Have you ever really thought about scissors and pruning shears? You might be thinking, well, what’s there to think about? But these two tools are actually quite fascinating and, believe it or not, there is a big difference between the two. Let’s take a closer look.
What Are Scissors?
Whether you’re cutting up paper for a school project, trimming a bandage, or cutting someone’s hair, you’ve likely used a pair of scissors. Who hasn’t? But scissors are a lot more complex than you might think.
Scissors are hand tools used to cut thin objects and materials, like paper, cloth, rope, or hair. They consist of two metal blades, pivoted toward each other with handles on the end. When the handles are close, the blades come together, cutting the object in question.
You use different types of scissors for different tasks. For example, hair stylists use special scissors that have their blades angled in a way to cut through hair. If they use the wrong scissors, it could damage the client’s hair, leading to split ends and an unhappy customer. Nurses often use bandage scissors to trim bandages and remove dressings. These scissors have a sharp angle and a bottom blade with a flat point and edge so that it’s easy to side them against the skin and cut through bandages without poking or hurting the patient. You couldn’t use bandage scissors to cut hair, and you couldn’t use hair scissors to cut bandages.
When it comes to scissors, quality matters. Some modern scissors have ergonomically designed handles and are easy to work with for long periods. High-quality scissors have extremely sharp blades made of durable metal designed to last. If you have ever tried to use someone’s fabric scissors or hair cutting scissors to cut paper, now you know why they got so angry about it. High-quality pairs of scissors like these can easily be damaged or even destroyed by using them to cut rough materials.
Now that you know more about scissors, let’s take a closer look at pruning shears and the differences between them.
What Are Pruning Shears?
Technically, pruning shears are a type of scissors. They have the same general shape and design and operate in the same way. The big difference is in how you use them. Pruning shears are made to prune plants, and some of them are strong enough to cut through thin branches of trees and shrubs. Pruning shears are commonly used in gardening and farming and by florists, conservationists, and home gardeners.
There are a few types of pruning shears, each meant for a different job.
Anvil Pruning Shears
Anvil pruning shears have a single top blade. When the shears are engaged, it comes down onto a flat surface called the anvil. You use these garden shears to cut thick branches, the idea being that you cut in from one direction, then flip the shears over and come at it from the other side.
As you can imagine, cutting through branches takes a lot of force. The anvil part of these shears uses a softer material than the metal blade so that the blade doesn’t damage the anvil, and the anvil doesn’t dull or damage the blade when they come into contact. Some possible anvil materials include brass, bronze, or aluminum – still metal, just metal that is softer than the carbon or chromium steel blade.
Something special about anvil pruning shear is that it uses a special bearing that combines the draw of the blade with the force of the pressure from your hands to make the most of the shears. When you open the pruning shears, you will notice that the blade sticks out farther than the anvil. But, when you close the shears, they are even. This movement not only pushes the blade into the branch, but it also pulls the blade across the branch. The combination of these movements makes it easier to cut through the rugged material. This design also means that you don’t have to apply as much force on the shears to cut through thick stems and branches.
The one downside to anvil pruning shears is that they are a little rough on the branch they’re cutting. They crush more than cut due to the unique motion of the blade. For this reason, it’s best to use anvil pruning shears on dead branches.
Bypass Pruning Shears
Bypass pruning shears act just like a standard pair of scissors. They have two blades that bypass each other when cutting, which is how they got their name.
One thing that stands out about this type of pruning shears is that either the upper or lower blade is curved. That said, some bypass shears have only one sharp blade, with the other being more like an anvil. The big difference between this and an anvil pruner is that the sharp blade doesn’t meet the anvil. The two bypass each other, making for a cleaner cut.
Because bypass pruning shears make such a clean cut rather than crushing the material, they’re ideal for pruning live wood.
Types of Handles
One of the best things about pruning shears is that they come in multiple handle lengths, so you can choose one that’s suitable for the job. For example, you wouldn’t want to use the same pruning shears to trim a small bush as you would to remove a dead branch from a tree. Short-handled pruning shears give you a little more control so you can make precise cuts to shape and prune small growth. Long-handled shears are ideal for reaching branches in tall trees and quickly cutting through them.
Pruning shears typically have blades made of stainless steel or carbon steel, some with titanium coating. Each has its pros and cons.
Stainless steel has a coating, a layer of chromium oxide, which gives it remarkable resistance against corrosion. This characteristic is obviously important for shears that you use outside, in the garden, around rain and other water. The downside, though, is that they aren’t very durable. If you get a pair of pruning shears with stainless steel blades, you’ll need to replace them sooner than later.
Carbon steel blades, unsurprisingly, have a higher carbon content, which makes them extremely durable. Unfortunately, they do not stand up to corrosion very well, so they require regular maintenance to get the most life out of them as possible.
Another option is a steel blade with a titanium coating. Titanium helps even out the balance of durability and anti-corrosion. It’s stronger and more resistant to corrosion than steel, and it doesn’t weigh as much. As you sharpen the blade, the coating wears off the edge while protecting the rest of the metal.
Can You Use Scissors in Place of Pruning Shears and Vice Versa?
The short answer is no. No, you cannot use scissors in place of pruning shears or pruning shears in place of scissors.
Okay, technically, you probably can in some instances. Pruning shears are likely to cut through paper and cardboard pretty handily. But that doesn’t mean you should. Remember, using a pair of scissors on a material that they’re not meant to cut is a quick way to dull or damage the blade. If you invest in a nice pair of pruning shears for your garden, why would you want to dull them by using them elsewhere?
As far as scissors go, it doesn’t matter how tough your scissors are, they’re unlikely to be able to cut through a branch or even a small twig.
If you’re looking for a good pair of pruning shears, here are a few that we recommend:
These bypass pruning shears from gonicc feature a premium titanium blade and ergonomically designed handles so you can use them for long periods without hand pain. They’re designed to cut tree branches up to ¾-inch in diameter and have a special sap groove to prevent them from sticking.
Another option for branches up to ¾ inches in diameter is the EOutdoors ZEM Bypass Pruning Shears. The sharp blades are made of high carbon steel with an antitrust treatment to help prevent premature corrosion. A spring-loaded handle and unique handle make them easy to use, and the safety lock keeps them closed when not in use.
If you’re looking for a long-handled pair of anvil shears for tree branches, look no further than this product from Tabor Tools. The sharp blade is made of carbon steel, and the non-stick coating helps it glide through wood with ease. These shears can cut through branches up to 5 cm in diameter, and the long 76 cm handles and comfortable rubber grip make reaching into tall trees super easy.