From high-tech to centuries old, Paul Epsom has some great suggestions for choosing your next pair of pruners and how to maintain them.
Felco PrunersNo. 2: A favorite of nurserymen all over the world, the Felco No. 2 is Paul's classic choice. It has a sturdy construction and a very high-quality blade, is easy to use and maintain, and all its parts are replaceable. Retails for around $50.
Anvil PrunerThe classic anvil pruner is an old-fashioned design beloved of English rose growers. It will cut live wood up to 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Available from retailers nationwide and on the Internet for around $25.
Curved Fruit PrunerMade in Japan, this high-quality fruit pruner is a very handy tool to have in your pruning arsenal. Its excellent-quality steel blades are curved so you can get in and make a cut without inadvertently damaging any neighboring fruit with the blade. It's also great for all kinds of other pruning tasks.
Felco PrunersNo. 7: Designed primarily for the professional pruner who uses the tool constantly, this Felco model looks just like the No. 2, but has the additional feature of an ergonomical rotating handle for easier cutting. A similar model (No. 6) is also available for smaller or weaker hands.
Felco products are available from retailers nationwide and on the Internet.
Cut-and-Hold PrunersThe best flower is almost always the hardest one to get to, so these cut-and-hold pruners are the perfect tool for gathering beautiful blooms in hard-to-reach spots. These pruners simultaneously cut and grasp the stem, meaning you don't need an extra hand to collect your cutting, so you can steady yourself with the spare and avoid a prickly fall into the rose bush.
Sheep shearsA very old and traditional tool, Paul now recommends keeping them away from sheep and concentrating on light trimming chores like grass and flower bed edges. Its blades are self-sharpening, but use of this tool does require special caution.
How To Maintain Your Pruners
Once you've chosen the perfect pair of pruners, it's important to know how to maintain them, to ensure they last you many years. And of course a clean, sharp pair of pruners also makes for a crisper cut, which is healthier for your plants and trees. Here Paul offers some tips for cleaning and sharpening.
To properly clean pruners you'll have to take them apart, including the blades. This can seem a little daunting at first, but it's a good way to familiarize yourself with your tools, and any good set of pruners will come with instructions for taking them apart and putting them back together again.
Once you've got your pruners in pieces, you'll be able to see the sap and grime that collect in all the crevices, especially beneath the blades near the bearing. Over time this sticky build-up causes the blade to stiffen, preventing a quick, crisp cut. To get rid of the sap, scrub all the pieces with a scouring pad and some warm soapy water. Obviously, the more sap there is, the more scrubbing you'll have to do — but what you want is to bring back the blades' metallic shine.
After cleaning away all the sap, you're ready to reassemble your pruners. Refer to the instructions and/or diagram that came with your pruners if you forget what goes where.
Sharpening the Blade
The curved blade of a pair of bypass pruners can be a little tricky to sharpen with just a bare whetstone. Paul recommends a neat little gadget especially for sharpening shears and pruners, which has a plastic support piece that holds the stone at the proper angle to the blade. To sharpen, insert the stone into the support and just swivel it along the beveled edge of the blade. When you're finished, remove the support and take just a swipe or two with the stone on the flat back of the blade.
This is an important final step for maintaining a smooth cutting action on your pruners. Any general household lubricant will do, but one with a spray is easiest. Apply the lubricant to the central joint and work it in well by squeezing the pruners' handles several times.
Depending on how much you use your pruners, the spring tends to weaken over the course of a few years. If your spring has lost its tension, it's easy and worthwhile to replace it. New springs are generally available from the manufacturer of your pruners or from your local garden supply retailer.
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