Choosing secateurs

Find out which secateurs to use for which purpose, in our No Fuss Guide with Alan Titchmarsh.

Discover the difference between bypass, anvil and rachet secateurs, and which is best suited to the task in hand, in Alan Titchmarsh’s No Fuss Guide.

Choosing secateurs: transcript

Alan Titchmarsh [00:00:05] Gardeners love snipping things – it’s a kind of control freaky thing, but it is essential to keep trees, shrubs, roses, fruit, in control and producing flowers and fruit that you want them to produce. If you’ve got a little bit of topiary that you want to clip, these kind of shears are brilliant. They’re small, they can get into tiny little spots, but they will only cut sappy growth. For anything slightly thicker, like a pencil, then you need to move on to the things that we call secateurs.

These are the classic kind. They have a scissor operation. They’ve got one blade there, another one there, and it cuts slicing sideways between the two blades. There are lots of them here. These are relatively inexpensive. You get more expensive pairs like this, which clip directly metal onto metal.

Or you can get them, if you’re doing a lot of pruning, which have got a buffer in there. And these are much better for your hands – you don’t get wrist ache quite so much on these. They’re called bypass secateurs, because one blade is bypassing another, and finding a comfortable pair is key. These I like because for me,
they’ll cut very cleanly through anything like this up to pencil thickness and slightly beyond. But if you have trouble gripping, these with a cork handle here are quite comfortable. They do offer you a bit of spring; and even more comfortable, this one with a swiveling handle. You see how that moves as I move my hand, and that too is making for great comfort.

There’s a different kind of secateur too, called the anvil. Here, the blades are not bypassing one another, but it is cutting directly, this sharp blade onto this flat anvil. The only danger here can be if you’re not careful – and this blade isn’t sharp – is that that stem can be crushed as that blade comes down. So it’s vital, particularly with these anvils that the blade is kept really sharp. And if you get into even thicker stems like this one – and
generally speaking secateurs are really only any good for stems up to finger thickness.

When they start getting thicker like this, then this is a ratchet secateur and you’ll see when I try and go through this, that it will go part of the way through, stop part way the through and stop and finally it will cut. It makes it much easier for anybody who’s got weak wrists or arthritis or something like that. And it is much, much easier, he said, to use. Ratchet to give you lots of control over thicker stems.

Either of these kinds will do well depending on your personal preference. Above all, keep them sharp, rub them with emery paper to keep them free of sap and then you’ve got many happy days of cutting ahead of you.