If you need to cut a limb 3/4 inch thick or more, don’t risk damaging your hand pruner—reach for the loppers instead. Loppers are the larger version of hand pruners; they will take on any limb up to 2 inches in diameter.

Loppers are usually made in the bypass style, although the anvil style is also available. Use the bypass for finer close-to-the-trunk work; use the anvil type for less precise cutting.

Ratchet-action loppers are also available. These are cranked closed, like a car jack. The leverage they offer allows you to cut much larger branches.

Good cutting heads on bypass loppers are made from forged steel. Many are coated with Teflon to reduce blade friction in the wood. Anvil-type loppers are not forged, but the good ones have cutting edges that have been specially hardened and tempered.

A variety of handles is available. Straight-grained ash or hickory are the proven standbys. Solid steel handles provide great strength, but they increase the weight. Tubular steel handles are lighter but not as strong. Fiberglass handles are light and strong. Look for handles that have rubber cushions to absorb the shock when the loppers snap shut.

Bypass Lopper

This style of lopper has wood, steel, or fiberglass handles and a bypass cutting head made from forged steel or a chrome alloy steel for greater rust resistance. This is one of the most important pruning tools you can own.

Lengths range from 12 to 18 inches for medium-size loppers and 24 to 28 inches for larger ones. The longer handles provide more leverage in heavy cutting. The cutting head on bypass loppers is more pointed than on most anvil types, which enables it to work more easily in narrow spots among limbs.

Because bypass loppers cut closer to the trunk than do anvil pruners, no stub is left. For a smooth cut, place the cutting blade on the underside of the limb.

Anvil Lopper

In addition to the standard hinged action, which works as it does on pruning shears, the anvil lopper comes in two modified versions that provide more cutting power.

In the first version, the head contains a small set of gears that (according to manufacturers’ claims) provide up to three times more leverage for easier cutting. Because of the gears, the head is slightly wider than normal; thus, it won’t cut a branch flush with the trunk. Use this lopper for general and heavy pruning. Another type of anvil lopper with increased cutting power uses a ratchet action. The handles must be opened and shut several times to increase the ratchet-action power, so it takes more time to complete a cut. However, the cutting is easier to do. This is a good choice if you don’t feel physically strong enough for the heavier pruning.