Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cut it Out Vol. 2: Pruning Tools: Hand Pruners

I've always been a tool nut.  Some people would say I'm just a tool, others would say I'm just a nut.  Whatever.

Anyway, quality is important to me, but I'm sensible enough to know when a certain budget tool will do just fine, and can even do a better job sometimes.

When it comes to pruning tools, there's a lot of stuff out there.  What works on one job or for one person may not be best for another.  If you read reviews, opinions are all over the place.

I recently decided that I may be in for some trouble if I'm doing a lot of repetitive cuts.  It may take a full day or more, but my hands or forearm may regret using pruners that are less than ideal.  I've been using 1" capacity Corona hand pruners, and can't complain about them really, except they're not terribly ergonomic.    They're fine, but not the best for great cuts or comfort.

I've checked out some other brands in person and read a lot of reviews.  It seems that having more precise, ergonomic, extra sharp cutters can make a big difference over time.

It sure looks like the industry standard has been Felco for some time.  And most people love them.  But now there are at least two other contenders worth considering.  I must admit I had a hard time figuring out which brand to get.

ARS is a Japanese brand, known for having the sharpest blades and for staying sharp the longest.  I haven't seen them in any stores, so it looks like online is the way to go.

Bahco is the third one to mention. Instead of $50-something for Felco or ARS, these cost about $34.  They're probably the most ergonomic pruners of all, and very high quality.

I was ordering some Bahco pruners last night, but wasn't able to get them delivered to my area from Amazon.  I figure there's some lead in the metal or suffering, so that was that.  So instead I ordered the ARS instead.  We'll see what they're like in a few days.  I'll report back after I spend some time with them.

Meanwhile, I have a pair of Barnell pruners that I bought for lighter jobs.  They have a nice feel, but I haven't spent enough time with them to give my best two cents.  And I still have my Coronas for the heavy hand work.

Most of these brands have at least a model or two with rotating lower handles.  This is great for people with issues or if you hold the pruners in your hand for long periods of time.  I don't find it ideal because I put my pruners in my pouch frequently, while using other tools at the same time,  and each time you pick them up, you have to regain your grip so it feels right.  I'll stick with the fixed-handle models for now bb

One thing that's never mentioned in these articles is BONSAI PRUNERS.  Well, I have two pairs of these, and for certain kinds of work, like Japanese Maples, they can't be beat.  They cut better than "normal" hand pruners, but you have to hold them differently and they would probably tire you out faster.  I love them, and feel sorry for those who never have tried them.  They have the added advantage of making a concave cut, which is great for certain situations.  Cutting close  in a very precise way is something standard hand pruners can't do as easily, like if you're trying to surgically remove a third twig from a whorl, for instance, these things are the way to go.  They're also great for nipping away at a cut if your first cut wasn't exactly as close as  you wanted. I have an 8" and a 10" pair.  Since both edges are very sharp blades, they have the ability to cut more cleanly and seem to be even better at cutting thick, hard branches, though I wouldn't sensibly go larger than 1" with either type.  Gosh darn, I try often enough.  I should know better.  But I never break tools trying, just get a bit frustrated momentarily.

Now, if you have a fat wallet or some real grip or arthritis problems, there are cordless pruners.  You pull a little trigger and it does all the work.  Problem is, they start at around $800 or $900 and can go up to $2000 or more.  Come on!  These are made in China!  Well, I'm gonna do a little research and see if there's another tool that can be modified or something.  I did glance at some similar but lighter-weight models from Craftsnan or Ryobi or one of those.  As I remember, the maximum cut was only 1/2", which doesn't excite me that much.  Maybe these could be modified. I also like the idea of the organic nature of a fully manual hand pruner.  We'll see what happens when I get older and lose strength and flexibility.

I received my ARS pruners today.  They look very similar to most other pruners of the same style, which I dose are made to mimic Delco.  You can tell the quality is great.  And they're super sharp.  They weren't kidding.  I pruned a peach and an oak tree.  I don't think I cut anything bigger than about 3/4", maybe a couple that were an inch.  You still have to use pretty good hand strength, so it's not like cutting butter.  But pretty darn good.  The action of the pruners is smooth and sexy and it was a pleasure.

I'very been using my ARS pruners for about 2 weeks now.  Unlike a lot of other people,  I use a variety of hand pruners for didn't tasks.  But my ARS's are the main machine.  They do cut really well,  but I wouldn't go so far as to say it's night and day between those,  my slightly smaller Barnels, or equally-sized Coronas.  I fix come across a couple occasions where I cut about a 5/8" branch, and they acted up.   Lo and behold,  the blade had a nick or dent or starve you want to call it,  and they wouldn't close.  So I immediately had to go sharpen it.   It seems the tolerance is much closer than other pruners,  so a small flaw in the blade can really make a difference between working great and not at all.  I still can't figure out how cutting wood ended up like cutting into a metal cable.  Head-scratcher on that one.  Are these pruners worth 2 or 3 times what others cost?   Hard to say,  but if you use them for years,  the daily cost is so minor that it makes sense to get the best.  And these probably are the best,  or at least tied.

Now, cut loose.

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