The Best Loppers of 2021

The best loppers make pruning trees more comfortable and efficient, so choose the right tool with the help of these tips and this list of loppers that made the cut in hands-on testing.

By Glenda Taylor | Updated Nov 19, 2021 9:46 AM

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The Best Lopper Options

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Handheld pruning shears are great for nipping off narrow stems and branches up to ½-inch in diameter, but for pruning thicker 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. Garden centers and online retailers offer a wide array of loppers, all billed as the best loppers for home landscaping projects.

While some of these tools are excellent, others are just so-so. I tested several loppers from various top manufacturers to find out which ones lived up to their reputations. I put the loppers through their paces—snipping, nipping, and pruning the trees and shrubs in my yard. Ahead, find out what to look for when shopping for this landscaping tool and learn about the pros (and cons) I uncovered when testing the following landscaping loppers.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Kings County Tools Double Ratcheting Anvil Lopper
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Fiskars 391461-1003 Bypass Lopper, 28 Inch
  3. UPGRADE PICK: Felco F 22 Pruning Shear
  4. BEST COMPACT: TABOR TOOLS GB19A Anvil Lopper Compound Action
  5. BEST COMFORT GRIP: Corona Tools 31-inch DualLINK Bypass Lopper
  6. BEST FOR GREENERY: Corona SL 6500 32-inch Super-Duty Bypass Lopper
  7. BEST FOR DRY WOOD: TABOR TOOLS GG12A Anvil Lopper with Compound Action
  8. BEST FOR BROKEN BRANCHES: Spear & Jackson 8290RS Heavy Duty Telescopic Loppers
  9. ALSO CONSIDER: Wolf-Garten Power Cut Telescoping Bypass Lopper
The Best Lopper Options

Photo: Glenda Taylor

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Loppers

At first glance, loppers all look pretty much the same—with two handles that open wide to manipulate their scissor-like blades. But there are substantial differences between models.

Type

Loppers are categorized based on their blades, either anvil or bypass. Each type works better on different types of stems and 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 suitable for cutting dry, brittle branches and dead stems, snapping them in half with ease. They’re not optimal for trimming soft green branches because they tend to crush and tear the limbs 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 stiff, dead branches with bypass loppers can dull the blades or even leave nicks. Choose a bypass lopper for trimming back green growth, such as shaping an overgrown shrub.

Blade Material

Like many pruning shears, lopper blades are made from steel, but not all steel is the same. Some loppers contain a coating to protect the blade, preserve its edge, and to 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. Users can easily sharpen dull carbon steel blades with a basic sharpening stone or a carbide file.

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 cutting green tree branches. Coated blades hold their sharpness longer, but they too eventually become dull. The coating doesn’t cover the blade’s edge, so sharpening should not remove the coating.

Cutting Action

Loppers vary in their cutting action, which affects their operation and suitability for specific tasks.

  • Manual loppers are the most straightforward 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 cutting motion. 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 to increase cutting pressure.
  • 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 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, a good length and weight 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 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. Some of the models I tested were relatively large and heavy, and were better suited to trimming branches at or below waist level.

Grips

Many loppers come with padded rubber or foam grips 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, it’s still important to wear gardening gloves when using this tool. It didn’t take long during my hands-on tests to discover that a pair of suitable leather gloves was also helpful in keeping blisters at bay.

Our Top Picks

I tested each of the following loppers to determine what type of branches they were best suited for pruning (deadwood or green wood) and to determine how well the handles were designed in relation to the blade assemblies. Did their maximum cutting force require super-human strength? Were the handles comfortable? These were only a few of the things I considered as I tested each lopper. Find out how each one fared to determine if one is the right pick for your landscaping tool collection.

Best Overall

The Best Lopper Option: Kings County Tools Double Ratcheting Anvil Lopper
Photo: walmart.com

The first thing I noticed when the Kings County Loppers arrived was their heavy-duty construction. These rugged loppers come with a steel head and forged aluminum arms. When I first spread the handles, the blade snapped to its widest jaw position, and it took four pumps of the handle to close it completely. The ratcheting action generates more cutting pressure with each pump of the handle.

The telescoping handles were effortless to adjust—I just depressed the white buttons on the upper handles and slid the extension arms out. The arms have five individual setting lengths about 3 inches apart, so I could lengthen them just a bit or telescope them all the way out to 40 inches to reach high branches. I was able to trim branches that previously I had to stand on a ladder to reach.

If 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. I was impressed by the tough blade of carbon-coated steel—it didn’t dull or nick even with the hardest dry branches. The tool is rated to cut branches up to 2.5 inches. I found that I could only cut through a dead branch that was just over 2 inches in diameter, but my husband was able to cut through one that was nearly 3 inches in diameter.
The Kings County Tools lopper earns the Best Overall spot due to its versatility—it can be lengthened quickly, it offers powerful ratcheting cutting force, and it comes with ergonomic, nonslip handles.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Type and use: Anvil, for dry branches
  • Length: 26 to 40 inches (telescoping)

Pros

  • Made from quality materials
  • Four-stop ratcheting action
  • Easy-to-extend arms
  • Locking lever

Cons

  • Slightly heavy if using overhead
  • Grips could have more cushioning

Best Bang for the Buck

Best Loppers

For reasonably priced 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 an extended period. The low-friction coating allows the blades to cut through wood easily and results in less sap residue. I found these Fiskar loppers easy to use on green branches and the cutting action to be super-smooth. I didn’t spot any tearing of the limbs or ragged cuts, which tend to make a tree more susceptible to disease.

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, so they’re not difficult to use when cutting overhead.

After testing, I found the coated, nonstick blade wiped clean with just a soft cloth. This is important to me because bypass loppers I’ve owned in the past were difficult to clean, requiring scrubbing with steel wool and a lubricant. All loppers used to cut green wood will get slightly wet and may become covered in sticky sap, so being able to wipe the blade clean is a big plus. Those looking for a quality cutting tool at a reasonable price won’t be disappointed with these Fiskar loppers.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 2.9 pounds
  • Type and use: Bypass, for green branches
  • Length: 28 inches

Pros

  • Sharp cuts
  • Wipe-clean blade
  • Padded, nonslip grips
  • Budget-friendly

Cons

  • No safety lock

Upgrade Pick

The Best Lopper Option: Felco F 22 Pruning Shear
Photo: amazon.com

These sturdy bypass loppers are a serious upgrade in performance and ergonomics. The hardened carbon steel blades are Swiss made, designed for making clean, precise cuts. Users can also resharpen the blades as needed. Everything about these loppers screams quality. They’re made to last, and all of the parts are replaceable, so this may be the last lopper you’ll ever buy.

The forged aluminum handles are smooth to the touch, but the tool weighs in at 4.4 pounds, so it’s not for the faint of heart. With a 33-inch length, these loppers can reach up to trim higher branches. I found it most comfortable to cut branches at waist level or lower. After trimming a few overhead branches, I started to feel some wrist and arm fatigue.
The grips on these cutters are nonslip 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. This is a lopper for the serious arborist, and it makes sharp, clean cuts on green wood.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 4.4 pounds
  • Type and use: Bypass, for green branches
  • Length: 33 inches

Pros

  • Very well made, plus all parts are replaceable
  • Cuts easily through green branches 2 inches thick
  • Ergonomic design for maximum cutting power
  • Razor-sharp bypass blades

Cons

  • Pricey
  • No safety lock

Best Compact

Best Loppers

I was pleasantly surprised by the power of these smaller loppers. At just 19 inches long, they were the shortest of all the loppers tested, so I didn’t think they’d offer much cutting power. Was I ever surprised—the compound gear mechanism provides enhanced force for effective cuts through dry wood. I snapped right through an ages-old dead branch on my rose bush that was at least 1.25 inches in diameter.

The carbon steel blades are hardened to increase durability and maintain their edge, even with heavy use. They’re rust resistant and easy to clean, with a nonstick coating that protects the blades and prevents residue buildup. I just wiped them clean with a damp rag and then followed up with a dry rag. The blade’s edge can be manually sharpened in the future—right now, it’s razor-sharp, and a good 30 minutes of cutting out dry rose branches didn’t dull it.

The compact length of these loppers is ideal for cutting close to the body, trimming undergrowth, and pruning low-hanging branches, such as those of a potted plant. This tool is one of the most user-friendly loppers I tested with a shorter, more manageable length, comfortable nonslip grip, and a 1.75-pound weight.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 1.75 pounds
  • Type and use: Anvil, for dry branches
  • Length: 19 inches

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Compound jaw-action increases cutting force
  • Blade can be sharpened
  • Soft-feel, ergonomic grips

Cons

  • Not suitable for branches over 1.75 inches in diameter
  • Not long enough to reach high overhead

Best Comfort Grip

The Best Lopper Option: Corona Tools 31-inch DualLINK Bypass Lopper
Photo: amazon.com

The ComfortGEL grips on these Corona loppers felt so good, I didn’t even consider wearing gloves when using them. My hands didn’t slip, so I didn’t have to worry about blisters. The grips offer just the right amount of padding while remaining solid, and the slightly curved shapes fit nicely in my hands.

The compound action loppers are well suited for cutting thick branches. I was able to remove with ease an unwanted branch on an apple tree that was over 1.5 inches in diameter. The long aluminum arms make it possible to generate a lot of leverage. The additional compound link magnifies cutting force and reduces the necessary work, while sturdy steel handles manage the extra power. At 3.8 pounds, the Corona loppers are heavier than some of the ones I tested, but they’re not quite as heavy as other ratcheting models.

These cutters have a narrower blade opening, so they’re beneficial for getting at hard-to-reach tree limbs. When I first examined the loppers, I was disappointed at what appeared to be a plastic link on the opening mechanism. While it is plastic, it’s actually a bumper guard—an identical steel link on the backside is the actual opening mechanism, so the plastic acts as more of a stabilizer.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Type and use: Bypass, for green branches
  • Length: 31.5 inches

Pros

  • Bumper system to absorb shock
  • Comfortable gel-type grips
  • Blade can be sharpened
  • Narrow blade opening for tight spots

Cons

  • Can get heavy if used overhead

Best for Greenery

The Best Loppers for Pruning Option: Corona Heavy Duty Bypass Loppers
Photo: amazon.com

The curved head on these bypass loppers is large, and the blade is razor-sharp. My first impression was that the loppers would be out of balance, given the large head size, but surprisingly, they only weigh 2.8 pounds. They don’t come with compound action, but rather with massive blades and long handles for leverage. I was able to fit a 2-inch green Empress tree branch between the blades and lop it right off. I had a tougher time with a 2-inch oak branch, but my husband cut through it with ease.

Measuring 32 inches long, the Corona Super-Duty Loppers are great for reaching branches overhead. These manual loppers come with padded grips for more comfortable operation, and the cutting blade can be resharpened as needed.

A nice upside to these loppers is the steel-spring bumper located in the opening mechanism that keeps users from jamming their hands together after making a tough cut. I appreciated the bumper when putting all my power behind cutting through a green branch that seemed challenging but gave way before I could redirect my arm motion. The bumper absorbed the shock, so my arms didn’t.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Type and use: Bypass, for green branches
  • Length: 32 inches

Pros

  • Large head for cutting up to 3-inch branches
  • Blade can be resharpened
  • Spring-loaded bumper absorber
  • Ergonomic, padded grips

Cons

  • No compound or ratcheting action
  • No safety lock

Best for Dry Wood

The Best Lopper Option: TABOR TOOLS GG12A Anvil Lopper with Compound Action
Photo: amazon.com

At first, I wondered if the Tabor Tool Anvil Loppers would cut through stiff dead branches since they don’t come with ratcheting action. I need not have worried—the loppers instead feature compound cutting action via a short pivoting arm located at the fulcrum of the blades that increases cutting power.

The manufacturer advertises the loppers as being able to cut through dry branches up to 2 inches thick. I didn’t quite pull that off, but I was able to cut through a dead branch on an elm tree that was 1.5 inches thick. Someone with a bit more arm strength than me could likely cut through a 2-inch branch.

I was super-impressed with the grips on this set of loppers—they’re soft and slightly padded, and I could exert pressure without my hands slipping. At 30 inches long, the sizable arms allowed me to increase my leverage on the branches. A shock-absorbing bumper would have been a nice addition, but this is a decent set of loppers for cutting dry wood. At 3.5 pounds, the Tabor loppers are well suited for use overhead without too much wrist and arm fatigue for an average user.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 3.5 pounds
  • Type and use: Anvil, for dry branches
  • Length: 30 inches

Pros

  • Comfortable nonslip grips
  • Long arms for reaching high branches
  • Compound cutting action

Cons

  • No ratcheting action
  • No safety lock
  • No shock bumpers

Best for Broken Branches

The Best Lopper Option: Spear & Jackson 8290RS Heavy Duty Telescopic Loppers
Photo: amazon.com

I trimmed away several dead willow branches that were damaged in an ice storm earlier this year with the Spear & Jackson loppers. Willow is hard when dry, but the ratcheting action of these loppers increased the cutting force, and with just a slight pumping action, I was able to cut through dead branches as large as 1.5 inches.

These loppers can take a little getting used to—when I first spread the handles, the blades didn’t open until the handles reached their maximum spread—and then the blade head snapped open. It took four pumps of the blade handle to cut completely through a branch from that point. With each pump, the ratchet action increased the cutting force on the branch until it cut through.

While I tested a couple of other sets of telescoping loppers, this one was the simplest to adjust while cutting. I was able to start a cut on a branch, and while the blade head was firmly gripping the branch, I was able to twist the bottom of the handle and then pull to lengthen it. This is an excellent feature for those who start a cut and decide they need more leverage from longer handles. At 4.2 pounds, these loppers are on the heavy side, so I had to take a few breaks, but they offer a whole lot of cutting power.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • Type and use: Anvil, for dry branches
  • Length: 26 to 40 inches (telescoping)

Pros

  • Ratcheting action for powerful cutting
  • Easy handle-twist adjusting
  • Safety lock
  • Carbon steel blade

Cons

  • Slightly heavy for overhead use

Our Verdict

After extensive lopper testing, my trees and shrubs have never looked better. While all the loppers that made this lineup are worthy of a spot in a landscaper’s tool shed, a couple stand out. The Kings County Tools Double Ratcheting Anvil Lopper took the Best Overall award for their quality steel blades, sheer cutting power, and telescoping handles. For easily cutting green branches and affordability, the Fiskars Bypass Lopper comes in as our Best Bang for the Buck pick. Its smooth cutting action and rust-resistant blades offer precision cutting at a budget-friendly price.

How We Tested the Best Loppers

Each set of loppers was extensively tested and the results analyzed. Among the most important considerations was the amount of cutting power the tool could generate, whether it was designed to cut deadwood (anvil) or green wood (bypass). I scored each lopper on performance, blade sharpness, ease of use, and durability.

I tested each set of loppers on various branch sizes and noted the dimension of the thickest branches I could comfortably cut. While some of the loppers offer ratcheting action, which is a wonderful addition for its sheer cutting power, each lopper has a limit to what it will cut based on both the width of the blades when fully open and the strength of the user.

The loppers were also evaluated for comfort, whether they came with padded or nonslip grips, and whether the arms were ergonomically designed to maximize a user’s arm strength. I found that a slight inward curve at the grip section of the handles allowed me to generate more leverage. Safety also factored in, especially with ratcheting loppers that will snap shut on a final pump of the handle.

FAQs

A quality pair of loppers is an arborist’s or home landscaper’s best friend, but dozens of sets are available, and users want to know whether they’re getting a good deal for the price. A few questions are to be expected for those looking to invest in a set (or two) of loppers.

Q. What do you use loppers for?

Loppers serve multiple landscaping purposes, from pruning shrubs to cutting the limbs of 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 and are designed to cut midsize stems and branches. Pruners are smaller and more closely resemble scissors. Pruning shears require only one hand to operate and are intended for cutting smaller stems and branches.

Q. What should I look for when buying a lopper?

The most suitable loppers for the user depend on intended use, budget, arm strength, and 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; and compound action loppers are intended for use on cutting thicker branches. These tools often possess the most cutting power.
  • Blade material: Stainless steel resists 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 more rigid, less expensive, and more easily sharpened.
  • Length: Naturally, longer loppers (33 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 about 3 inches thick. Some large-head loppers, such as the Corona Super-Duty Loppers, can cut green branches up to 3 inches thick.

Q. What is the best telescopic tree pruner?

The Kings County Tools Double Ratcheting Anvil Lopper is among the most versatile tree pruners, capable of adjusting between 26 and 40 inches in length. The Spear & Jackson Telescopic Ratchet Lopper is one of the best tools for dealing with thicker dead branches with an adjustable length between 18 inches and 30 inches. For telescoping action in a bypass lopper, consider the Wolf-Garten Telescoping Bypass Lopper.

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. Wipe carbon steel blades clean after each use. Additionally, components of the cutting mechanism should be lubricated to maintain smooth cutting performance.