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Home » Hand Tools » Cutting Tools for the Garden

Cutting Tools for the Garden

A lot of work in the garden involves cutting of some kind, hence the huge range of hand tools designed for this purpose. Cutting tools are either powered - chainsaws and hedge cutters for example - or manual hand tools such as loppers, secateurs and shears.

A good blade will last for years. A cheap cutting tool may last a while but when it comes to performance won’t 'cut it' as well as something a bit more expensive. Value for money can be viewed as more than just the initial cost of a product, you also have to look at how long that product will last and how much time it will save you through increased performance. With a good quality cutting tool, you are paying for the superior steel used in the manufacture of the blade in addition to stronger components and a better ergonomic design.


secateursSecateurs are designed to be used one-handed to prune smaller branches such as roses, shrubs and small fruit tree limbs. Most secateurs cut using a bypass cutting action although some models are of the anvil type. Secateurs are perhaps the most important pruning tool a gardener can own. For that reason it’s worth investing in a quality tool that will perform efficiently and last for many years to come. Felco and Bahco both make excellent secateurs.

As with loppers, the bypass type of secateur will give a cleaner cut than the anvil variety. The ergonomic design has evolved over recent years and there are a range of models to cater for people with smaller, weaker hands. Some secateurs employ a rotating handle design which spreads the muscular force evenly over the five fingers, reducing fatigue and strain.

Garden shears

Garden shears are designed for cutting hedges. They use 2 identical blades in a scissor like fashion to slice cleanly through small stems and leaves. Some shears have a serrated section at the base of each blade to allow cutting through thicker material (up to 15mm diameter) although if you have a lot of thicker material to cut, loppers or secateurs will be better suited to the job.

Apart from the quality of the blades, one of the most important features of hedge shears are the rubber or plastic buffers that absorb vibration when the blades are brought together. On cheap models, these will wear out quite quickly and cutting will become jarring and fatiguing.

Spear & Jackson make decent shears for a reasonable price, and if quality is everything, these Bahco shears are amongst the best available.

Telescopic garden shears will help you to reach higher hedges but the mechanism used to extend and lock the handles is often unreliable and wears out fairly quickly. A better option may be a pair of long handled shears.

Bow saws

Bow saws are perfect for cutting through thick branches up to several inches in diameter and removing hard dead wood from trees and shrubs.

bow saw

The bow saw uses a blade tensioned between the two ends of a bow shaped frame. Bow saw blades usually cut on the push and pull strokes and are easy and cheap to replace. Some manufacturers recommend different blades for green and dead wood.

Try to get a bow saw that incorporates a hand guard as this will prevent sore knuckles if you hit your hand against whatever you are sawing.

The main disadvantage with the bow saw is that due to the size of the bow frame they are difficult to use in confined spaces such as in the crown of a fruit tree. In this situation, a pruning saw is recommended. However, when it comes to preparing small logs for the fire, a bow saw is hard to beat. Have a look at our article on firewood if you're unsure about what species of wood you can use on your open fire or woodstove.