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What Are Loppers?

Loppers are pruning tools used for clipping small branches or twigs from trees and shrubs.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2014
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Loppers are a gardening tool designed for clipping small branches. When loppers are not big enough for the job, it may be necessary to use a pruning saw or a powered pruning tool. Many garden supply stores and nurseries carry loppers, in an assortment of sizes and several styles, and they can be a very useful tool to have around if a garden features trees or large shrubs. It is also important to have smaller pruning tools such as pruning shears for lighter pruning tasks, as loppers can be overkill at times.

Loppers essentially act like giant scissors to snip branches and twigs. The operator usually needs both hands to operate this tool, and the handles are long, allowing for more reach while also providing leverage. Some designs have telescoping handles which can be extended to allow people to reach high branches safely. This garden tool tends to be heavy, and very sturdy.

With bypass loppers, the blades of the tool slide past each other, snipping a branch between two sharpened edges for a clean cut. Bypass loppers often have curved blades, and they are regarded as an excellent tool for pruning because they create a crisp cut, reducing the risk of damaging the tree or shrub. The drawback to this style is that sometimes material can become trapped in the blades, making them difficult to open.

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Anvil loppers have a straight blade, with a single sharp edge which connects with a flat, hard surface. This type of lopper tends to be more prone to crushing than cutting, which can be problematic. Some trees can develop bruising and infection at sites which have been crushed, and may grow unhealthy if they are cut with a pair of anvil loppers. In other cases, crushing may be desired, to prevent shoots of new growth from developing around the base of the cut.

In both cases, a screw is often provided to allow people to adjust the blades. Like other tools, loppers are most effective when they are properly cared for. The blades should be wiped down after use to remove sap and debris, and they should be oiled for storage when they will not be used for an extended period of time. It is also important to sharpen the blades as they dull so that the tool will continue to cut effectively and to reduce the risk of crushing or mangling branches.

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