Gardeners have personal preferences, but there are a few features that you should look for in whichever style or make you choose.
- Carbon Steel Blades - Sharpens easily and holds its edge longer than less expensive blades.
- Replaceable Parts - Being able to replace blades, springs and even handle covers, will keep your pruners functioning longer. Pruners that are assembled with nus and bolts, rather than being riveted together, usually have replaceable parts.
There are 2 basic hand pruner designs: By-pass and Anvil.
By-pass Versus Anvil
By-pass pruners - One blade that is sharpened on only one side swings by (or by-passes) a a curved but flat surface that cups the branch being pruned and slices it. Doesn't crush the branch being pruned.
Anvil pruners - One blade that is sharp on both sides and comes straight down on a flat surface, slicing the branch being pruned.
Other Bells & Whistles
- Sizing - Pruners come in various sizes, so it's important that you hold them in your hand before selecting a pair. Make sure the grip feels comfortable and easily controllable.
- Locks - Hand pruners have some sort of a latch, to keep them closed when not in use. Test to see it the latch can be opened and closed using your pruning hand.
- Cut-and-Hold - Holds onto the stem, after each pruning cut. This is more for cutting flowers than for maintenance pruning, since it could get very tedious shaking off every stem you cut.
- Ergonomics - Pruning can be very hard on hand joints. Some styles have handles that swivel, requiring less movement and pressure. Some have softer grips. Others have rachet action, making the pruner do most of the work.
- Sharpening Tool - Relatively inexpensive and often they are shaped so make it easier for you to get just the right angle on your cutting blade.
- Holder - Belt holsters ensure that you have your pruners handy.
You will find very hand pruners priced from $5 on up. As I mentioned, buy the best pair you can afford. However, unless you've tried out several pairs already, you might want to wait until you have some pruning experience and know what works for you, before investing heavily in pruners. Although I've never seen a good pair of hand pruners go to waste.
If you have a large property and become a serious pruner, you might want to look into specialty pruners that come with features such as: a built in disinfectant sprayer, pneumatics and self-oiling abilities.