Written by Terry Smith

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Best secateurs [UK]:Bypass, ratchet, and anvil secateurs compared for cutting brambles and small tree branches

This article was last updated on April 23rd, 2022 at 4:44 am

I was just in the garden today with my secateurs pruning a lovely Birch (it’s always better to prune trees away from Summer as they’ll bleed less now) and it occurred to me I haven’t updated this article for a while and since I had some larger branches I needed the garden loppers too so I should update that as well. One of the most interesting things I found was just how far secateurs have come since I bought mine. It’s interesting though, despite being old tech the FELCO Model 2 Secateurs are still absolutely top bypass secateurs for me by miles in this price range, so I’ll leave them as my top pick (certainly for bypass secateurs anyway). But that doesn’t mean they are the best for you (you might want no6 Felco if your hands are smaller).

Some will cut 19mm, others 25mm. And how difficult the cut varies tremendously too. This is decided by quality of blade and style of secateur. The main types being ratchet, bypass, and anvil. I prefer the more standard looking bypass that are high quality. But to help you understand the difference please read further below.

How to pick the right secateurs for you

Firstly you need to understand what type of secateur you need. If you’re cutting hard woody material up to an inch you’ll want a quality pair of ratchet secateurs, or if strong hands, bypass secateurs. Smaller buds, greenery, plants, or lightish pruning work would definitely lean you toward bypass secateurs as these slice cleanly and don’t damage the plant you’re cutting assuming the blades razor sharp as it should be.

If you’re looking to cut thick dead wood, or thick branches that you don’t mind damaging then you want anvil secateurs. This is because anvil secateurs actually crush rather than cut. Knowing that, it’s worth reading the sections below for more in depth information:

My picks for the best secateurs in the UK:

  1. FELCO Model 2 Secateurs (Large)Best bypass secateurs for professionals and serious enthusiasts. Must have.
  2. Wilkinson Sword JNS_405126 Aluminium Bypass Pruner – Best alternative bypass secateurs
  3. Spear and Jackson 6358RS Razorsharp Ratchet Anvil Secateurs – Strongest ratchet secateurs for sensible money.
  4. Spear and Jackson 6758GS Razorsharp Geared Anvil Secateurs – Best overall anvil secateurs, must have for tasks like pruning roses and other shrubs
  5. Davaon Pro 2-in-1 Secateurs with Switch Mechanism – Ratchet and Single-Cut-Mode for Up to 5 Times More Cutting Power
  6. JEOutdoors ZEM Pruning Shears – Cheapest decent quality bypass secateurs in the UK
  7. Fiskars Bypass Gardening Shears with Rolling Handle for Fresh Branches and Twigs
  8. Spear & Jackson Razorsharp Professional Heavy Duty Bypass Secateur

What are bypass secateurs used for?

The easiest way to describe bypass secateurs would be to say it’s in the name. The blade pass each other. Assuming they are sharp (there are plenty of blade sharpeners if you invest in a really decent set like the Felco Model 2 Secateurs I personally use commercially) , they are my favourite type of snips because they can cut as much as ratchet secateurs but generally I can push through one inch material with a good firm squeeze on the handles. Also, it’s a good time to mention if you go for a value set of bypass secateurs (of which there are some really good options in this review) then you won’t get anywhere near the same cut power as ratchet.

If you’re looking to cut living plants or trees then you want to use bypass secateurs as they offer a far cleaner cut than anvil secateurs. You do not really want to cut dead wood with these as they have a tendency to roll the wood and force / bend the blades apart. Don’t worry, if you need a set of cutters for this best read the Anvil cutters section.

Here’s a useful video that clears this up from Stihl forwarded to the point you don’t waste any time:

What are ratchet secateurs used for?

Want to cut something like a Buddleia, bamboo canes, or matured hedges but haven’t got much hand strength anymore? These are almost certainly the tool for you. Some ratchet secateurs are essentially geared up to reduce cut force five times! You get Ratchet secateurs in both bypass and anvil style. You really want the ratchet style anvil for the heaviest dead wood and thick branches.

I’ve got a bit of arthritis in my hand that flares up occasionally. Part of that I would attribute to how hard I’ve worked my hands with hand tools, and one of those being my bypass secateurs incidentally. Ratchet secateurs are essentially geared secateurs that are trapped by a ratchet cog as you progress through a branch. So it allows you to pump steadily to produce an easier cut. Whilst I love this, they are slower than bypass so if I am trying to rip through a pruning job I normally don’t use them. That doesn’t mean to say you’re in a rush though!

Watch how easily you can cut a Buddleia that’s three quarters of an inch thick, sorry about the sales video but it is a super example where I’ve set the video of just how little force is required when using this type of secateur:

What are Anvil Secateurs used for?

As I mentioned above briefly you want anvil secateurs for dead wood and plants generally. They have the distinct advantage of generating more power on the cut but at a cost of cut quality. You crush the wood or plant rather than cut. This means if you’re trimming or pruning a plant you love, do not use these secateurs on them at all costs!

However, if you’re cutting old dead wood or a shrub you don’t care about then these are ideal, they’ll even help generate enough cut force to go through bamboo up to an inch or so if it’s a quality set of Anvil secateurs.

Top picks for secateurs in the UK full reviews:

I’m going to say this clear and simple. FELCO Model 2 Secateurs are the best bypass secateurs at this price range, I’ve used in my life, ever. No set will stand up to these for longevity, blade edge retention, or how well they stay together and the blades don’t bend. Take a look at the state of them:

Felco Model 2 Secateurs – still going strong and as new

I tell you want I have to do with these every once in a while – a bit of a wipe off, run my sharpener around the edge of the blade, and a squirt of WD-40. That’s it until the next time we meet!

Before I get going on what I really like or dislike, I want to show you their demo video of it cutting nicely – this is no sales gimmick, brand new out the box and for a long while after you’ll cut half inch wood and up with very minimal effort:

I also just want to point out, I am only reviewing one set of Felco in this review and if your hands are small then opt for the no 6 Felco instead of these. When you follow the links you’ll see you can swap to no6 on Amazon for a medium sized Felco (ideal for the wife as the no2 I have are too big for her). Otherwise we will be here all day talking about Felco which doesn’t seem like much of an unbiased review to me!

These have always been brilliant for as long as I can remember, I’ve had them for fifteen years but I am pretty sure they date back to just after WW2. The Swiss made blades remind me of the quality of a Swiss army knife. They just like make good blades that hold their edge. Let’s start with wire cutting. If you open up the blade fully you’ll see a little notch. This is purpose designed for cutting wire but make absolutely sure the wire is in the groove when you cut or you’ll damage the blade badly, even if you get it wrong once! Here’s that notch:

Felco model 2 wire cutting notch is a handy addition

Whilst you’re looking at the picture above you can see the screw. This will adjust the position between the two blades giving you a choice on how wide these open essentially. The little clasp holds the blades into a fixed position with a firm flick and then the opposite way to open again. The spring works great and will just keep pushing back open for cut after cut.

Felco pride themselves on the fact this set of secateurs dismantles and is put back together with ease. This is great for sharpening the blades on a stone from time to time but apart from cleaning, I’ve never seen a reason to have them apart – my blades are still original years on!

I could waste your time telling you how they cut beautifully like a hot knife through butter, what it really boils down to is do you want to invest a fair bit of money in secateurs that can be bought for a fraction of the price and work well for occasional users? I’d suggest at least taking the time to check my alternative picks for value for money.

The only actual fault I can find with these is the fact that there appears to be rumours of a few fakes being distributed. Felco are naturally seriously not happy about this and have taken the time to produce a video to show you what to look for. Once they arrive I suggest following the link below to check they are genuine Felco:

Pros:

  • Precision made hardened blades
  • Blades can be removed and replaced (not that I ever have in years)
  • Centre cog gives accurate adjustment of how far blades are apart for comfortable cut
  • Wire cutter notch a real bonus

Cons:

  • Some fakes
  • Price well up there for secateurs

I absolutely love Wilkinson Sword because they always give a cracking balance of quality and price. I only just reviewed their garden saw which took top spot. And ironically, these would have taken top spot if not for the Felco 2 model. However, with that said, if the Felco 2 are out of stock or you’re an occasional user of secateurs looking for a bargain, these are definitely the best alternative available in my opinion and if you’re left handed then they are the best as they reverse.

These used to be called Wilkinson Sword 1111141W but for some reason since I reviewed these some years ago they’ve changed the name to JNS_405126. After throughly back checking, this is the case and I’m not sure why the name change when the product hasn’t updated much.

Wilkinson Sword bypass secateurs

So being a fraction of the price of the top pick you would expect some drop in performance and in terms of cut yes, you will cut smaller branches. But how easily you cut while the blades in top condition: practically identical. They’ll cut medium sized branches with no fuss at all up to three quarters of an inch, nice and clean. If you’re looking at work like Roses or similar then these will cut all day long, cleanly too.

What is more interesting, given they are so cheap compared to Felco, you expect they will be a plastic handle. but the metal runs right through. Actually as usual. Wilkinson are producing serious quality under priced! Having the safety catch under the lower grip is easy to use and brings left handed people into play too. Pretty well thought out, is an understatement!

The Wilkinson Sword aluminium bypass pruners have been made with a centralised catch, meaning that they can be used in either the left or right hand.

The handle is comfortable to hold and these weigh the same as the top Felco. There’s not much more worth adding other than these are a really genuine quality alternative to the Felco 2 when compared directly given the significant cost advantage.

I’ve noticed there’s been a bit of a stink online kicked up about the spring falling off, rusting, or not working. If you get a faulty one then be sure to send them straight back as the warranty will cover you. If Wilkinson could address that one little issue which doesn’t affect the cut at all, they may have the best overall on their hands come my future update!

Pros:

  • Can be used in the left or right hand
  • Very sharp carbon steel blades
  • Nonstick coating
  • 20mm cutting width
  • Lightweight with aluminium body
  • Excellent value for money

Cons:

  • Smaller cut size than Felco
  • Can’t adjust how wide the blades open
  • Spring can be temperamental

I really like these ratchet secateurs for a number if reasons. Firstly, the pressure applied to cutting translates into one of the easiest cuts of thicker wood possible. Being ratcheted, or geared if you like, you pull more and it makes a smaller cut into wood, but the ratcheting allows you to piece meal cut through the bigger branches and wood. Don’t think the lower prices mean less quality, these are sharpen-able blades and the scouters are really designed to last!

Before I go any further, here’s their demo of this model and how it cuts. I’ve started the video where it gets interesting:

So what you’re going to like about these cutters when first holding is the size, they are as close to one size fits all as you’ll get but small hands may still struggle a little. Fully open you have about 5 inch span which is on the large side for small hands but manageable. The rotating lower handle gives you a decent grip without re-adjusting, especially on larger branches and bramble which makes the span more manageable. If you’re struggling with sizes and want smaller this time round, I would definitely take a look at my next review 😉 It’s catch 22 though, the huge cut power is generated by leverage (i.e having you hands set back as far as you possibly can).

The blades are PTFE coated (this is a fluorocarbon coating designed to stop water penetration) but eventually they’ll rust like all secateurs if you don’t give them a wipe down and a squirt of oil every time they get wet.

The locking catch painted looks a bit plastic but it’s not, it’s definitely metal and holds in place well.

Reading a few disgruntled people online, if you get unlucky then you’ll get a pair with a blade that breaks straight off the bat. When you closely you’ll realise this was a poor heat treat and if this doesn’t happen almost instantly on your first three quarter inch green branch then you know you’re good to go and have a quality pair. I will say this is a limited number considering the thousands that are sold, there’s a handful of people with this issue but still worth a mention in case it happens to you and you don’t know why…

Overall these are a solid well prices ratchet secateur with an anvil style. Definitely worth a buy in my opinion if you’re looking for a serious cutter with plenty of power at sensible money. If you’re left handed you want the 6459BS Razorsharp version of these.

Pros:

  • Great at cutting large green branches and mature hedges
  • Lovely geared ratchet makes tough cuts easy
  • Rotating handle is a big plus
  • Very well priced or the power

Cons:

  • A few have poorly heat treated blades and will require replacement
  • Small hands may struggle
  • Not for left handers – instead look at the 6459BS Razorsharp as it’s comparable.

I didn’t want to turn this into a bias review, merely running off a long list of Felco for each of the ratchet, bypass, and anvil cutters and now I’ve included two Spear & Jackson in a row 😀

They deserve it though. These geared anvil cutters are not the biggest and so ideal for small hands or those with a weaker grip with the scissor style handle and will still be able to cut over half an inch with east. If you want to trim up roses, or cut back tree shoots and bramble, these will work lovely whilst still comfortable in the hand. Be very clear though, these are not hugely robust ratchet cutters, they are geared. If you want out and out brute force cutters see the 6358RS Razorsharp Ratchet review for sure or even consider garden loppers if your hands aren’t strong enough for big secateurs.

Like the previous Spear & Jackson the blades come with a protective coat but again, they’ll need lubricating or they will rust. This is true of any garden hand tool. But what really works for me on these is the locking mechanism.

Spear & Jackson are makers of award winning tools. They are well known for producing products of excellent quality and innovation. These secateurs are no exception and can be yours for £16.50.
 As the name implies, one of the biggest draws of these pruners is their ability to cut through thick branches and also keep a razor sharp edge for a long time. This is because of the material used to construct the blades – SK5 carbon steel that has been PTFE coated. This coating also makes them rust resistant.
 Like our previous review, the placement of the locking catch allows this tool to be used by both left and right handed people, and the ergonomic design of the aluminium body and handles fits comfortably in your hand.

Some have complained as you would expect over tens of thousands of sales, that the gearing isn’t up to scratch or they go blunt fast. Perhaps these are duds because this isn’t my experience. In any event returns are pretty straight forward. The average buyer won’t be disappointed.

Pros:

  • Perfect for small hands
  • Very sharp secateurs that hold sharpness well from new
  • Coated blades to make them rust resistant
  • Can be used by left handers as well
  • Comfortable ergonomic design
  • Geared cutting action
  • Sensible pricing

Cons:

  • Can’t cut massive branches like the Felco or Wilkinson
  • Few QC issues with poor quality making it to the shop

If you’re looking for all round power and a quick cut then Davaon might well be what you want. You can use the ratchet system which will help you cut through thicker branches of up to almost an inch. How it works is, every time you squeeze the handles, the tool clicks and holds into that position, allowing you to rest your hand and then apply pressure again, and again, up to 5 times, essentially multiplying your natural power.
 If you’re going at smaller bits then you can switch to no ratchet which will speed up your cutting process considerably. For smaller branches, you can literally flick a switch and change the tool into single cut mode and it acts like any standard pruner.

This makes it a good addition to your toolkit, especially if you are a smaller person with limited hand strength or have some injury or disability limiting you combined with one more able bodied person, you can definitely share these! .
 With Teflon coated, heat treated carbon steel blades and an aluminium body keeping the tool lightweight and easy to handle, this product is a steal at the current price.

For the bad bits, I would say being an all rounder they are good at everything, but not the best at each. So not the best cutting thick wood but still very good, and not the best at cutting green branches up to an inch but not the best. I read somewhere online someone was upset these are no good for fine cutting like clematis. I’m afraid she has completely the wrong shears, anvil are crushers, not cutters. So make sure you realise you’re buying these for excellent mid range power and a quick speed if if you don’t need the ratchet on smaller branches!

Pros:

  • Ratchet mode increases your hand power for clipping thicker branches
  • Can switch to single cut mode for thinner branches
  • Heat treated carbon steel blades for long lasting sharpness
  • Ergonomic body made from strong and light aluminium
  • Blades coated with Teflon for non-stick properties
  • Super price

Cons:

  • Not the very best cutters of thick branches
  • Jack of all trades means its a good ish all rounder but not up to Felco for example

Designed to be used for general pruning such as clipping rose stems, these secateurs are lightweight and sit nicely in your hand.
 When I first reviewed these a few years ago they were already popular, now they are almost an Amazon best seller and for good reason when price and quality are considered. They make a great alternative cheaper option to the Felco and Wilkinson bypass secateurs. The seller lists them as professional. I’m not sure I agree with that at all. Good value – yes, sharp – yes, easy to use – yes, professional – no, they are not built to last forever like a £40 plus set.

What you get for the cheapest bypass secateurs that actually work well cutting green wood up to three quarters of an inch is very good. You get a basic and traditional handle design with sharp blades:

JEOutdoors ZEM Pruning Shears very sharp

You get a nice quality safety catch and really good traditional spring. You’ll not you get a spare spring and I would say that’s a smart move or these secateurs would not be rated anywhere near so highly. It’s a reasonably common failure point but it is what it is and you get what you pay for! The spring itself works great and the safety is a nice and big clip so really easy to operate whilst wearing gloves.

JEOutdoors ZEM Pruning Shears easy to use safety and sturdy spring

Being pretty light is an advantage too considering these will deal with mid range stuff like roses or well established nettles comfortably. If I had any complaint it would be they do look like they could use a bit of extra grip on the lower handle. In fact some complained about slipping. I know gloves are a pain but I can’t remember a time I’ve used secateurs without gardening gloves now. If you get the Viridescent gloves you won’t feel too hindered. It’s just too easy to have an accident.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Carbon alloy steel blades
  • Spring loaded handles allow you to use for a long time without aches
  • Low price but nice quality

Cons:

  • Spring fails
  • Lifetime warranty is limited

Fiskars Bypass Gardening Shears pruners are made to a high quality in Finland. When I first reviewed these secateurs they called them Fiskars PowerGear X. The name has changed but I don’t see much difference on the tool itself except they are now rated for a smaller cut. Previously they were 26mm and now they and 20mm. it appears they’ve downrated the cut diameter of all their secateurs, perhaps they would be willing to shed some light on this but I presume it certainly helps to handle customer expectations.

These are pretty similar to the Spear and Jackson that have the rotating handle. These roll to give that comfortable cut too and I really do think it helps, especially on the bigger cuts. The rack and pinion system helps to increase cut power by up to three times. If you’re not quite sure what that is let he help. Have you ever seen a serrated cog that runs on a serrated track and locks in as it spins. They are super common in watches.

As far as cutting performance goes you get what you pay for. They are great in the hand. If you want some light weight, sleek cutters to do a bit of pruning in comfort and leave your plants with minimal damage then these are super. It just boils down to whether you think they are worth the money. I also don’t like the fact the cutting mechanism has a cover. This means if moisture gets behind or debris then maintenance isn’t so easy.

Pros:

  • High quality tool
  • Rotating handle provides cutting assistance
  • Rack and pinion system to help transmit force
  • Anti-shock fibre comp handles
  • High quality steel blades can be removed easily
  • Sleek and ergonomic design

Cons:

  • Expensive as Felco
  • For the price, limited thickness of cut
  • Not as robust as I’d like

Our final review is another Spear & Jackson product, only this time it’s a bypass secateurs.
 These secateurs are from the same ‘Razor sharp’ range as our other Spear and Jackson product review and so it shares a lot of its features, such as high carbon steel blades for keeping a super sharp edge for longer, and forged aluminium body with rubber shock absorbers to keep the weight low while remaining strong and durable.

The blades on this model also have a cutting notch for thicker stems and a sap groove for easing cleaning. The blade tension can also be adjusted.
 Cutting width is selectable from either wide or narrow by using the two step locking catch. The wide setting will allow you to cut branches around an inch in diameter which is right up there with Felco (don’t they look a lot like the Felco no4).

This tool is incredibly well made and comes with a 10 year guarantee on paper but I’ve seen first hand the seller refusing guarantees. You’ll need to keep the safety screw tight as well or this becomes loose and randomly engages when you don’t want it. Overall though its a good buy and worth of the top UK secatuers.

Pros:

  • 2 cutting width settings
  • High carbon steel blade for sharpness
  • Forged aluminium handles with shock absorbers
  • Cutting notch and sap groove on blade
  • Adjustable blade tension
  • 10 year guarantee

Cons:

  • Dubious ten year guarantee
  • Locking pin comes loose

Why buy a set of garden secateurs?

Garden secateurs make extremely light work of bushes, shrubs, and roses. If you’re looking to accurately cut back your garden, then a set of secateurs is an essential piece of equipment. The best garden secateurs are extremely sharp and have comfortable handles that allow for ease of use with or without gardeners gloves. They should also retain a sharp blade. The ratchet return mechanism should be smooth and user friendly on release and your secateurs should have no problem cutting through reasonably thick branches. Based on those characteristics I have reviewed the best secateurs to save you time.

If you’re growing any type of plants, whether it be hedges, bushes, roses, or anything else, at some point you will need to trim them back to keep your garden healthy and not looking like an overgrown mess, whilst a hedge trimmer works wonders. it doesn’t give you much in the way of accuracy. This is where secateurs come in, you could also use garden shears for lighter shrub and garden loppers if it is thick branches.
 Secateurs, also called pruning clippers come in two distinct styles – anvil and bypass.
 Anvil secateurs have a cutting platform and a blade. The blade is brought down on the blunter platform to cut whatever is placed there.
 Bypass style secateurs work very much in the same way as scissors, with two blades that pass by each other and cut the material between them as they go.
 As with any bladed hand tool it’s very important that you keep them sharp in order for them to work properly, and this is certainly the case with anvil type secateurs, due to their one blade design.
 These tools come in a wide range of sizes and you should think about what size would suit your hands best. There are also secateurs with extra features such as ratchet mechanisms that can help you clip tougher branches by allowing you to use multiple squeezes to get the job done, it’s worth considering a garden saw if it’s too extreme for your secateurs.

How to sharpen secateurs?

There are two ways to sharpen secateurs, firstly take a diamond honing stone and aim directly at the blade, you can generally reach the whole blade this way but the better way is to remove the central fixing, and sharpen them in exactly the same way that you would sharpen a wood chisel with a block stone. A handy tip In case you’re not sure please take a look at this handy video:

Wrapping up the secateurs review

Well, that wraps up this article and reviews for the best secateurs in the UK. Our aim with these pages is to provide a little bit of assistance to gardeners ,new and old, in picking the best products for their needs, and we hope we have done a satisfactory job.
If you wish to see more pictures of any of our featured products, want to see the specifications in more detail, or you want to read customer reviews, simply click on the links we have provided for you. 
Please take the time to view or other pages where we have reviewed other gardening products.


About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from gardentoolbox.co.uk, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message: info@gardentoolbox.co.uk

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