SECATEURS – GETTING THE RIGHT PAIR?
Picture the scenario – you see a pair of secateurs, you pick them up, you find the release button then you give them a good few squeezes! Let’s be honest it’s a subconscious thing we all do and within an instant we get either a hot or cold feeling about that pair of secateurs. But what makes the most suitable pair for you?
Secateurs, also commonly known as pruners, are designed to smoothly cut wood, as well as softer non-woody stems of perennials. Some may say that there is ‘no special technique’ to operating a pruner, perhaps yes, but it is important to use the right tool and know where to make your cut for the health of the plant. Secateurs also come in contoured handle designs making them comfortable to use. If you have more shrubs and perennials than lawn, you’ll find that your pruners are used more than any other tool in your collection.
No need for force?
One important factor to always remember is that hand pruners are not designed to be forceful, instead they are meant to be accurate and leave a clean finish. Typically a pair of secateurs perform against material half inch or less in diameter. Should you be applying force then the secateurs are at risk of being damaged, alongside this you may cause soreness to your wrist from over-exertion. Alternative tools to help you, for example a Trojan pruning handsaw or a pair of Leyat loppers, will give you greater performance with minimal strain on your forearms when pruning tougher and thicker wood.
The two types of pruners?
Bypass and anvil are the two types.
- Bypass – A single-edged sharp blade slices past a thick base on closure
- Anvil – An upper blade slices to the centre of a thicker lower base, instead of passing, both top blade and lower base meet together on contact completing the cut.
Bypass secateurs will produce a precise and desired cut of just about all wood and perennials, without the risk presented by an anvil style pruner that may crush a plant stem if not sharpened correctly. Anvil pruners let you exert extra force, but as we point out above, secateurs are not meant to be forceful. Anvil pruners typically warrant use when pruning harder dead wood, although any wood thicker or more stubborn we recommend should be tackled using a handsaw or pair of loppers.
THE PRUNING TECHNIQUE USING SECATEURS
- Release the safety catch to securely open the secateurs in the hand.
- Locate where the desired cut will be, taking into consideration the plant dynamic and the angle of the cut that will best support the plant’s health. For example, if your plant is opposite-branching (think of your arms these are aligned the same) then you should cut directly across the stem above the node. If the plant is alternate-branching (alternating branches up the main stem), cutting straight across is fine but it’s again even better to cut on an angle sloping away from the single bud at the node – this drains rainwater away from the bud meaning there is less build up that can cause rotting.
- When cutting close to the main stem, you may often feel you need to use the secateurs ‘upside down’. The bypass blade is slightly offset so by reversing the secateurs position it can leave a closer clean cut.
- Make sure the wood or plant stem is firmly deep within the pruners blade gap. Completely opening your pruners allows the branch all the way in and means the secateurs can perform a strong and well balanced cut. If the wood or stem is ‘snipped’ as if the secateurs were used as scissors, then this is a weaker cutting method that will cause stress to your hands and forearms as well as risks dulling the blade tip that is often so important to leave the clean finish edge.
- Make the cut. With the wood or stem properly positioned, squeeze the handle together in one fluid motion, which closes the blade gap through the branch or stem.
Those that require a pair of secateurs that can cater for intensive use will demand comfort. Leyat ROTO Secateurs feature roller handles that glide and contour with the user’s handle squeeze when making the cut. This allows repetitive cutting actions to take place whilst minimising the stress caused to the user’s hand and forearm.
Whether you are using the secateurs intensively or not, the pruner makes lots of cuts using the same hand muscles. This can lead to fatigue and soreness if used incorrectly. The ‘feel in the hand’ is important but also operating the pruner using the base of the fingers and not your finger tips along with squeezing using the ball of the hand minimises exerted effort. Leyat secateurs feature contoured varying handle sizes that suit small, medium and large hands of both right and left handed users. Avoid ‘snipping’ and use the deepest part of the blade to cut will give you maximum leverage too. We’ve said it over and over, but if the wood or stem resists and you are finding yourself using force then it is probably time to reach for the loppers.
Keeping them safely stored
When not in use, secateurs struggle to find a place and are typically left on the ground where they can often get lost. Professionals and botanical estate gardeners can always been seen carrying their secateurs in either a Trojan leather tool holster or a Leyat canvas style holster. The secateurs fit snug giving you easy access and attaching safely directly to your belt or using a karabiner connector to your belt or harness.
Don’t cut what they are not supposed to!
Secateurs are accurate and precise tools that require minimal effort. They are not designed to cut stubborn wood material, nor metal wire.
Keep’em sharp and clean
Safety at work
- Always wear protective personal safety clothing and equipment.
- Keep sharp tools away from children.
- Ensure all pruning work is carried out in a safe environment.
This guide is intended to give information and advice only. It is the user’s responsibility to ensure necessary training and experience is achieved to use a pair of secateurs safely.