Cuts branches up to 1 inch in diameter
Can be used on wires
Comes with extra blade and spring
Tiring for those with small hands
Locking is inconvenient for lefties
Bypass garden shears are a popular type of pruner, featuring curved blades that “pass” each other to trim branches—much like scissors. I tested out one such style, the Garden Elite Alpha Six Pruning Shears, over the course of a week in early spring. During 30- to 45-minute gardening sessions outside my Los Angeles, California, home, I used these razor-sharp bypass trimmers to prune palm frond stems and ficus hedge trees. I was most interested in both the quality of these top-rated blades and how comfortable they were to use. Read on to see if they made the cut.
Performance: A reliable, razor-clean cut
First, it’s important to understand how bypass pruners work. They are made of two curved blades: a wider, sharpened blade and a thinner, unsharpened blade that slide past each other, allowing for a clean cut.
I found it pretty effortless to cut all other types of branches and stems, including woody ones and delicate vines.
Even when cutting 1-inch-thick palm frond stems, these shears were precise and sharp. As someone with smaller hands, I did need to give a little more reinforcement in order to slice completely through the stem. However, I’d imagine that larger-handed gardeners might have a wide enough grip to cut into a thick branch more easily. Otherwise, I found it pretty effortless to cut all other types of branches and stems, including woody ones and delicate vines.
Material: Teflon-coated Japanese SK-5 steel
These pruners feature aluminum handles with a non-slip rubber grip. The blade is made from Japanese SK-5 steel (which is stronger than stainless steel) and coated in nonstick Teflon. This finish is especially convenient when cutting sappy branches. When I tested these pruners on ficus hedge trees (the branches of which produce a milky sap when cut), the coating helped to keep the blade clean throughout over 30 minutes of activity.
Since they’re intended for outdoor use, I also appreciated that the pruners are corrosion-resistant. There were a few occasions when I inadvertently left the shears outside (something I’d imagine other forgetful gardeners might do), but they remained unharmed by the elements.
Design: Comfortable, with some caveats
I found the molded handle to be fairly comfortable and easy to hold onto during prolonged use—with and without gardening gloves. However, for those with small hands and/or occasional pain from carpal tunnel syndrome like myself, these aren’t the most ergonomic.
Because of the wide width, I had to keep squeezing the pruners in order to prevent them from expanding fully. That constant pressure put a strain on my hand, and fatigue set in sooner. While not a deal breaker, it’s a factor worth noting when comparing these shears to similarly priced options that do offer an adjustable grip.
For those with small hands and/or occasional pain from carpal tunnel syndrome like myself, these aren’t the most ergonomic.
The shears contain coiled metal springs versus the open compression springs seen in other products. I tend to prefer the former as they feel sturdier and don’t run the risk of getting caught in anything, but this may be a non-issue for other gardeners who just want an efficient set of pruners.
Speaking of springs, it’s also easy to replace the one on this pair. The pruners come with an extra spring and blade, increasing the value and life of the tool.
Features: Thumb-lock and wire-cutter
This tool features a metal thumb lock, meant to keep the shears closed when not in use. Though a convenient option, as a left-handed user, it was slightly inconvenient to flip the shears around in order to lock the blades. This is something I’ve grown accustomed to throughout my southpaw life, but it’s worth noting as other pruners I tested during the same time period didn’t have the same issue.
As a left-handed user, it was slightly inconvenient to flip the shears around in order to lock the blades.
Another nice feature is the built-in wire-cutter, a small rounded notch at the base of the blade. While not a deciding factor for me, it definitely comes in handy—especially when it’s often tempting to use a sharp pair of shears for other cutting projects.
Price: Extras add more value
At around $35, these bypass hand pruners aren’t the cheapest options in the market—others range from $11 to $17—but they’re also not unreasonable. When you take into account the extra blade, spring, and wire-cutter included, that price is a great value.
Competition: Many affordable options without quality guarantees
There are plenty of similarly priced options on the market, including a more ergonomic pruner by Corona that we also tested and loved. However, we found that the Garden Elite’s sharp blade could withstand thicker branches than the Corona, which maxes out at 3/4 inch. If that’s something you’re looking for in a bypass pruner, then Garden Elite’s product is the easy choice.
Good value, but beware if you have small hands.
Those looking for a strong blade that can cut up to 1-inch branches will find these pruning shears reliable and relatively easy to maintain, especially because of the added value of extra parts and the nonstick coating. However, those with smaller hands or those whose hands tire quickly should be wary of the wide grip, which may result in extra strain.
- Product Name Alpha Six Pruning Shears
- Product Brand Garden Elite
- UPC X0015V4QH7
- Price $37.99
- Weight 8.5 oz.
- Product Dimensions 8.5 x 2.4 x 0.8 in.
- Includes One pair of pruning shears, one extra blade, one extra spring
- Warranty Lifetime