For some people, working in the garden is a hobby that they associate with relaxation. For others it's just something that has to be done. Regardless of your interest level, the right tools make it easier, and the work becomes both more enjoyable and quicker. The results are also better. Secateurs are among the basic garden tools. You need them in any garden to trim trees and bushes, remove dead stems and prune large flowering plants. Secateurs are suitable for cutting branches up to a diameter of about 20-25 mm, which is around the dimension of an adult's finger. For thicker branches, you should use loppers to avoid damaging the secateurs and injuring your hand.
Choosing the right secateurs brings many advantages. Secateurs are subject to tough loads, moisture and dirt. So you save money by buying quality. It's also important to make clean cuts. When you cut a branch off a bush it makes a wound, just like on a person. And in the same way that you need to keep a wound clean to avoid infections, a clean cut means that the risk of damage and sickness in trees and bushes is minimised. The wound instead has the opportunity to heal properly.
Secateurs can be purchased in all garden centres and DIY shops such as Wyevale, Homebase, Wickes and B&Q. The price tag runs from about £20 to more than £70 for the most expensive models. The most common brands are Fiskars and Gardena, but if you're prepared to pay more, you might want to look at Felco or ARS.
In our tests, we have focused on ordinary, manual secateurs. There are also battery-powered and electric secateurs, but these are still very expensive and so they aren't really relevant for normal users. The central aspect in the test is, of course, the sharpness of the cutting blades and the quality of both blades and other components. But there are also other aspects to take into account.
First, you have to decide what you're primarily going to use the secateurs for. There are two types of blade design in secateurs; bypass and anvil. Bypass secateurs are the most common. The cutting blades pass each other in the same way as a pair of scissors. This creates a clean cut. It's also possible to cut very close to the stem. Bypass secateurs are most suited for cutting fresh growth. On an anvil secateur, the lower blade is angled. This functions as a broad surface against which the upper cutting blade cuts.
Anvil secateurs are primarily used for cutting dry branches or very thin ones. You also need to consider your muscle strength and size. For example, pruning a fruit tree often involves several hundred cuts and you can quickly get tired in your hand or wrist. Here, secateurs that are easier to cut with may be best. If you're looking for secateurs that create a lower load on your hand you should look for models that have rotating handles or which spread the cutting of thicker branches over several cuts.
Another aspect to bear in mind is safety. A good pair of secateurs is a very sharp tool, and if the cutting blades are open they can cause serious injuries, for example if you happen to stumble while carrying them. The locking device should be straightforward and secure, particularly if you're going to be using the secateurs while climbing trees or up a ladder. To reach branches high up in trees you sometimes need secateurs with long or telescopic handles. If you'll need these, however, it's probably better to supplement a normal pair with a pair of telescopic loppers or one of the long universal handles on the market.
We tested several popular models from the best known brands. Our evaluation includes both bypass secateurs and anvil secateurs. We divided the test candidates into three different price classes with a category winner in each price class as follows:
Budget: Less than £15
Suitable if you only cut the odd branch or prune the roses a few times a year. Important aspects include a simple locking mechanism and basic rustproofing.
If you're out in the garden a few times a week during the growing season, you need a really sharp pair of secateurs with good rustproofing. It's also important that they're ergonomically designed so that you don't get tired hands and joints. Another advantage is if the secateurs can be adapted to different hand sizes.
Premium: More than £40
Suitable for the genuine gardening enthusiast who prunes their fruit trees every year. If you're going to prune a couple of apple trees or larger rose bushes, that may mean cutting hundreds of branches. If so, it's important to have high quality secateurs with top class ergonomics and really sharp cutting blades that don't get blunt too quickly.
We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. Our secateur tests have been coordinated by a keen gardener. The secateurs have been used for an entire season. At least two examples of each model have been used. Not all users are equally strong, and they have different ergonomic needs. So the secateurs have been tested by several different typical users; a man and a woman, a female pensioner and a younger girl. During evaluation, we cut 10-25 mm branches of rose bushes, apple trees, lilacs and lime trees. The tools were also used in tough situations, and we "forgot" them outdoors to see how they are affected by rain and dirt. We also spoke to professional gardeners about their experiences with different brands and talked to a metallurgist as part of our evaluation of the cutting blades.
In our assessment we focused on the following characteristics:
Sharpness: How sharp are the blades? How tidy is the cut surface? Can the secateurs cope with branches as thick as the manufacturer promises?
Ergonomics: How hard do you have to squeeze? How quickly does your hand get tired? What are the springs like? Do the secateurs lie comfortably in your hand? Is the grip sufficiently big? Can you adjust the grip settings? How much do the secateurs weigh? Do they work for both left and right-handed people?
Quality: Have the secateurs developed any damage or faults over time? Do the blades stay sharp? How many parts of the secateurs can rust? Are there spare parts?
We have scored each pair of secateurs according to their value for money; in other words how good they are in each area in relation to the price tag. We thus have higher expectations of an expensive product than a cheaper one, and vice versa.
The Fiskars PowerGear X PX92 is a bypass secateur with a rotating handle. The idea of rotating handles is that you use the force from all of your fingers. By dividing the force over the entire hand, your hand doesn't get as tired as quickly, particularly when trimming thick branches. The PowerGear X PX92 is suitable for use in either hand, but with the lock on the left it's easier for right-handed people to use. The handle width of 10 mm makes it neat and easy to use for most people. Fiskars call the upper blade TrueEdge, but in practice it's a special steel containing chromium, molybdenum and vanadium (CrMoV) which is much more exclusive and sharper than in the other Fiskars models. If you're careful with the blade, it can retain its sharpness for much longer than normal carbon steel. The lower cutting blade is in stainless steel, which doesn't rust but which is much softer and therefore blunter after being used for a while. In addition, the PX92 stands out as it has an incredibly long guarantee - a full 25 years. We also appreciate the sharpness, and the rotating handle makes it easier to cut thicker branches. Even though the grip on the upper handle could be more comfortable, it feels neat in the hand and cutting is easy. The PTFE coating means that the friction between the blades is barely noticeable. The PX92 also has a number of weaknesses. The rotating handle contributes to better ergonomics and strength, but it's also hard and can produce blisters more quickly than other types of handle if you're working without gloves. Fiskars is a quality brand, which means we have great expectations of the tool's durability. Here, the PX92, like several other Fiskars models, leaves something to be desired. Despite the fact that the PX92 cuts effectively, it's still a little cranky from time to time. When you rotate the dial to adjust the handle, the secateurs can easily get stuck. The housing of the lower handle has also come loose on a PX92 that we've been using for several years. Despite its flaws, however, the Fiskars PowerGear X PX92 is an effective and sharp secateur for the price class, and one that requires little effort to use. Combined with its very competitive price, this is a lot of secateur for the money, so we name it as our best in test.
The ARS VS-8R is a pair of bypass secateurs with rotating handles from Japanese premium brand ARS Corporation. ARS is synonymous with very high quality and has been manufacturing cutting tools for 150 years. The ARS VS-8R is suitable for medium-sized hands. As an alternative, there are both the smaller VS-7R and the larger VS-8R. The idea with the rotating handles is to relieve the load on the hand by using force from all the fingers. The model works for both left and right-handed people. The cutting blades are of the highest quality, and are forged of high quality steel and hard chromed. Chrome plating is expensive, but simultaneously gives obvious benefits such as reduced friction, excellent wear resistance and lifetime rustproofing. If you're used to rotating handles, the VS-8R secateurs provide you with significant force and together with the razor sharp blades they have an almost frightening cutting ability. You really don't want get your fingers between the blades!
The handles are made of fully cast aluminium and the grips in soft red PVC plastic. The secateurs are ergonomically designed and lie very naturally in the hand. The fact that they're red is practical as it makes the secateurs easy to find if you lose them in long grass. ARS provides a lifetime guarantee for design and manufacturing faults. A large range of spare parts also means that you really can use these secateurs for an entire lifetime. One disadvantage with the VS-8R is its relatively high weight, despite it not being particularly big. The length is perfectly sufficient, but there are several longer alternatives. For several users in our test group, the rotating handles are also a little bit fiddly. The locking mechanism could also be more straightforward. The secateurs open with a light flick on the handle, but it's a little bit more difficult to lock them and requires quite a bit of force. This is an area for improvement on a power of secateurs with generally very few weaknesses. Anyone with an ARS VS-8R in their garden shed appreciates high quality and the extra force that rotating handles provide.
The RS 4000 is an anvil secateur from the German company Wolf Garten, which in its home country is a very well known brand of garden tools. And it's quite a common brand in well-stocked garden centres in the UK too. The advantage that's usually emphasised with anvil secateurs is that they are most suitable for dead branches and slightly thinner ones. But the RS 4000 model can perhaps best be described as a reliable diesel car. It's not the most attractive or the smoothest thing around, but it's incredibly effective in many different situations. Because we also give these secateurs a high score when cutting fresh branches of up to 20-25 mm thick. The Wolf Garten RS 4000 is suitable for both left and right-handed users. The lock is on the top of the tool and is easy to use. With an average length, weight and handle width, this tool is suitable for the majority of hands and users. As an alternative, you can also buy the smaller RS 2500, which is identical but for the exception of lacking a rubber coating on the lower handle.
The RS 4000 is red, black and yellow, which makes it easy to spot at a distance among bushes. The 10 year guarantee doesn't include wear parts, which makes us wonder what is actually included. However, you can buy spare parts for it. The RS 4000 cuts nicely and means you can remove large numbers of branches quickly. The cutting blades are made from hardened steel which is tougher than stainless steel but also more brittle. The springs are quite hard and your hand can become a little numb after you've been cutting for a while. The grip is thick, but the rubber clad handles mean that it still feels comfortable. The handle is slightly arched towards the front, which means that the thumb rests nicely on the side of the secateurs as you work. The RS 4000 is not meant to have any components that are likely to rust, but if the non-stick coating on the upper cutting blade is damaged, they may develop rust anyway. Overall, however, the RS 4000 is a very versatile and powerful anvil secateur which is suitable for most gardening situations.
With the P83 PowerStep, Fiskars have developed secateurs that are customised for people who don't have much grip strength. The secateurs carry out cuts in one, two or three stages depending on the thickness of the branch. This means that you can easily cut a branch of 2 cm, even if you don't normally have the necessary strength. No other secateurs cut thick branches with such small effort, even if you do have to do it in several stages. It's also clear that Fiskars have thought carefully about the design of the P83. With a stated weight of 140 g, this is one of the lightest secateurs in our test, even though we actually measured the weight at 145 g. The secateurs have a neat, tidy grip with "Soft Grip" coating on the upper handle. The locking device is on the top, which is preferable as it suits both right and left-handed users. In our test group, this secateur is particularly appreciated by pensioners. The weight, the design and the multi-stage cutting make it an excellent choice for the older gardening enthusiast.
The P83 is slightly shorter than average and also has a blunt nose. This combination makes it a little more difficult to get in among bushes. It can also be difficult to get a proper grip of thicker branches. In addition, the springs periodically get stuck and you have to give them a hand to get the secateurs to open completely. Unfortunately this is quite a common shortcoming with Fiskars' secateurs. The multistage technique has some advantages, but if you're going to cut lots of larger branches, it becomes a bit tiresome. Viewed as a whole, with the P83 PowerStep, Fiskars have designed a pair of secateurs that are excellent for pensioners and make it possible for people with a weaker grip to enjoy working in the garden. We therefore name them as best senior citizen choice.
Felco is a Swiss company that started to manufacture tools in 1945. With its slogan "Swiss Precision. Made to Last", Felco aims to represent the quality we typically associate with Switzerland. Many professional gardeners use Felco tools, and the company also wants to target very demanding customers. The Felco 8 is intended for people with quite large hands, but if you want a smaller model you can try out the very similar Felco 6. The Felco 8 is suitable for use in either hand, but with the lock on the left it's easier for right-handed people to use. If you're left-handed, you'll be better off with the Felco 9, which has the lock on the right instead. The grip is made from comfortable PVC plastic and is ergonomically designed. The secateurs are red, which makes them easy to find on a lawn, and that's useful. But of course Felco tools are primarily popular for their cutting abilities. This is a substantial pair of secateurs with good leverage that makes it easier to cut branches. Both the 21 cm length and the cutting head's pointed design makes it easier to reach branches further back in bushes or higher up in trees. The lock is easy to use. It's also useful that the Felco 8 has a wire cutter which makes it easy to cut thinner steel wire.
However, the Felco 8 is a relatively large and heavy secateur so it's not suitable for everyone. For some of our testers it was just too cumbersome. Another disadvantage is that the cutting blades aren't rustproofed. The spring has also rusted significantly on one of the pairs of Felco secateurs that's we've been using for a longer period. Even though Felco has a large range of spare parts and all components can be replaced, we think you should be able to expect better rustproofing from a secateur in this price class. Overall, the Felco 8 is a substantial and effective secateur. Even if the lifetime guarantee only applies to the aluminium handle, your Felco secateurs will help you in the garden for a long time provided you take good care of them.
Traditional Bypass 6.5" is a neat, small pair of bypass secateurs with a classic appearance from British manufacturer Kent & Stowe, who have supplied garden tools since the 1800s. They have a very elegant design and you can really picture them being used to prune roses around a classic English manor house. Both the spring and lock are simple and visible. The lock works very well despite its simple design. The secateurs are fully cast, from handle to cutting blades. The cutting blades are manufactured from forged steel, which makes them extremely sharp. This can be confirmed by at least one of our testers, who mistook their own finger for a branch in a moment of distraction.
Traditional Bypass 6.5" is a short, light pair of secateurs. The weight is stated at only 150 g, and we measure it to be a still lower 142 g. The low weight combined with a neat handle means that the secateurs lie nicely in smaller hands. For larger hands, however, these are far too small. But there's also the larger Traditional Bypass 8" model. The length is shorter than average, so it's not ideal if you're working further into bushes or thickets. The maximum branch dimension is stated as 10 mm. This is correct, as Traditional Bypass 6.5" is too small to deal with thicker pieces. However, their biggest weakness is that these otherwise so high-quality secateurs lack proper rustproofing. So if you're not careful they'll get rusty quite quickly. Traditional Bypass 6.5" is most suitable for smaller hands cutting smaller roses and other flowers. For example for a florist cutting flowers indoors.
The Gardena Classic 8754 is a bypass secateur from German manufacturer Gardena. Since 1961, Gardena has manufactured garden equipment and it's a well-known brand in the majority of garden centres. They're probably most associated with various watering systems and other combination solutions for the garden. The Classic 8754 is normally a few pounds more expensive than the garden centres' own brands. It's very light, but at the same time an average length, which means you can get to most places you need to use it. Unlike the majority of other secateurs, the cutting blades are angled slightly downwards. Whether or not this is helpful is largely a matter of taste. Gardena state clearly that the Classic 8754 is intended for branches with a maximum thickness of 18 mm. This is lower than the majority of their competitors, but also refreshingly honest as most secateurs require quite a lot of force to cut branches thicker than 20 mm. Another advantage is the small wire cutter at the back of the cutting blades, for cutting thinner wire. The lock is easy to use and is suitable for both right and left-handed users.
The upper blade is in non-stick stainless steel and the lower one in plain stainless steel. The non-stick coating is similar to a simple Teflon coating and reduces the friction between the blades. Stainless steel is practical for anyone who's a little less careful with their secateurs. At the same time, stainless steel is relatively soft, which has a negative effect on the sharpness. Nor does the 8754 perform particularly well in our cutting tests. One disadvantage with the Gardena Classic 8754 is the springs, which are quite hard. This is particularly noticeable if you're cutting large amounts of branches. Gardena's marketing department is clearly fond of the blue-green Gardena colour, which matches the rest of their range. But it's not particular practical, as it's hard to find the secateurs if you leave them among bushes or long grass. Even though it doesn't perform perfectly, the Gardena Classic 8754 is still an excellent alternative to the garden centre chains' own cheap brands, and we've selected it as our best budget choice.
The well-known Finnish company Fiskars has roots going back all the way to the 1600s. Fiskars has a large range of garden tools, and their secateurs are available in the majority of garden centres. Fiskars P68 is one of their standard models and is suitable for both right and left-handed users. One advantage of the P68 is that you can easily adjust the grip to different hand sizes. The grip is comfortable and has good ergonomics, and thanks to what Fiskars call Soft Grip, it's pleasant to hold. The locking function is also easy to use. The secateurs are relatively long, which means that you can more easily get in among branches, for example when you're pruning rose bushes.
But our testers didn't feel that the cutting blades were particularly sharp. Despite the fact that the upper blade has a PTFE coating which is intended to make the cutting blades slip over each other more smoothly, the secateurs are still quite stiff when cutting. You feel a clear friction between the blades and over a longer session this may lead to tired hands. The explanation for the poor sharpness is probably the fact that the P68 is manufactured from simpler carbon steel. According to Fiskars, the P68 is galvanised to make it rustproof. Galvanising means treating with zinc, which is a cheap form of rustproofing. When the thin zinc layer is gradually worn away, the P68 begins to rust when exposed to moisture over a longer period.
Overall, the Fiskars P68 is an easy-to-use pair of secateurs that easily adapt to your family members' different hand sizes.
PowerLever P53 is an anvil secateur from the reputable Fiskars brand. The idea with PowerLever is that the secateurs open themselves and the handles give an extra lever effect. According to Fiskars, this means you can cut thicker branches despite the fact that the P53 is a smaller pair of secateurs. Because at 128 g, this really is an incredibly light model. It's really clear that Fiskars have striven to trim any excess weight from the P53. The handle is made from fibreglass-reinforced nylon without a separate grip. The spring is a simpler model and the metal components are small and few. Despite the small size, the secateurs lie naturally even in slightly larger hands.
One advantage with PowerLever is that it's available in three different sizes. We tested the smallest model, which has two larger siblings for larger hands. The P53 has a handle width of only 95 mm, which makes it easy to use even for children and young people. The upper cutting blade is of standard carbon steel with a PTFE coating - more familiar as Teflon. This reduces the friction and the risk of the cutting blade getting stuck in a branch. Another advantage with the PTFE coating is that it provides rustproofing. At the same time, the PTFE coating is sensitive to scratches and if it gets damaged the blades risk rusting if exposed to moisture. It's also obvious that the steel is of the simpler type and you have to put in more effort when cutting. The extra lever in the handle doesn't compensate for the poorer quality steel. Given Fiskars' reputation for quality, we expected better. Fiskars PowerLever P53 is primarily a straightforward pair of secateurs for the user who prefers a really light secateur from a well-known manufacturer.
German company Gardena's model 8904 is a solid, large pair of bypass secateurs. You can buy Gardena brand tools in most garden centres and it's a familiar choice for many keen gardeners. These secateurs are long and make it easy to work among thorny rosebushes and higher up on trees. The Gardena 8904 can reach where many others can't, and feels as if it's been designed for slightly tougher conditions. Despite their size, the handle isn't enormous for anyone with normal hands. If you want to vary the grip, however, you can try the sister model, the Gardena 8905, which can be adjusted right from S to XL. The lock on the 8904 secateurs is straightforward and clear, and the model is suitable for both left and right-handed users. The blades have a distinct upwards angle and this means that you can get at even fiddly small branches easily.
Gardena state that it's possible to cut branches up to 24 mm thick, and this is true providing you've got a fair amount of brute strength in your hands. Otherwise you're likely to fail. One of the reasons is that both blades are made of stainless steel. Of course, this provides protection against rust, but at the same time it's a soft type of steel that's not particularly suitable for secateurs. Another disadvantage is that the spring is made from hard plastic. This makes it far too rigid, and you feel it every time you make a cut. Nor are the handles particularly comfortable, and the grip ergonomics are poor. Nor are we convinced by the colour of the 8904 - the secateurs are grey, blue and black. This is pretty much perfect camouflage if you leave them in the undergrowth. The Gardena 8904 performs best if you have good grip strength and need secateurs that reach a little bit further into bushes.