglass handles for weather resistance and added leverage and strength, 12″ extra-long comfortable non-slip foam grips, and is specially built and designed for all professional grade applications. This lopper weighs 2.67 pounds and measures 1″ 2″ x 31.75″.
This quality compound-action anvil lopper has at least 3 times the cutting strength of other traditional loppers, thanks to its 4-bar, articulating compound linkage. It has a 2″ cutting capacity and a coated, resharpenable high-carbon steel blade that provides quick, accurate shearing action that is matchless for tackling tough projects.
Online reviewers praise its robust construction and anvil design that contribute to this garden lopper’s ability to cut through 1 1/2″ softwood branches and 1″ thick hardwood branches.
5) WOLF-Garten Power Cut Telescoping Bypass Lopper RR900T
- Telescopic bypass lopper can cut branches up to 2″ in diameter
- Features lightweight handles made of aluminum with plastic handgrips
- Extendable bypass lopper perfect for trimming lower tree branches and bushes and also for cutting back ivy from fences and the ground
- When fully extended they are a little too heavy for smaller individuals or anyone with physical limitations
- Harder to lift than other loppers because your hands are forced into one position
The Wolf-Garten Bypass Lopper has an extra long length of 35″, weighs just 3.86 pounds, and is a high quality extremely strong German-manufactured steel blade that provides 4 times the average cutting strength. We would have rated this product higher, but it is more expensive than comparable models.
This lopper is a redesigned and upgraded version of Wolf-Garten’s discontinued RR650T lopper. Its special feature is its telescopic operation which uses top-strength aluminum individually adjustable gripping handle tubes to guarantee its convenient super long reach.
The longer length of these shears permits more accessible cutting of branches on the ground without having to rely on an exhaustive amount of stooping, and it also allows easier access to branches that are higher up in the trees. This tool has a comfortable, lightweight design and handles that are reinforced with a soft-lining grip. Measuring 27.8″ x 9.5″ x 2″, this garden lopper has a dual pivot, which makes cutting smoother, faster, and less fatiguing than traditional ratchet loppers.
This telescoping bypass lopper does not telescope using a rotating motion. Instead, the shears click into place when you extend them with a non-slip pin-and-hole mechanism. The sharp coated blades of this attractive product are a snap to use and the overall quality of its construction and its first-rate materials promise useful service for many years to come.
Online reviewers report that this lopper slices through 3/4″ hardwood limbs and 2″ softwood limbs effortlessly, handles remarkably well, withstands all types of owner abuse, and gives the appearance of being able to last forever.
After careful consideration of lots of garden loppers, and reading hundreds of online reviews, my
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.