How To Use A Lopper – The Ultimate Guide

If you are looking for information on how to use a lopper, then you would know by now that loppers are similar to pruning shears with long handles. The tool is maneuvered using both hands and the handles are usually from 12 inches to 36 inches long to provide adequate leverage. Some loppers have telescopic handles, i.e. they are extendable. These tools are primarily used for pruning tree branches of up to 2 inches in diameter. In this article, we take a detailed look into how to use a lopper, along with some other basics and comparisons among the different types.

Initially, it might take some effort to use a lopper properly. But you can get a hang of it pretty quickly, if used regularly. The tricky part is to handle the tool with ease while making a precise cut simultaneously. While there are several types of loppers in the market presently, the basic two types are bypass and anvil loppers. In bypass loppers, the two curved blades do not meet at one point; the cutting blade ‘bypasses’ the counter blade, somewhat like scissors. While in anvil loppers, the cutting blade meets the ‘anvil’.

​How To use a lopper

To use a lopper, first determine which branches you need to get rid of and the exact location of the cut. Try to avoid cutting too close to the trunk.

After deciding on the location, align the blade with that spot. The cutting blade tends to move at an angle and usually lands 0.25 inches away from the cutting site. So position the blade 0.25 inches away from the exact point of interest.

Then open the blades and place them in such a way so that the branch is placed deep inside. Once done, bite the wood with the blades and close the handles with ample force so as to make a sharp, clean cut. And you are done!

Regardless of the type of lopper, the basic method to use one is the same. Make sure your tool has sharp blades with strong handles and that you locate it properly before every cut. Otherwise, multiple trial and error pruning will result in inefficient cuts and fatigued hands.

How to pick the right tool for pruning

The correct tool for pruning depends on the task itself; there is no correct answer. A wide range of pruning tools exist based on the type of twigs or branches you need to cut. Using correct tools will not only be beneficial to the plant, it will improve your gardening techniques as well.

Hedge shears are basically giant scissors that make large, wide cuts. They are appropriate for defining hedge shapes and topiary works. Pruning woody branches using hedge shears are not recommended, but they are perfect for soft, slender and green growths.

Loppers are meant to cut branches ranging from 0.5 to 2 inches. The length of the handles regulates the leverage you can get while working. According to basic physics, longer handles means you would have to apply lesser force, making the job easier. As mentioned earlier, the basic two types of loppers include bypass and anvil.

Bypass loppers are useful for pruning thinner twigs and clearing out overgrown trees and bushes. As they tend to cut like scissors, these loppers prune as delicately as possible. They are ideal for pruning live growth and for twigs up to 0.75 inch diameter. Check out our article on the top bypass loppers trending now.

Anvil loppers are designed to make larger cuts. The cutting mechanism involves the cutting blade pressing down on a flat surface (the anvil) which results in the branch to be crushed. If you intend to simply clean up a growth and discard the limbs after pruning, then these loppers are fitting. But if you want to enhance growth of plant, it is better not to put such pressure on the limbs. Also, since the blades need to open up further to fit around a branch, anvil loppers don’t fit in tight spaces. Therefore, these loppers would be best for pruning thick (over 0.75 inch diameter) and widely spaced branches.

Ratchet loppers or pruners are another advanced version of loppers and can be either bypass or anvil. These use ratcheting action to boost the force of your cut. The mechanism also enables you to make several small cuts without opening up the blades for each cut. After fully opening up the blades, they cut deeper on the limb on every squeeze and can tackle branches of up to 1 inch in diameter. Ratchet loppers are especially useful for individuals with arthritis or any other orthopedic conditions.

Pruning saws or Pole saws are the ones you need for pruning thick limbs or branches and for those hanging way above reach. These tools can come with various attachments whose usage depends on the branch thickness. They have longer handles, or poles, than traditional loppers or pruners, so the weight of these saws vary accordingly. Choose the correct model depending on your physical built and the type of trees you intend to prune.

Bypass lopper vs. anvil lopper

As mentioned earlier, the main difference between the two lies in the cutting mechanisms. Bypass loppers are much gentler on the plant it works on while anvil loppers crush the branches while cutting.

The former delivers clean cuts ideal for live vegetation due to the bypassing blades. This is particularly beneficial since these cuts create smaller surface wounds, making it less stressful for the plant to heal. Bypass loppers also enables cutting at an angle, which means there is no subsequent nubs or lumps. This means the end result is much neater and appealing.

The latter cuts using force between the two surfaces, due to which the surface wound is larger – meaning more stress and more wound to heal for a live vegetation. Anvil loppers are ideal for quickly clearing off large areas of dead growth or limbs that are chipping and hauling. When tenderness and precision is not the requisite, then these type of loppers are the pruning correct tools.

Bypass lopper vs. hedge shears

As mentioned above, bypass loppers have bypassing blades and are ideal for pruning thin limbs of live growths. Similarly, hedge shears, being oversized pruning scissors really, are meant for soft, green growths as well. The difference lies in the handling and precision.

Bypass loppers have longer handles and smaller cutting area than hedge shears. This enables the loppers to cut limbs that are beyond normal reach and to prune growths precisely – one or two limbs at a time.

Contrarily, hedge shears have shorter handles and longer cutting blades. They are meant for cuttings that are easier to reach and that don’t involve as much accuracy. While these shears can certainly be used for specifically pruning one or two twigs at a time, they can also tidy up overgrown foliage of shrubs and hedges in order to define desired boundaries or shapes (as in topiary), which bypass loppers cannot do.

How to sharpen a bypass lopper

1) Dismantle the tool using a wrench. Loosen the bolts that hold the two blades together by turning them counter-clockwise with the correct sized wrench. Use any lubricant to help undoing stubborn bolts. Once the blades come apart, keep them aside.

2) Clean both the blades using a brush. Scrub off the dirt or build-up from the surfaces, followed by wiping everything with a damp cloth. Finish up by giving another wipe but this time with a dry cloth.

3) Work with one blade at a time. Place the cutting blade section against a flat work surface in a way so that the blade extends beyond the edge of the work surface.

4) Sharpen the blade starting from the base and moving towards the tip. With a flat metal file or sharpening tone, start filing using downward motions away from your body. Maintain a steady angle while sharpening. Using varying angles will smoothen the cutting edge and render the blade dull instead of sharp. Continue honing the blade until you reach a satisfactory edge.

5) Repeat the same process with the other blade.

6) Reassemble the lopper by first aligning the two blades as they were initially, followed by inserting the bolts through them. Tighten them in place firmly using the wrench. Then, unscrew the bolt gradually using quarter turns, until they are just loose enough to open the blades. At this point, the blades should slightly grind when pushed closed – this indicates proper alignment. If they close too smoothly, the alignment is incorrect with bolts too loose.

The steps mentioned above outline ​a general method. This could or could not be apt for your specific lopper. Like any other tool, read the instructions on the package carefully before starting the process to avoid damaging the tool. If your lopper calls for any other method or product to be used for sharpening, follow that.

The blades can be sharpened without disassembling the ​tool as well, but it is recommended to take it apart entirely for better results, ease and safety. Moreover, there are several cleaning products available at the market today, that you can use to clean the blades, if not mentioned otherwise in the product packaging.

Check out the following video for a demo:​

Maintenance tips

Like every other tool, loppers need some basic maintenance too. It is quite simple to follow and will help your tool retain a good shape.

After every use, no matter how small the task, clean the blades with a dry cloth to prevent accumulation of sap or sawdust.

After cleaning, apply a thin layer of oil or lubricant and wipe off the excess with a cloth. This will prevent rusting over time.

Check that the blades are sharp and rust free regularly, sharpening them as the need arises. Using dull and rusty bladed loppers would be futile for the plant as well as yourself.

Simply put - clean, lubricate and sharpen. That’s all there is to it.


Do you own any of the hoses mentioned here? Did you choose a different one? Let us know in the comments!

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