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Anvil vs Bypass Secateurs: Discover Which One is Best for You

Choosing between anvil vs bypass secateurs may seem like a straightforward decision. However, both gardening hand tools have different functions regarding pruning and trimming shrubs. While both types of pruners will cut woody stems and branches, bypass pruners are more universal. But there are times when an anvil pruner is the best choice.

Pruning is an essential part of maintaining a healthy garden. But it isn’t easy if you don’t have the right tools. Anvil vs bypass secateurs are two popular options with advantages and disadvantages. Making the wrong choice can result in damage to your plants or even injury to yourself.

A good pair of secateurs is a gardener’s best friend—a trusty companion useful for all seasons
Lady With Basket of flowers with Bypass Secatuers

Spring is when the secateurs go to work, pruning and snipping off old stems to promote healthy growth. Come summer, the trusted pruners are ready to help you deal with unruly vines, prune out excess growth and tidy up early-blooming perennials. Then as the season winds down in fall, you get ready to prune dormant shrubs in winter. 

There’s an adage: a bad workman always blames his tools. But let’s face it—even the best gardeners need a good set of tools for gardening. And when it comes to pruning, using the right tool is crucial.

This article explains the differences between a bypass cutting tool and anvil pruners. You will learn about the pros and cons of both types of secateurs, so you can make an informed decision and avoid choosing the wrong tool for your pruning requirements.

What Are Anvil Secateurs?

Anvil secateurs are a type of pruning tool used to trim branches and woody stems in the garden. An anvil cutter has a sharp upper cutting blade and a flat anvil-like lower surface made from metal. When the handles of the secateurs are squeezed, the sharp anvil blade comes down onto the flat base.

Also called anvil pruners or anvil shears, think of the design as a knife and chopping board. The anvil blade design is double-edged and is sharp on both edges. This feature improves cutting efficiency when cutting tough stems. Like bypass cutters, anvil secateurs have a spring mechanism that opens the blades after cutting, thus reducing fatigue.

Anvil secateurs are especially useful for cutting thicker branches and dead wood

The flat anvil surface provides stability and support, allowing for clean cuts even on hardier branches. This makes the anvil model an essential gardening tool for dealing with woody growth in late winter and early spring. Anvil secateurs are also suitable for delicate stems and smaller branches, as the flat surface minimizes the risk of crushing or damaging the plant tissue.

The key benefits of using anvil secateurs include their powerful cutting power and stability
Anvil Secateurs pruning tree

The cutting action of the blade coming down onto the flat base allows you to prune larger stems and branches efficiently. As long as there is a razor-sharp blade, you are ensured a clean and precise cut each time. This way, you can keep your shrubs, bushes, and ornamental trees performing their best in all seasons.

Additionally, the best anvil secateurs often offer a comfortable grip, making them suitable for occasional and experienced gardeners.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Anvil Secateurs

Anvil secateurs have several advantages when it comes to pruning thicker branches and dead wood. The anvil pruning shears with the sharp blade pressing against a flat surface make tough cutting tasks straightforward. However, they are not the best choice for cutting new stems in summer and late fall. 

Advantages of Anvil Secateurs:

  • Powerful Cutting: Anvil secateurs excel at cutting through larger branches and tougher plant stems. The sharp blade pressing against a flat surface provides more leverage and force, making them suitable for heavy-duty pruning tasks when cutting thick, woody branches.
  • Durable: Because of their robust construction, anvil secateurs are highly durable and can withstand frequent use over time.
  • Ideal for Deadwood: These secateurs are excellent for pruning dead wood branches or dry wood. The anvil design helps to crush and breakthrough brittle material. This helps keep plants healthy when they start growing again in spring.
  • Easier to Maintain: Anvil secateurs are generally easier to maintain and sharpen since the blade doesn’t need to be as sharp as bypass secateurs. And there is only one blade to sharpen. 

Disadvantages of Anvil Secateurs:

  • Crushing Risk: One of the significant drawbacks is that anvil secateurs can crush live branches and leave ragged wounds that are difficult to heal.
  • Less Precision: Anvil secateurs cannot provide the same clean, precise cuts that bypass secateurs offer. This is important when trimming live branches in late spring and summer.
  • Not Suitable for Green Stems: Anvil-type secateurs may not be the best choice for cutting green, succulent stems, as they can result in more damage to the plant.

What are Anvil Secateurs Best Used For

Anvil secateurs are best suited for heavy-duty tasks such as cutting thick deadwood during late winter and early spring. When trimming live branches, bypass secateurs provide more precision and a clean cut. 

What Are Bypass Secateurs?

Man Using Bypass Secateurs to cut green branch

Bypass secateurs are an essential tool for gardeners to cut green stems with a scissor action. Their design features two sharp, curved blades that pass by each other when cutting. The bypass blades provide a precise cutting action, ensuring a clean and smooth cut every time.

Also known as bypass pruners or bypass shears, bypass models are designed to make clean cuts on live plants. This design feature makes them ideal for delicate stems, fruit trees, and shrub branches. You can also prune new growth stems near the bud without stress or damaging the stem. 

Bypass secateurs have the advantage over Anvil types when cutting green branches

The clean cut minimizes the risk of damage and disease, allowing the plant to heal quickly and promoting healthy growth. Bypass secateurs are also great for deadheading flowers and pruning green growth, as they can easily maneuver between branches.

Secateurs with a bypass motion are a must-have tool for any gardener. Their precision cutting action works as a pair of scissors would. Whether dealing with delicate stems or pruning fruit trees, bypass secateurs will provide the clean and precise cuts needed to keep your plants healthy and flourishing.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Bypass Secateurs

Bypass secateurs have advantages and disadvantages regarding pruning. One of the main advantages is that they are ideal for pruning shrubs and fruit trees in the summer. However, they don’t work well when cutting woodier stems or dead branches. 

Advantages of Bypass Secateurs:

Anvil vs Bypass Secateurs
  • Clean and Precise Cuts: Bypass secateurs are invaluable when making precise cuts. The sharp bypass pruner is less likely to damage live branches or plants. This is crucial for plant health.
  • Narrow Cutting Head: Bypass secateurs tend to have a narrow cutting head, making them ideal for cutting herbs and flowers or pruning small shrubs during the growing season.
  • Gentle on Living Stems: They are ideal for cutting green, living stems and delicate plant material without crushing or bruising stem tissue.
  • Reduced Risk of Disease: Bypass secateurs minimize the risk of disease transmission between plants because they don’t crush plant tissue. They leave wounds on branches that are smooth and heal faster.  

Disadvantages of Bypass Secateurs:

  • Limited Cutting Capacity: Bypass secateurs may struggle with thicker branches and tougher materials due to their design, limiting their use for heavy-duty pruning tasks. More effort is required to cut thicker branches.
  • Blade Maintenance: Bypass blades must be kept exceptionally sharp for effective use. This requires more frequent cleaning, maintenance, and sharpening.
  • Not Ideal for Deadwood: You will struggle to trim dormant shrubs with bypass secateurs. They are not the best choice for pruning dead or dry wood, as they may not provide enough force to make clean cuts in dead stems, and you risk causing damage to branches.

Anvil vs Bypass Secateurs: How are They Different

The easiest way to explain the difference between bypass and anvil secateurs is to think of a knife and scissors.

The anvil option is like using a knife to slice cucumber on a chopping board—almost impossible and impractical to do with scissors. However, using scissors to cut leafy herbs, scallions, chives, and mushrooms is usually easier than using a large knife and board.

Choosing the Right Secateurs for Your Needs

Which is best—anvil or bypass secateurs? The answer depends on your pruning needs. 

Anvil secateurs have a sharp cutting blade that closes against a flat metal base. They are perfect for cutting thicker branches and dead wood. The anvil design allows for more cutting power, making them suitable for hardier plants and woody stems. However, their cutting action can be more invasive, potentially damaging delicate stems or green growth.

On the other hand, bypass secateurs have two sharp blades that work like a pair of scissors. They are great for precise pruning tasks, as the bypass motion allows for cleaner, more accurate cuts. They are best suited for green stems, young growth, and delicate plants. However, when it comes to cutting thicker branches or hardier growth, bypass secateurs may struggle.

When deciding between anvil and bypass secateurs, consider the types of plants you have and the tasks you commonly perform. If you have a lot of dead wood or thicker branches, opt for anvil secateurs. If you work with delicate stems or green growth, bypass secateurs are the way to go.

Ultimately, choosing the right type of secateurs depends on your personal preferences and the specific needs of your garden. Consider factors such as cutting capacity, plant types, and your comfort using different designs.

However, you will probably require a set of anvil secateurs and a set of bypass secateurs. Here is why:
  • Anvil secateurs are the best for pruning trees and shrubs in late winter and early spring.
  • Bypass secateurs are the go-to choice for cutting flowers, live shrubs, herbs, and fruit trees in summer and fall. 

Anvil vs Bypass Secateurs Maintenance and Care

Like all gardening tools, proper care and maintenance are vital to ensure their longevity and effectiveness. Basic secateurs maintenance for both types of cutting tools involves cleaning the blades after every use and sharpening them regularly. You should also deep clean the hand tools in late fall before storage.

Here are Some Maintenance Tips for Both Types of Secateurs

Secateurs pruning Roses
  • Regular Cleaning: It’s crucial to clean the anvil and bypass blades after each use. You can use hot soapy water and a cloth to remove plant material, sap, or other debris. You can use a steel brush to remove stubborn residue. This simple task prevents sap buildup on the blades.
  • Lubrication: Regular lubrication is essential to keep anvil and bypass secateurs in good working condition. After cleaning the equipment, apply a few drops of oil to the pivot point and other movable parts of the tool. This maintenance tip prevents rust and ensures smooth operation every time.
  • Sharpening: Keeping the blades sharp is important for efficient and clean cuts. Use a sharpening stone or file to sharpen the beveled edge of the blades. Anvil blades require sharpening on both sides, but bypass blades only on the single, beveled side.
  • Regular inspection: It is advisable to inspect the secateurs regularly for any signs of wear or damage. Check the blades, handles, and spring mechanism for any signs of looseness, cracks, or rust. Replace worn-out or damaged parts immediately.

These maintenance tips ensure that your secateurs remain in optimal condition for the entire season. Remember—well-kept pruning tools help to promote healthy growth and maintain the beauty of your plants.

Best Practices for Using Secateurs

Secateurs have sharp blades and require a bit of effort to cut through branches. Therefore, using safe practices minimizes the risk of accidents to yourself or causing unnecessary damage to plant tissue.

Here are some general tips to keep in mind when using anvil or bypass secateurs:

  • Hand Placement: Always maintain a firm grip on the secateurs using the base of your hand and fingers. Ideally, choose secateurs with ergonomic, easy-to-grip handles. This provides stability and control while cutting.
  • Cutting Technique: Use a clean and smooth cutting motion when pruning. Avoid putting excessive pressure or jerking the secateurs, as this can cause damage to the plant or strain your hand. Also, open and close the blades fully, rather than trying to cut stems like you would using scissors. Instead, make precise cuts with a gentle, consistent motion.
  • Cut at the Correct Angle: Always cut at a 45-degree angle when pruning live wood. The lowest point should be opposite the bud. This prevents water buildup and avoids mold affecting the plant’s health. Additionally, any sap will drip away from the developing bud.
  • Safety Gear: Wear appropriate safety gear to protect yourself from potential injuries. Gloves provide added grip and protect your hands from thorns or sharp edges. Safety goggles or glasses shield your eyes from flying debris or sap while cutting.

The best practices while using secateurs ensure a safe and enjoyable pruning experience. By following proper hand placement, cutting technique, and wearing the necessary safety gear, you can effectively care for your plants while minimizing the risk of accidents.

Anvil vs Bypass Secateurs: In Conclusion

The choice between anvil secateurs and bypass-style secateurs depends on the types of plants you plan on pruning.

The bypass-cutting action is best for timing live stems or cutting flowers, herbs, and leafy vegetables. However, anvil secateurs are the best choice when pruning dormant shrubs and trees. Therefore, most gardening enthusiasts decide to buy a good pair of anvil secateurs for winter and spring pruning and a bypass pair for summer and fall gardening.