Beautiful landscapes and regular pruning go hand in hand. Thinning out rose bushes and trimming trees might not be your favorite tasks, but they go more quickly if you have the right tool in hand.
Handheld pruning shears are great for nipping off narrow stems and branches up to 1/2 inch in diameter, but for pruning large branches up to 2 or 3 inches, loppers are a better fit. In effect, loppers are the beefed-up version of pruning shears, offering more reach and cutting power.
Learn about what to look for when shopping for this landscaping tool and recommendations for the best loppers available.
- BEST OVERALL: T-MAI Extendable Anvil Lopper
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Fiskars 28 Inch Bypass Lopper
- UPGRADE PICK: Felco Pruning Shear
- BEST COMPACT: TABOR TOOLS Anvil Lopper Compound Action 19 Inch
- BEST COMFORT GRIP: Corona DualLINK Bypass Lopper with ComfortGEL
- HONORABLE MENTION: Corona Super-Duty Bypass Lopper
- ALSO CONSIDER: Kings County Tools Long Reach Pruner
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Loppers
At first glance, loppers all look pretty much the same—two handles that open wide to manipulate their scissor-like blades, but there are important differences between models.
Loppers are categorized based on their blades, either anvil or bypass. Each type works better on different types of and stems branches.
Anvil loppers feature a stationary base (anvil) with a groove. They have a movable sharpened blade that presses into the groove when trimming branches. Anvil loppers are good for cutting dry, brittle branches and dead stems, snapping them in half with ease. They’re not optimal for trimming soft green branches, with a tendency to crush and tear the branches rather than make a clean cut.
Bypass loppers work much like scissors; two sharpened blades overlap one another to make a clean cut. Bypass loppers are best for making sharp cuts on soft, green branches, but cutting through hard, dead branches with bypass loppers can dull the blades. Choose a lopper with bypass blades for trimming back green growth, such as shaping an overgrown shrub.
Lopper blades are made from steel, but not all steel is the same. Some loppers contain a coating to protect the blade, preserve its cutting edge, and provide easier cleaning.
Nothing resists staining and rust quite as well as stainless steel. However, it’s not as durable as carbon steel and tends to bend if used on hard, dry branches. Stainless steel blades come at a higher price and aren’t easy to sharpen once they become dull.
The toughest lopper blades are made from carbon steel, and they do the best job of cutting thick branches. On the other hand, these tools rust more easily than stainless steel, so the blades should be wiped clean after every use. Dull carbon steel blades are easily sharpened with a basic sharpening stone.
A Teflon or titanium coating offers a measure of rust protection to carbon steel blades. The coating makes it easier to clean sap residue that results from cut branches. Coated blades hold their sharpness longer, but they too eventually dull. The coating doesn’t cover the blade’s edge, so sharpening should not remove the coating.
Loppers vary in the cutting action, which affects operation and suitability for certain tasks.
- Manual loppers are the simplest option for trimming. The two blades are attached by a single screw at the fulcrum (the support on which a lever turns), providing a basic open and close mechanism. These loppers work best when cutting narrower branches because the user’s strength is solely responsible for the cutting force.
- Ratcheting loppers are designed for slightly easier trimming, particularly with thicker branches. As a user squeezes the handles together, the blades latch in place partially through the cut. The tool can be reopened to get a wider and stronger grip without releasing pressure on the branch. Depending on the ratcheting mechanism, the handles may be reopened two or three times.
- Compound action loppers are built with one or more pivoting arms located at the fulcrum between the two blades to increase cutting force. These loppers are great when you need to cut through thicker branches; although, the extra steel makes them heavier and can cause arm fatigue.
Length and Weight
To determine a suitable length and weight for loppers, the trick is to know your own strength and cutting needs. The shortest loppers measure about 15 inches from the end of the handles to the tip of the cutting blades and they can weigh as little as 11 ounces, making them a good choice for pruning narrower branches.
Lengthier loppers, measuring 32 inches or more, are handier when you need to reach high branches without having to stand on a ladder. Longer loppers also are heavier, with some weighing more than 4 pounds, so they’re more likely to cause arm fatigue.
A long lopper offers more reach and often enhanced power if it uses compound action. But if you can’t make clean cuts with it, opt for a shorter length. Some models have telescoping handles that you can extend or shorten as necessary.
Many loppers come with padded rubber or foam grips, which are designed to reduce slippage, hand fatigue, and blisters. The softest foam handles feel great in your hands, but they’re also more prone to nicks and tears. If you plan on using the loppers extensively, consider a pair with molded rubber grips that will hold up to the extra work. While padded grips make pruning tasks more comfortable, gardening gloves are still recommended for using this tool.
Our Top Picks
With those shopping considerations in mind, the following recommendations highlight some of the best garden loppers in their respective categories—light-duty, heavy-duty, ergonomic, extended reach, and more.
When you need the convenience of a mid-length lopper most of the time, but the reach of a longer tool some of the time, these anvil loppers are a worthy pick. Its blades contain tough carbon steel and can be re-sharpened with a cutting stone.
The telescoping handles adjust all the way from 27 inches to 40 inches—handy in those instances when you need to cut an out-of-the-way branch. These T-MAI loppers weigh a manageable 2.8 pounds.
For affordable cutters that don’t sacrifice performance, these Fiskars bypass loppers are a solid choice. The rust-resistant stainless steel blades are hardened and precision ground, meaning they’ll retain their edge over a longer period. The low-friction coating allows the blades to cut through wood more easily and results in less sap residue.
These 28-inch cutters are suitable for living, green growth with a cutting capacity of branches up to 1.5 inches thick. Shock-absorbing bumpers make the tool easier to use and padded grips offer additional comfort. While these loppers aren’t the lightest on the list, they still weigh a modest 2.9 pounds.
These sturdy anvil loppers are a serious upgrade in performance and ergonomics. The hardened carbon steel blades are designed for clean, precise cuts and can be re-sharpened as needed. With a 33-inch length, this tool can reach up to trim higher branches. Despite their size, the manual loppers are impressively light at 1.31 pounds.
The aluminum handles on these cutters are non-slip with a slight inward angle, allowing users to exert force while maintaining a more comfortable arm position. Built-in shock absorbers on the handles protect the arms and wrists—so they’re well-suited for intense, time-consuming landscaping tasks.
If your trimming jobs don’t require a long reach, these 19-inch anvil loppers may be more suitable. They possess significant power, despite the small size. The compound gear mechanism provides enhanced force for effective cuts through dry and hard green wood (up to 1 1/2 inches thick).
The carbon steel blades are hardened for increased durability and maintain their edge, even with heavy use. They’re rust-resistant and easy to clean, with a non-stick coating that protects the blades and prevents residue build-up. When the blades inevitably dull over time, a sharpening stone will easily restore the edge.
The compact length of these loppers is ideal for cutting close to the body, trimming undergrowth, and low-hanging branches, such as those of a potted plant. With a shorter, more manageable length, comfortable non-slip grip, and 1.75-pound weight, these gear loppers are incredibly user-friendly.
Compound action loppers are well-suited for cutting thick branches, but the added force can be jarring to the arms and shoulders. If these are hard living branches, gripping the handles too firmly may lead to blisters and hand fatigue. Corona addresses said concerns with these affordable, ergonomic bypass cutters.
The 31.5-inch long loppers feature a dual-link mechanism; an additional compound link magnifies cutting force and reduces the necessary work, while sturdy steel handles manage the extra power. Thick gel grips, an ergonomically-shaped handle, and a shock-absorbing bumper system make these loppers one of the most comfortable models on the market.
These cutters have a narrower handle opening, so they’re particularly useful for getting at hard-to-reach tree limbs. Home landscapers can trim branches up to 1 3/4 inches thick throughout the day without pain and discomfort. While the loopers are heavier than other models on the list, their 3.9-pound weight is standard for compound action tools.
For trimming green branches with relative ease, consider these effective bypass loppers. Measuring 32 inches in length, the forged steel cutters are great for reaching branches overhead. These manual loppers are built with padded grips for more comfortable operation. Weighing 2.8 pounds, this tool is best for small branches less than 3 inches in diameter. Users can re-sharpen the sturdy carbon steel blades as necessary.
For reaching higher branches that usually require a ladder, consider these extra-long anvil loppers. Measuring 59 inches in length, they’re far from the average lopper. The design resembles a standing giraffe—handles contained in the legs with a long neck.
These cutters offer flexible movement, with a rotating head that allows trimming from multiple angles. Even with the extra length, the loppers are relatively easy to wield, with light aluminum handles and a total weight of just over 3 pounds.
The steel jaws have a wider opening that increases leverage, with a cutting capacity of branches up to 1 inch thick. A removable harness reduces back strain when using the tool for extended periods. As a bonus, a hook on the back of the head helps pull down cut branches.
FAQs About Your New Loppers
If you still have questions on this landscaping tool, refer to the answers provided below.
Q. What do you use loppers for?
Loppers are used for pruning stems, branches, and twigs. They serve multiple landscaping purposes, from trimming shrubs to cutting branches off dead trees. Loppers are like pruning shears with extended handles, and both gardening tools require manual operation.
Q. What is the difference between a lopper and a pruner?
Loppers require two hands to operate, designed to cut mid-sized stems and branches. Pruners are smaller and more closely resemble scissors. Pruning shears only require one hand, intended for cutting smaller stems and branches.
Q. What should I look for when buying a lopper?
The most suitable loppers for you depend on intended use, budget, and arm strength, as well as preferences related to material and comfort.
- Bypass vs. anvil blades: Bypass loppers are suitable for cutting living plants, like green tree branches and shrubbery, while anvil blades are better at handling dry, brittle branches.
- Cutting action: Basic manual models work best on narrow branches; ratcheting cutters are more effective for thicker stems; compound action loppers are intended for use on cutting thicker branches. These tools often possess the most cutting power.
- Blade material: Stainless steel is resistant to rust and stains, generally requiring less maintenance compared to carbon steel. Blades containing carbon steel do not have these characteristics unless they’re treated with a protective coating. Carbon steel is tougher, less expensive, and more easily sharpened.
- Length: Naturally, longer loppers (32 inches or more) are best for reaching to cut higher branches and shrub leaves. Models with a telescoping handle are versatile and some provide significant length adjustment.
- Ergonomics: Cutters with padded grips made of rubber or foam are more comfortable to use. If arm fatigue and wrist pain are concerns for you, go with loppers that weigh less than 3 pounds and have shock-absorbing handles.
Q. Are bypass loppers better than anvil loppers?
This depends on the types of branches and stems you plan on cutting. Bypass loppers are more suitable for sharp cuts through soft, living plants like overgrown shrubs. These blades may dull when used on hard, dead branches. Anvil loppers are more suitable for this type of task, while they tend to crush and tear softer greenery.
Q. How thick of a branch can loppers cut?
A heavy-duty anvil lopper is capable of cutting dead branches up to 2 inches thick, or trimming living branches before cutting more precisely with bypass loppers.
Q. What is the best telescopic tree pruner?
The T-MAI Extendable Anvil Lopper is among the most versatile tree pruners, capable of adjusting between 28 and 40 inches in length. Spear & Jackson Bypass Telescopic Ratchet Loppers is one of the best tools for dealing with thicker branches with an adjustable length between 18 inches and 30 inches.
Q. How do you maintain a lopper?
Loppers with carbon steel blades generally require more upkeep. Unlike stainless steel, this material is susceptible to rust and stains. Carbon steel blades should be wiped clean after each use. Additionally, components of the cutting mechanism should be lubricated to maintain smooth cutting performance.