Best Loppers for Trimming Trees and Shrubs

The best loppers for trimming trees and shrubs depends upon the tree, the shrub and the job you are managing. Some loppers are great for green wood, some are better for dry wood; loppers are not a substitute for hedge shears or trimmers – although in a pinch, they can function as either or both.

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Midwest Region via Foter.com / CC BY

The best loppers for trimming trees and shrubs is a pair that both suits the need and the user. Loppers are a scissor-like pruner that have long handles for reaching up or into a brushy area. They are great for clearing up tangles of rose bush and cat brier in your back yard, but they also work well out in the woodlands where you might be clearing an area for a campsite or creating a fire break.

There is a wide range of products available on the market today, and below I have reviewed 5 of the very best options.

**Below, you will find more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices and read customer reviews on Amazon.

What Makes Loppers Great

Loppers can clear a path in areas where movie explorers are often seen wielding a machete. Loppers have an advantage over a machete in that they can be used to cut a limb or sapling precisely. While they are at a disadvantage when dealing with small, limber branches, they truly shine if you are clearing a path through a cedar glade or getting those persistent maple sprouts out of your iris bed.

How Loppers Work

Loppers come in a wide variety of styles, although they all have the same basic shape. Every lopper has a cutting device attached to two long arms. To operate most loppers, the arms are pulled apart to open the blades and then pushed together to cut through the branch or sprout that needs trimmed. The long arms do two things: they allow the user to reach into areas that might otherwise be difficult to access; and they act as a fulcrum to be able to apply more pressure to a cut than would be possible with ordinary garden shears or hedge trimmers.

How Loppers are Different.

Loppers have several different styles. The basic style resembles garden shears with long handles. These are called bypass loppers, because of the way the blades are set up. Some caution should be used with these as the blades are very sharp. They provide, however, an extremely accurate cut – which is valuable when you are pruning your fine fruit trees. The best models of these can have the central bolt that holds the device together tightened or loosened, and the blades can be sharpened.

​Anvil loppers

Anvil loppers have a single sharp blade that cuts through material and lands on a platform – somewhat like bringing a chopping knife down on a cutting block. These are not as nice for your fine fruit trees, as the anvil can bruise or damage the tree limb. However, if you are cutting back brush in your woodlot, the anvil has the advantage of not allowing woody material to get caught between the blades.

Alligator Loppers

are a newer style of lopper. Although they are shaped like a lopper, they are really more like a mini-chainsaw. Alligator Loppers, from Black and Decker are similar to the Jaw Saw from Worx. These handy tools are designed to combine the convenience of a lopper with the power of a chainsaw. They are safer for making overhead trimming cuts, and have less chance of kickback than a standard chainsaw. Both Alligator Loppers and the Jaw Saw come in corded and battery operated models.

Photo credit: hnnbz via Foter.com / CC BY Note the orange buttons used to control extending or retracting the telescopic handles.

Lopper Handles

Loppers come with some handle variations, as well as cutting head variations. Some loppers have telescoping handles that allow the user to reach those high branches without climbing. Another variation is the compound action hinge that helps create added pressure when using an anvil cutter. Yet another hinge style is the Powergear from Fiskars, that is featured as being the best style of cutter for gardeners with arthritis. The cog-like ratchet in the handle gives a boost to cutting power – even for gardeners who do not have any sort of impairment.

Photo credit: VSPYCC via Foter.com / CC BY

Hazards of Using a Lopper

Like all woodland cutting tools, loppers should be used with a certain amount of caution – especially when cutting overhead branches or tall saplings. All these tools are sharp, and can easily cut a finger or toe – or something larger in the case of the electrical loppers. Overhead branches, no matter what tool you are using, have a way of coming down unexpectedly – sometimes on the top of the person doing the cutting. When in doubt, rig a safety line to keep heavy limbs or tallish young trees from falling in unfortunate and unexpected ways.

Photo credit: VSPYCC via Foter.com / CC BY

Super Uses for Loppers

When it comes to trimming trees, clearing brush or dealing with woody hedges or overgrown rose bushes, loppers are super tools. They even make taming bougainvillea and wild grapevines less of a challenge. Loppers are also handy if you are cutting poles for green bean teepees or even for woodland basket making. They can even be used for harvesting woody herbal supplies – such as willow twigs.

Loppers make short work of clearing up the small twigs and branches from downed trees, as well. Too often, the limber green twigs from a downed tree do not work well with either a handsaw or a chainsaw. A lopper can quickly reduce small branches into lengths that can easily be added to the base of a compost pile or to the kindling pile for your wood burning stove, or outdoor cooker.

Loppers are just one of those great, all-around tools that no household should be without. Just watch out if you are trimming the sprouts out of your flower beds at dusk – they do a great job of snipping through garden hoses that the gardener has mistaken for a fallen branch!

Product Reviews – The Best Loppers

1. Tabor Tools GL16 Bypass Lopper

The Tabor Tools bypass lopper is a classic pruning lopper. As stated, it is constructed to cut small branches, measuring up to 1.25 inches. The bypass cutting head makes a clean cut, with minimal bruising. This is good news for pruning fruit trees and small bushes.

Some users report that it is a bit heavy after a long day of cutting. It does not have any sort of power assist for making the cuts, other than the long handles that act as a fulcrum. It does have a round bumper between the handles to absorb the shock as the cutting edges slide through the wood. This bumper also prevents the inner edges of the head from over-lapping or locking – something that can happen with cheap loppers.

Pros

  • Bypass blades excellent for pruning
  • Ergonomic handles for ease of use
  • Shock absorbing bumper between handles

Cons

  • A bit heavy for small-sized users
  • Sized for 1.25 inch pieces, or smaller
  • No cutting assist

2. Tabor Tools GG12 Professional Compound Action Anvil Lopper

The Tabor Tools Anvil Lopper hikes up the cutting power to two-inch limbs. This is quite a bit of added cutting power. However, the user will sacrifice some of the protective function of the side-cutter because anvil-style loppers do cause bruising. In some cases, however, this isn’t a huge consideration. If you are cutting “weed trees,” that is tree sprouts that are growing in a location where they are not desired, then bruising is not an issue – getting those sprouts removed is the primary concern.

As you can see from the illustration on the left, the anvil lopper has an added advantage over the side cutter. Where the side cutter from Tabor has a simple round bumper, the anvil cutter has a mechanical hinge that helps apply more pressure to the limb being cut.

The anvil lopper also has thirty-inch handles. By combining the mechanical hinge, the long handles and the anvil platform that prevents fibers from getting embedded between the blades, it is easy to see how the extra .75 inches of cutting width are gained.

Pros

  • Cuts 2” and dry limbs
  • Hinge for cutting assist
  • No fibers caught in platform cutting head
  • Good for removing stubborn brush

Cons

  • Heavy for petite users
  • Likely to cause bruising – not good for pruning

3. Fiskars 32-Inch PowerGearBypass Lopper

Fiskars loppers are designed to relieve stress on wrists, elbows and shoulders while trimming or pruning. The secret is in the gear located on the cutting head. It works much the same way that gears on a bicycle work – the cogs ratchet together to ramp up the force that can be applied to a branch or sprout.

Thanks to the increased force created by the cogs, the Fiskars bypass lopper can cut two-inch limbs, thus combining the strength of an anvil lopper with the finesse of a sharp side-cutter.

The gears also enable creating a lopper that is both tough and lightweight – a real plus for petite gardener’s and for those who suffer from arthritis.

The sturdy, 32-inch handles facilitate reaching for those hard-to-grab branches while providing extra leverage to go along with the cogs.

Pros

  • Lightweight, yet powerful
  • Recommended for petite users
  • Cuts 2” limbs
  • Bypass blade suitable for trimming
  • Long handles for reaching

Cons

  • Because of the gear, handles must be moved over long distance

4. Fiskars Ratchet Drive Anvil Lopper

The Fiskars ratchet drive anvil lopper is a variation on a theme. While it is still only recommended for 2” branches, the ratchet design allows the wielder to close the jaws on the reluctant wood a little bit at a time. The unique design on the anvil combines the cutting power of the bypass cutter with the ability of an anvil to keep the woody pieces from catching between the cutting blades.

With that said, it is still an anvil cutter; anvil cutters have the potential to bruise tender branches while cutting. However, a good anvil cutter can scarcely be beat for trimming out paths, getting weed trees out of flower beds and similar applications.

Again, the Fiskars geared design creates added power for cutting. The Fiskars ratchet drive anvil lopper provides a viable alternative for dealing with unexpected storm debris and for trimming up larger trees in preparation for using a chainsaw.

Pros

  • Lightweight, yet sturdy
  • Ratchet allows incremental cutting
  • Platform prevents getting wood fibers between blades
  • Curved platform design creates better cutting surface

Cons

  • Steep learning curve for effective use
  • Ratchet requires tightening lopper one click at a time
  • Heavier than the Fiskars side cutter

5. Corona FL 3420 Compound Action Anvil Lopper, 32-Inch

The Corona compound action anvil lopper is similar to the Tabor anvil lopper. It has the same type of flat anvil, and the same sort of compound hinge arrangement to assist with cutting. It has fiberglass handles and foam grips.

This is a lower-priced lopper that is fine for light jobs, such as trimming woody hedges or small weed trees out of flower beds. However, the foam grips sometimes slip off and are lost. Under heavy use, the fiberglass handles will eventually break. One user reported that it is a decent lopper for the price, and that the handles and grips can be re-engineered, but one might guess that the average home owner might not want to deal with this.

It is rated for 2” limbs, but it might not be effective on hardwoods of this size. It might be a good choice for users who do not anticipate heavy use over extended time.

Pros

  • Lower cost
  • Light weight
  • Rated for 2” limbs

Cons

  • Fiberglass handles reported to break
  • Foam grips can slip off and become lost

Choosing the Best Loppers for Trimming Trees and Shrubs

These are all good tools, and they will all do a good job when properly used. But my personal favorite is the Fiskars Powergear Bypass Loppers. The gear and long handles helps to crunch through woody branches on my privet hedge, and the reach helps clean the cat briers out of the rambler rose bush. (I have a small, electric chainsaw that I use on bigger stuff.) I’ve had my Fiskars for more than five years – long enough that the bright orange on the handles has faded to a pale melon color. It doesn’t require batteries, it doesn’t have a long cord, and it gets the job done.

Ona Jo Bass
 

Ona Jo Bass grew up on a small farm in the middle of Missouri. She currently lives in a small town – still in Missouri – where she writes, gardens, enjoys her cats, dog and grandchildren.

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