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When you put together that to-do list for outdoor chores, don't forget the trees and shrubs that add shade and interest in your yard. Woody plants, which include some vines, won't require as much care as flower or vegetable gardens, but most will benefit from an occasional pruning. This is a task that calls for a tree lopper, sometimes called a long handled pruner. The two-handed grip gives you leverage, so your pruner can handle branches up to 2 inches in diameter and the longer handles give you added reach to prune higher branches. The right tool for the right job makes all the difference, so we looked high and low for the best options.
The tree loppers listed below will make it a cinch to keep your shrubs and trees tidy.
Fiskars PowerGear2 32 Inch Lopper
This is a solid, basic lopper and it will do a fine job for the majority of your needs. The blade is hardened steel with the nice additions of remaining sharp and having a non-stick coating. Trees can be very sappy, and the coating will make things move along. Ergonomic handles lessen the strain on your arms. Their patented PowerGear technology puts some of the work of getting through the branch on the mechanism and off your hands. They claim it gives you three times more power. It cuts branches up to 2 inches in diameter. It is 32 inches in length.
Corona DualLINK with ComfortGEL Grip
These are great for light-duty pruning. They can cut through branches up to 1 3/4 inches and have a two-zone blade for cutting larger and smaller branches. If you're going to do a lot of light pruning, the ShockGuard bumper will be appreciated. They have gel grips for better control. The blades are resharpenable forged carbon-steel. It is extendable to 37 1/2 inches, or you can get a non-extendable model.
KSEIBI Extendable Anvil Razor-Edge Pruning Lopper
Sometimes you like the option of making the handles longer or shorter, to get in tight or extend your reach. This model extends from 27 to 40 inches. You get their Teflon coated, non-stick blade and strong, but light, aluminum handles. It cuts branches up to 2 inches in diameter.
Black & Decker LP1000 Alligator Lopper 4.5 Amp Electric Chain Saw
Of course, there are power loppers. This electric lopper has a 4.5 amp motor and works basically like a chainsaw, except the blade is what they call a clamping jaw. It grabs around the branch and holds it as you cut. Since you’ll probably need two hands to control the lopper, this is a good feature. It’s a nice little tool for the price. Although if you have a chainsaw, you could make do with that. It cuts branches up to 4 inches in diameter.
What to Look for in a Tree Lopper
Bypass Versus Anvil Pruners
Pruning woody plants is best accomplished with a bypass pruner. This type has a sharp curved top blade that slides over the softer lower blade to make a clean angular cut without tearing or damaging the tree or shrub. The edges of the blades on an anvil pruner make direct contact, which works well on green suckers or softer plant material that just needs to be clipped off.
Comfort and Convenience
Pruning trees and other woody plants can be labor intensive, so be sure to choose the lopper tool that feels most comfortable—and learn how to use your lopper properly. Tree loppers constructed with lightweight materials lower the stress on your arms and hands. Cushioned grips help reduce the pressure and wear and tear on your hands and wrists. Ratcheting loppers that cut in smaller increments work best for people with diminished strength in their hands. A carbon steel blade will stay strong enough to do the job and the option of replacing blades comes in handy if you use the pruners a lot.
Reach and Capacity
Choose a lopper with long enough handles to reach the branches you need to prune. Make sure the blade is wide enough to cut through the size branch you need to remove. Most loppers will cut between 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, and some are extendable, which allows you to set the tool at just the length you need.
Make sure the lopper has enough maneuverability to accomplish the work you need to do. Those with shorter handles might work better for pruning shrubs with small dense branching while longer handles might be needed for pruning trees. A lopper with extendable handles might fit the need for both tasks.
What is a tree lopper?
When you are shopping for a tool for a specific task, it does helps to know exactly what it's called. Tree loppers are a pruning tool and you are most likely to find one by also looking at pruning shears, trimming shears, tree pruners, or even secateurs (a name often used by professional gardeners). For woody plants, be sure to choose a bypass lopper as opposed to an anvil lopper.
How do you sharpen a tree lopper?
Hand sharpening works best for these blades, which are too small for machine sharpening. Many different types of hand sharpening tools are available, but a carbide or diamond tool works best. Carefully wipe the cutting blades free of dirt and debris. Stuck on residue from tree sap can be removed with a razor blade. Lay the tool flat on a hard surface and run your sharpening tool along the cutting edge of the blade in a smooth motion directed away from your body.
How do you clean lopper shears?
This is a case where an ounce of prevention works best. Before each use, oil the blade with three-in-one oil, petroleum jelly, or machinery grease. Just a few drops will lubricate the blade. When the pruning job is complete, simply wipe the blade with a clean, dry rag. Keeping the blades of a good tree lopper clean should give you a lifetime of use.
Why Trust the Spruce?
Barbara Gillette, a Master Gardener and herbalist who has planted and tended more than 150 trees and shrubs on her property, provided additional research for this article. She works with honeybees and other pollinators to grow organic fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs on her 8-acre hobby farm.