By Adelaide Gray
Article 5 of 6
Secateurs are an essential part of any gardeners' kit and are constantly in use throughout the year. Find out how to choose a pair that's right for you and how to keep them in top condition.
How do I keep my secateurs sharp?
It’s worth giving your secateurs a bit of TLC, as they get so much use. Blunt secateurs are hard to cut with and will damage your plants. We test secateurs on hard wood and soft stringy stems.
We’ve sharpened three different types of secateurs on five sharpeners:
- Felco Sharpening Stone 902
- Felco Steel sharpening Stone 903
- Spear & Jackson Razorsharp Blade Sharpener
- Darlac Tungsten Sharpener
- Anysharp Edge Tool Sharpener
All of the sharpeners were easy to use, but the Felco sharpeners, which cost about £20 each, were best at putting an edge back on the secateur blades. If your Felco secateurs need a complete overhaul, for £20 you could send them for a full service by Burton McCall (the company that distributes Felco secateurs). We sent off a pair of well-used Felcos and they were returned within 10 days with new blades and a new spring.
- Sharpen your secateurs as soon as you notice they're not cutting cleanly.
- Sap will gum up the spring and corrode the blades of your secateurs, so clean them with soapy water after each use, dry them, and give them a spray of lubricating oil.
- If you’re cutting diseased plants, dip your secateurs in disinfectant before you move to another part of the garden.
- If your secateurs get wet, don’t delay drying the blades. Oil them or they will rust - the oil will keep the blades and spring working smoothly.
I've got a weak grip - what should I look for in a pair of secateurs?
If you have problems with your hands, you need to look for secateurs that are comfortable to hold and cut through stems easily. A strong spring, blunt blades and uncomfortable handles will tire your hand and make pruning a real chore.
Ratchet secateurs may provide a good solution - they make a cut in a number of stages and don't need so much strength to cut through thicker stems.
Geared or power-lever secateurs can also help, as you will need less effort to make a cut. Cordless powered secateurs are another alternative.
- Look for secateurs with a closed-loop handle at the bottom. They take less effort to hold.
- Choose light secateurs - a lot of models have moulded plastic handles that keep the weight down.
I've got small hands - what should I look for in a pair of secateurs?
The best way to choose secateurs is to actually get your hands on them; there is no guarantee that a 'small' pair of secateurs is suitable for a small hand.
Check that when the blades are open the span between the handles isn't too large. It will be a strain to use them if you're fighting with the spring to keep the handles together when you release them after a cut.
Check you can comfortably reach the safety catch - it's irritating to have to struggle to close the secateurs.
I'm left-handed - what should I look for in a pair of secateurs?
A lot of secateurs have the safety catch on top or centrally located, allowing you to reach it with your left hand.
But you can buy secateurs specifically for left-handed use, including Felco Model No 10 and Darlac's left-handed pruner.
Try out the secateurs before you buy them - even if the safety catch is in a convenient location that doesn't mean they will be comfortable in use.
I've heard a lot about Felco secateurs - what makes them special?
Felco produces classic quality secateurs, which are generally the choice of professionals. They have replaceable cutting blades, sturdy aluminium handles and come with a lifetime guarantee.
They are extremely popular, as they can be completely dismantled for maintenance and have a reputation for longevity - one pair of Felcos should last more than a lifetime.
What's different about Japanese secateurs?
- Japanese-steel blades are said to hold a keen edge for longer.
- The spring often resembles the spring from a clothes peg, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's weaker than other types of spring.
- Traditional Japanese secateurs often come with different-coloured handles - red and yellow, or red and white, for example. This is a rather nifty idea, as it means that during the day the red handle of the secateurs is easy to spot, while at night the white handle becomes more visible.
I keep losing the spring out of my secateurs - what can I do?
Losing the spring often spells the end of secateurs. Some brands offer a replacement service or sell replacements, but often when it's gone, it's gone.
If lost springs are an irritation for you, then you might like to try secateurs that have the spring held within the body.
I keep losing my secateurs - what can I do?
It's frustrating, but it's easy to lose your secateurs in the garden or throw them into the compost along with the garden waste.
- Look for a pair of secateurs that has a small loop built into the handle. You can use this for attaching a wrist band.
- Buy a holster for your secateurs. It will act as a good aid to memory, as well as giving you somewhere safe to keep them.
- Buy secateurs with colourful handles - yellow and red will stand out in the garden - or stick some colourful tape on them.