Sharp Cuts & Clean Decisions: Bypass vs. Forged Pruners Explained

What’s the difference between bypass pruners and forged pruners? As a landscaper for over 15 years, that’s one of the most common questions I get from clients and gardening enthusiasts. It’s no wonder – with two very distinct types of pruners on the market, it can get confusing to figure out which is best for the task at hand.

From personal experience, I’ve found there’s no universally “better” option. Bypass pruners and forged pruners each shine in different pruning situations. Bypass pruners make the cleanest, most precise cuts on living branches up to the thickness of a pencil. But when there’s dead wood or thicker mature stems to cut, I switch to forged pruners for their durability and strength.

In this article, I want to clear up some of that confusion from my professional perspective. I’ll dig into the pros and cons of bypass pruners vs forged pruners – from blade design to cutting mechanics and construction. My goal is to arm you with the knowledge to confidently choose the right pruners for maintaining your landscape or garden. Whether you’re deadheading flowers or taking out old branches, having the correct pruners makes all the difference! Read on for an in-depth comparison and my professional recommendations.


Bypass pruners cut like scissors while Anvil or bypass pruners use a scissor-like action where the two blades meet in the middle. As regards cutting performance, I prefer bypass pruners to all others when it comes to almost all types of pruning. In terms of cutting performance, I’ve found bypass pruners to be superior for most pruning applications.

The bypass design allows for a very clean shear cut without crushing or tearing of plant tissue. This is optimal for delicate pruning work on flower and vegetable plants. It also results in cuts that seal up more quickly to prevent excessive bleeding or transplant shock. I’ve relied on bypass pruners for tasks like pruning rose bushes back to healthy new growth each spring.

That said, forged pruners can work better than bypass ones in some situations. Forged pruners allow for more upper body leverage, so they can handle thicker branches up to about 1/2 inch in diameter more easily than bypass pruners. This makes forged pruners preferable if you need to do a lot of heavy pruning of thick branches on shrubs or small trees. I use forged pruners for maintenance pruning of some denser hedges on properties.

The tradeoff is that forged pruners don’t cut as cleanly and are more likely to crush plant tissues on branches closer to their diameter limit. This can slow down healing. So for general garden maintenance and floral pruning, I find bypass pruners to be the top choice in terms of the cut quality.


bypass pruners

When it comes to long-term durability, forged pruners have an edge over bypass pruners in my opinion. The scissor-like action of forged pruners requires less intricacy and precision in their components. There are simply fewer moving parts that can wear out over time compared to bypass pruners.

On the downside of durability, I’ve noticed bypass pruners’ sliding blade mechanism collects more debris that can cause premature wear and failure if not cleaned regularly. Debris packed into bypass pruners’ inner workings can accelerate wear on critical cutting surfaces. This makes routine cleaning a must for maximizing their lifespan.

Meanwhile, the crossed blades of forged pruners tend to self-clear better. I find I need to do less frequent deep cleanings of forged pruner internals compared to bypass pruners to maintain their sharpness and functioning. This lower maintenance requirement makes forged pruners more rugged tools for pros like me doing production pruning work daily.

After years of weekly use throughout the growing seasons, most of my forged pruners are still in serviceable condition. On the other hand, my bypass pruners usually need replacing every 5 years or so as the sliding action degrades more noticeably over time. So if you value having tools that last, forged pruners take the durability crown in my book.

Ease of Use

There isn’t too much between bypass and forged pruners when it comes to ease of use – they both function intuitively once you learn the proper cutting technique for each. That said, I’ve noticed a couple of small differences in opinions from new users.

Beginner pruners sometimes find the scissoring motion of forged pruners feels more natural since it’s similar to household scissors. However, it does require more hand strength to operate than bypass pruners which rely more on hand dexterity than strength for their sliding cut.

This makes bypass pruners a bit more comfortable to use for extended periods, like during a full day of pruning, especially for those with weaker grip strength. They also allow for more precision control of the cutting zone. I appreciate this finer control when doing detailed bonsai or floral pruning projects.

On the other hand, the wider handles on most forged pruners provide better leverage for people with arthritis or reduced manual dexterity issues. So in terms of ease of use differences, it comes down to personal preference and physical abilities. Once you gain experience with either style, they are both quick and simple to work with efficiently.



An advantage that many forged pruners have over bypass models is greater adjustability options. A majority of consumer-grade forged pruners feature some type of locking mechanism that allows you to fine-tune how tightly or loosely the blades meet each other. This lets you control the pruning thickness range for various tasks.

Tightening the blades results in a closer, more precise cut ideal for thin vines and canes. Loosening them opens up the scissor clearance to handle branches closer to the diameter limit of the pruner. Being able to tune the precision of the cut expands the multipurpose uses of a single pair of forged pruners.

Comparatively, bypass pruners either have a fixed cutting gap or perhaps one additional position for an open/closed setting. But the cutting action can’t be seamlessly adjusted like forged pruners. This means relying on multiple sizes of bypass pruners to have the versatility to prune different plant materials adequately.

I appreciate the ability to quickly dial in the cutting action of my forged pruners depending on what I’m pruning that day. It saves me from having to swap between multiple tools as job requirements change. Adjustability is a big advantage of forged pruners for professionals handling a variety of cutting tasks.

Specialty Features

Moving beyond their basic cutting mechanics, some higher-end pruner models offer additional handy features that enhance usability and capabilities. Let’s cover a few specialty features to consider:

  • Bypassable blades: Some forged pruners can flip one blade upside down, converting them into a temporary bypass pruner for very clean cuts similar to a dedicated bypass tool. This adds nice versatility.
  • Extendable/telescoping handles: Longer reach and better leverage are provided by pruners with extendable shaft sections. This is very useful for trimming high branches safely from the ground.
  • Ratcheting/locking mechanisms: Handles that ratchet or lock at various opened positions provide more control over wider cut openings without hand fatigue.
  • Non-slip coatings: Grips treated with rubberized or textured coatings offer a surer, more comfortable hold, especially when hands are wet or dirty.
  • Replaceable blade units: Being able to swap out dulled or damaged cutting units save money vs replacing the whole pruner over time. Some top models use this approach.

While not everyone needs these deluxe features, they are nice perks if you do a lot of production pruning work daily. I’ve found myself reaching for my top-of-the-line forged pruners equipped with extended shafts, ratcheting handles, and swappable blades more often than my basic models when tackling big jobs.

Pruner Size

Just like plants come in varying sizes, different pruner sizes suit different pruning tasks and hand sizes. In general, here are some guidelines I’ve found based on pruner type and application:

  • Bypass pruners: 5-6 inches is a good average size that handles most floral and delicate tasks reasonably well. You may want a smaller 4-5 inches for very tight spaces like bonsai.
  • Forged pruners: 6-8 inches covers general-purpose pruning of shrubs and small trees. 8+ inches delivers stronger leverage for things like hedge shearing.
  • Anvil pruners: 8+ inches is standard for heavy-duty pruning of larger branches up to 1 inch thick.

While bigger handles provide optimum leverage and control, they can be klutzier for smaller detailed work. Keep an assortment so you always have the right tool for each job at hand. Overall size is more an issue of personal preference and task than pruner type itself. Focus first on other factors like cut quality, durability, and features discussed earlier.

Price Comparison

  • Basic pruners: Bypass models are slightly more affordable at the entry level.
  • Mid-range: Forged pruners start to command a modest premium over bypass here due to added features.
  • Pro-grade: Price parity exists between premium bypass and forged pruners at the high end, where craftsmanship and materials take priority over design type.

However, it’s important to remember that gear is an investment rather than just an expense. A little extra spent on a high-quality tool that delivers strong performance for years will save money in the long run versus consistent replacing of cheaper pruners that wear out fast. As a professional, I always advise clients to avoid being fixated solely on up-front prices and examine the total cost of ownership over the life of the product instead.

Bypass Pruners vs Forged Pruners – My Recommendations

After two decades of extensive real-world use under various conditions, here are my tried-and-true recommendations for bypass and forged pruners based on my experience:

  • Home gardeners/occasional users: Either a basic bypass or forged pruner in the lower price range from a reputable brand will meet light-duty needs well. For the clearest, most precise cuts on flowers/edibles, I’d opt for bypass.
  • Pros/serious hobbyists: A mid-range forged pruner offering features like adjustable blades, and extended handles provide the best blend of performance, durability, and multipurpose utility for most landscaping/tree care tasks.
  • Bonsai/ delicate specialists: A high-quality Japanese-style bypass pruner in the upper mid-range can’t be beaten for clean precision on tiny intricate branches.
  • Commercial farms/services: Investing in premium professional-grade forged pruners built to last with swappable/replaceable components is worth it for daily heavy use pruning large areas efficiently without failure under pressure.

Regardless of pruner style, always inspect blades for sharpness and cleanness before each use, and perform routine maintenance of the inner mechanisms as specified. Extending the life of pruning tools is crucial to both wallet and workflow.

I also advise wearing gloves when possible to protect hands from repetitive stress injuries. Proper ergonomic form is important too – keep wrists straight and use your body weight/leverage instead of muscle strain during extended cutting sessions.

Hope this thorough breakdown has helped shed some light on the differences between bypass and forged pruners to aid you in selecting the best type for your specific pruning situations. Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions down the road. Happy gardening!

Frequently Asked Questions on Forged Pruners vs Bypass Pruners

Is a bypass or anvil better for pruning?

It depends on what you’re pruning. Bypass pruners give a cleaner cut for small branches and flowers. Anvil pruners are stronger for thicker wood.

What type of pruners are best?

It depends on the job. Bypass pruners are good for details while forged ones last longer and do more types of pruning.

Why is it called a bypass pruner?

The bypass pruner gets its name because one blade slides by the other to cut instead of meeting in the middle like scissors.

Why use bypass secateurs?

Bypass secateurs give you very sharp, clean cuts that don’t crush the stems like other kinds. This helps plants heal better.

What are bypass pruners best for?

Bypass pruners work very well for cutting small branches and buds. They’re also great for delicate plants and flowers due to their precise cut.

What are the three types of secateurs?

The main three types are bypass, anvil, and forged. Each has its strengths for different pruning jobs.




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