Small Jobs vs. Big Branches: Bypass Pruners vs. Loppers Explained (Simply!)

As a professional landscaper and gardener, I’ve used nearly every type of pruning tool out there. Two of the most common are bypass pruners and loppers. While they may seem similar at first glance, there are some key differences between bypass pruners vs loppers that are important to understand as a gardening or landscaping professional.

In this detailed comparison article, I’ll share my first-hand experience using both bypass pruners and loppers on countless landscaping and gardening jobs over the years. My goal is to help you determine which tool is best suited for your specific pruning needs and applications. By the end, you’ll have a solid understanding of the pros and cons of each so you can make an informed choice.

Let’s start with a brief overview of each tool:

Bypass Pruners:

  • Cut branches up to 1/2 inch in diameter
  • Uses a scissor-like cutting action powered by two parallel blades
  • Provides a clean cut that seals quickly
  • More precise than loppers for smaller-scale pruning


bypass loppers

  • Cut branches from 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter
  • Uses a pulling action powered by an offset blade and anvil
  • Good for thicker branches that bypass pruners can’t handle
  • Faster than pruners but cuts are less precise

Right away we can see that the main differences come down to cutting ability (thickness and precision) as well as cutting action/mechanism. I’ll delve deeper into these differences throughout the article based on my real-world experiences.

Cutting Ability

As mentioned, bypass pruners can reliably cut branches up to 1/2 inch thick, while loppers can handle branches from 1/2 to 1 inch. In practice, this makes all the difference.

Pruners are perfect when you need to do detailed shaping and thinning of shrubs, hedges, and small trees. Their precision is invaluable for tasks like removing suckers, water sprouts, and branches that intertwine. I rely on pruners heavily for maintenance pruning throughout the growing season.

However, sometimes you encounter thicker branches during heavy pruning, renovation work, or storm clean-up that are just too much for pruners to handle. This is where loppers shine. Their increased cutting power means they can make quick work of branches that would be a struggle or safety risk with pruners.

I’ve had countless jobs where I was able to finish the work much faster by switching to loppers for the thicker branches and then going back with pruners for any remaining fine details. The increased branch thickness capacity of loppers is a real-time saver.

Cutting Action/Mechanism

Bypass Pruners vs Loppers: Which Tool is best for Your Pruning Needs?

The actual cutting mechanisms of bypass pruners vs loppers provide benefits in different situations as well.

Pruners’ scissor-like action yields extremely precise and clean cuts. This is valuable for making cuts close to the trunk or parent branch without damaging surrounding tissue. It minimizes bleeding and sealing time which is healthier for the plant.

However, the lever-pulling motion of loppers is faster. Once you get the hang of them, you can zip through branches much quicker than with pruners alone. This is advantageous when dealing with large volumes of brush or during storm cleanup when speed is a priority over precision.

The tradeoff is that lopper cuts are less precise and often more ragged. They don’t seal as quickly as pruner cuts either. So for precise shaping work, or when cutting near the branch collar, nothing beats the control of pruners.


As with any tool, the build quality and materials make a big difference in long-term durability. In general, high-quality pruners tend to hold their sharpness and function better over years of heavy use compared to basic loppers.

However, there are durable loppers on the market as well that can certainly stand up to commercial use if cared for properly. I like loppers that have replaceable cutting blades since these can be sharpened or swapped out as needed to restore performance.

From a maintenance perspective, pruners require more TLC. Their moving parts collect more debris which needs regular cleaning. Loppers have fewer crevices to trap dirt and are easier to wipe down.

Comfort and Ergonomics

Another important consideration is how the tool feels in your hand during prolonged use. Both pruners and loppers come in various handle designs – some more comfortable than others depending on hand size and strength.

In my experience, high-end pruners with padded non-slip handles feel better for detailed work. But basic loppers are often lighter and have larger grips which can feel better when you need power over precision.

Pay attention to weight too. Heavier-duty loppers deliver more leverage but may cause fatigue faster. Lighter pruners are easier on hands and wrists, especially for aging pros like me! Both tools should have comfortable fingerrests.


No tool is completely risk-free, but certain designs offer better safety than others. Avoid pruners or loppers with loose or jagged handles. Make sure cutting blades are protected by guards when closed.

Loppers require more upper body strength to pull branches through. This can increase the risk of sore muscles or back strain with extended use versus pruners. Always use proper lifting and cutting techniques to avoid injury no matter the tool.

Best Applications

To summarize the ideal applications of each based on 15+ years in the field:

  • Bypass pruners: Precise shaping/thinning, hedge trimming, water sprouts/suckers, removal near branch collars/trunks
  • Loppers: Heavy branch cleanup (storms), initial hard pruning cuts, faster volume work, branches 1/2-1″ diameter
  • Combination: Use pruners then switch to loppers for the remaining thicker branches

With experience, I’ve learned to keep both tools on hand for maximum efficiency and quality results on each job. But if forced to choose only one, pruners provide more versatile precision for everyday shaping and detail work.

My Tool Recommendations

Now that we’ve covered the key differences, here are a few specific bypass pruner and lopper models I recommend based on their performance, build quality, and comfort during years of commercial use:

Bypass Pruner Comparison

bypass pruners

Having used more bypass pruners than I can count, here are my thoughts on some of the top brands currently available based on over 15 years of real-world testing in all seasonal conditions:

Felco 2 Bypass Pruner

Hands down the champion of my arsenal, no other pruner has shown the longevity and reliability of Felco 2 models. While pricier upfront than many options, I’ve had the same pair of Felco 2’s for close to a decade now with only minor blade sharpening needed over the years. Their scissor action remains ultra-smooth despite thousands of cuts and exposure to rain, snow, and dusty conditions in the field that would ruin less robust tools.

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The carbon steel blades hold an edge exceptionally well and retain their strength. Felco’s reputation for precision isn’t just marketing – I can trim the smallest twigs and details with these as precisely as when they were new. An ergonomic cushioned handle provides comfort even after extensive use, while the curved design fits my hands just right. At this point, I consider my Felco 2’s a long-term investment that has paid for itself many times over in reduced need to replace inferior tools.

Corona BP 3180D Bypass Pruner

Coming in close second place, Corona bypass pruners provide excellent performance at a lower initial price point than Felco. While they don’t last quite as long under heavy daily use, the BP 3180D model has proven very durable, remaining sharp and cutting smoothly for 3-4 seasons before needing replacement.

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Corona uses high-quality stainless steel that resists rust and corrosion better than cheaper options. The handle design isn’t quite as ergonomic as Felco’s, but it’s comfortable enough for extended periods of pruning. Overall precision and control are on par with Felco. For occasional gardeners or landscapers on a tighter budget, Corona provides excellent value and capable performance that rivals pruners costing far more.

Fiskars Bypass Pruner

While not in the same league as Felco or Corona for longevity, Fiskars pruners offer very solid performance for their low cost. Models like the Fiskars 91095935J have taken the abuse of daily use on my crew for 1-2 seasons before the blade sharpening fails to restore cutting power. However, for occasional pruning tasks or homeowners on a tight budget, Fiskars is a terrific option that outperforms many others in its low-price class.

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The anodized aluminum construction feels lightweight yet durable. Scissor action is smooth. Blades cut well when new but don’t hold an edge as long as higher-quality steel. The soft rubber handle offers good comfort. Overall, Fiskars provides very good value for occasional use but won’t stand up to professional demands long-term like higher-end tools. For casual gardeners, it’s a fine choice. I keep a few around as backups and for loaning tasks.

Lopping Tools Comparison

Let’s now examine loppers, where similar gaps in quality emerge but top performers offer supreme strength and longevity:

Felco F 211-50 Lopper

If you expect to cut a lot of thicker branches regularly, Felco’s loppers are truly the best in class. Nothing has withstood years of daily abuse from cutting old hedges, tree limbs, and thick brush without issue like my trusty Felco loppers.

While quite heavy-duty, the comfortable handles, smooth rotation, and stable locking brace allow fatigue-free cutting all day. The carbon steel blades stay sharp longer than any other brand I’ve tried. Even cutting branches over 1 1/2 inches thick poses no challenge. Like their pruners, the initial investment in Felco loppers repays you many times over with years of trouble-free duty.

Corona SL 8180D Lopper

A close rival to Felco, Corona Loppers delivers outstanding performance in my view for considerably less cost. Models like the SL 8180D easily cut through branches 1-1 1/2 inches thick with a solid scissor-like motion. Stainless steel blades hold an edge impressively well through multiple seasons. Comfortable padding on the soft-grip handles ensures fatigue-free cutting sessions.

While not quite as finely tuned as Felco’s top-shelf models, Corona loppers prove rugged enough for daily landscaping tasks without fuss. Their lighter weight than Felcos provides good mobility. For the price, Corona is simply the best value going and performs admirably against loppers costing much more. They’ve outlasted many cheaper models in my crew’s use. Highly recommended.

Fiskars 28-Inch Lopper

Among inexpensive lopper options, Fiskars proves a fair choice for occasional use or on tighter budgets. While lightweight aluminum construction lacks the sturdiness of steel, the Fiskars model handles branches up to 1.5 inch diameter well through a season or two with its sharp bypass blades. Fatigue sets in faster than higher quality loppers, but the soft grips provide comfort. Despite limitations, it outperforms most cheap loppers.

Final Considerations and Recommendations

After assessing many tools over two decades in the field, I can say these are my “go-to” choices for landscaping needs:

  • Felco 2 Bypass Pruners – Best overall durable precision pruner, worth the upfront cost for lasting performance.
  • Corona BP 3180D Pruners – Excellent value and nearly as capable as higher-end options. Best mid-priced pruner choice.
  • Felco F 211-50Lopper – Toughest, sharpest loppers that just keep going year after year of heavy use, ideal for pros.
  • Corona SL 8180D Lopper – Superb value and strength for the price, reliably replacing pricier loppers for most tasks.
  • Fiskars 28″ Pruner – Very decent performer at an unbelievably low cost, good backup or occasional user option.

In summary, higher quality Felco and Corona tools have fully justified their slightly higher initial prices through years of reliable, sharp, fatigue-free performance under the toughest conditions. For landscaping professionals, investing in the best pays dividends in reduced long-term replacement costs. However, Fiskars offers terrific value for light-duty users on tight budgets. With proper care, any of these brands should serve pruning needs for seasons to come.

With any tool, sharpness is critical for clean cuts. I suggest an annual sharpening service and always cleaning/oiling per manufacturers’ guidance. Proper use and maintenance go far in extending tool life.

I hope sharing my real-world experiences has helped shed some light on the key differences between bypass pruners and loppers. Let me know if you have any other questions! Proper tool selection is important for doing quality work efficiently and preventing injuries in this physically demanding profession.

Bypass Pruners vs Loppers – Frequently Asked Questions

Are bypass pruners better?

Bypass pruners are often preferred because they allow for quicker, easier cuts while being safer and causing less hand fatigue compared to typical anvil pruners.

Why is it called a bypass pruner?

It is called a bypass pruner because the blade passes or bypasses the handle, allowing for cleaner cuts without pinching plant material like regular anvil pruners.

What are the 2 types of loppers?

The two main types of loppers are anvil loppers, which have one solid cutting blade and one flat anvil blade, and bypass loppers, which have curved, parallel blades that bypass each other.

What are the three types of secateurs?

The three common types of secateurs are anvil secateurs, which cut like scissors, bypass secateurs, which cut like shears, and long-handled secateurs for reaching higher branches.

What is the difference between a lopper and a bypass lopper?

A lopper has one sharp cutting blade that pinches against an anvil, while a bypass lopper has two sharp, curved blades that pass each other without pinching for cleaner cuts.

What is the difference between a lopper and a tree pruner?

A lopper is used for thinner branches while a tree pruner can cut thicker branches and has extendable handles for reaching higher, making it better suited for pruning larger trees and shrubs.


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