Anvil or Bypass? Your Guide to Choosing The Right Pruner

Bypass or Anvil? Your Guide to Choosing The Right Pruner

Today we are going to talk about the inevitable question every gardening novice is bound to ask themselves at some point. The most common difference you will notice when shopping for gardening tools is the mention of ‘anvil’ and ‘bypass’. Whether you are looking for snips, pruners, shears, loppers or secateurs, you are bound to come across these two terms. 

So, what’s the difference between anvil and bypass secateurs?How do I know when I should use anvil shears and when I would be better off going for bypass loppers? Read on to find a definitive answer to these crucial questions and watch your gardening skills grow in no time.

What’s the difference between bypass pruners and anvil pruners?

When visiting any gardening supply shop or browsing through gardening tools online, you are sure to come across the terms ‘anvil’ and ‘bypass’. Understanding the difference between the two will save you time, money, and energy. But most importantly, using the correct tool will allow you to achieve your best gardening results and help keep your plants healthy.

First and foremost, the most distinct difference between the two is the positioning of the blades and the motion this creates during use. Anvil pruners, though seemingly similar-looking to bypass pruners, feature a sharp blade and a metal surface, or pocket, that the blade crushes upon. Whereas bypass pruners, with their slightly more scissor-like appearance, feature a sharp blade and a counter blade. When in use, the two blades bypass each other to create a clean cut.


graphic explaining the difference between anvil and bypass pruners


Let’s take a closer look at the different designs and their functions.


A closer look at anvil pruners

Traditionally, the term anvil describes a metalworking tool that is forged or cast from a large block of steel. Its distinctive flat top is used as a worktop upon which another object can be struck or hand-hammered.


front and back view of anvil pruner

 Front and back view of Davaon Pro Anvil Secateurs


Now, when we consider secateurs, pruners, or loppers, the term ‘anvil’ describes the flat metal (or sometimes plastic) surface the razor-sharp blade nestles down into. It mirrors the way a kitchen knife works when chopping onions, carrots or garlic on a cutting board. It’s a powerful cutting mechanism that smashes or pinches any material that is put in between the blade and the anvil. Its distinctive design ensures the blade will never twist or allow for resistance.


A closer look at bypass pruners

Much like the term ‘anvil’ has its traditions, the term ‘bypass’ is commonly used to describe the process of avoiding something by going around it. The cutting mechanism displayed in bypass pruners, shears, loppers, and secateurs lives up to this notion of circumvention. It consists of two blades, with the top blade moving downwards to bypass the counter blade, creating a scissor-like motion.


front and back view of a bypass pruner

  Front and back view of Davaon Pro Bypass Secateurs


On the downside, this movement creates room for resistance and allows the blades to twist when faced with materials that are too large or hard-wearing. On the other hand, however, the bypass cutting mechanism allows for pristine and smooth cuts.


When should I use anvil pruners?

By now we know anvil pruners create more of a crushing sensation than a traditional, scissor-like clean-cut. Understandably, this eliminates anvil pruners as the preferred option for precision cutting. It also makes them unsuitable for most living plants, as its slashing mechanism can damage the small tissue found in stems, petals and branches and interfere with their healthy regrowth.

On the other hand, however, the powerful slicing motion most similar to chopping makes anvil secateurs an ideal tool for trimming hardy branches and deadwood. As mentioned previously, the up and down motion doesn’t allow for any resistance or gaps, thus making anvil pruners an excellent choice for tough jobs.

For best results, we recommend investing in a collection of different sized anvil pruners for cutting and trimming different sized stems, branches and deadwood.


close-up of an anvil pruner cutting a dry branch


When should I use bypass pruners?

Bypass pruners are a gardener’s everyday go-to tool as the familiar design lends itself towards a plentitude of gardening tasks. Like scissors, they offer a simple yet precise cut and reliable results.

However, with the blades passing one another, bypass secateurs are not suitable for trimming hardy or dried out wood. They can also be quite difficult to use on larger pieces of wood as the bypass motion, at times, allows the blades to twist and create gaps, making them ineffective. Similar to those paper scissors you have put to the back of your drawer after using them on different materials and finding them to now be unsuitable for cutting paper, this can be easily avoided by ensuring you are using the right tool for the task at hand.

Bypass pruners are an excellent tool for pruning rose bushes, collecting fresh herbs, and taking flower cuttings. The gentle cutting mechanism does not damage the plants’ soft tissue and leaves you with a clean cut - creating an ideal environment for your plants and herbs to regrow healthier and stronger.


close-up of a bypass pruner cutting a green stem


Wrapping Up

Next time you browse through the vast collection of different gardening tools, consider what you are trying to achieve by cutting, pruning, trimming and snipping your plants. Remember, the bypass mechanism is an excellent choice for any living plants and greenwood, whilst the anvil cutting action is ideal for rough branches, dried-out stems and deadwood.

Head over to our shop to browse through our collection of professional gardening tools for every need - or treat yourself with one of our premium quality anvil and bypass secateurs sets to get the best of both worlds.

P.S. For your convenience, you can even filter our tools by ‘Use’!

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