Loppers are generally used for cutting larger stems and branches that are too big to cut with secateurs. These tools are operated with two hands and are available with a variety of handle lengths. Some have ratchet or gear mechanisms to make cutting easier.
As a general rule loppers can be used to cut stems and branches up to the thickness of your thumb. Branches larger than this should be cut using a pruning saw.
If you have some weakness in your hands or arms, the smaller types of loppers can be a useful alternative to secateurs. Using two hands to cut with loppers gives you twice the cutting power with half the effort.
Loppers are available with two types of blade:
Have two blades and work like a pair of scissors with the two blades passing each other to make the cut. They are suitable for cutting more delicate stems as the action is less likely to cause bruising to the stem.
Have one blade which closes on to a flat surface. They are better for cutting hard woody stems as the blade is less likely to stick to the stem as it cuts.
Using loppers can be made easier by choosing:
Ratchet action loppers
These loppers require less force to use because the ratchet mechanism allows you to cut gradually through the branch or stem. Each time you close the handles the mechanism clicks and holds the blades in place so you make gradual progress rather than having to cut in one go. Available only with anvil blades.
Power lever and geared loppers
These models feature a mechanical action that makes cutting through stems easier. They can be easier to use than ratchet loppers, as you don’t have to get used to the ratchet mechanism, and they are available with anvil or bypass blades.
These loppers, with anvil or bypass blades, have adjustable handles to give you extra reach.
When choosing adjustable loppers look for oval section rather than round tube handles. Oval tubing tends to be stronger and it is easier to adjust the handles using flip out levers or knobs on the end of the handles. Round tube handles are prone to bending which can jam the adjusting mechanism and to adjust the handles you have to twist and lock one tube against another - this can take some strength and may cause strain