Gardening Tools and Products
Tested and Reviewed by Fred-in-the-shed
Updated 25th March 2017
Best Secateurs - Which Secateurs should you buy?
I have tested hundreds of Secateurs over the last 30 years and have found very good ones at prices from around £10 up. Sadly there are so many cheap copies of good designs that buying secateurs has become a tricky business .
Below are some of my favourite secateurs that I have personally used for many years. My own preference for secateurs is to have 2 pairs - one anvil ratchet type for cutting thick, dead or robust stems and one bypass Secateur for the thinner, more delicate living stems.
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Best Quality Secateurs
First Question - Anvil or Bypass Type Secateur?
Bypass secateurs are more useful and give a clean cut on delicate stems. Secateurs with anvil blades are better at chopping thick, dead or robust stems.
Felco Secateurs - World Famous - Top Brand Name
These classic Secateurs have been copied by all and sundry. Felco is the choice of the professionals and you can literarily SMELL the quality when you buy new ones.
At about £40 they are quite an investment but can be serviced and repaired to last your lifetime. (Please contact the company, Burton McCall)
Many professionals I know and most of the gardening celebrities on TV tend to use Felco secateurs.
There is a large range to suit your hand size and pruning requirements. Unless you lose them these secateurs really will last your lifetime. Model no 2 are the original ones. Later Model no 8 was introduced with a more ergonomic handle.
Felco also pioneered the use of rotating handles to reduce RSI and skin chaffing. See models no 7 and no 12. (also no 10 for left handed use)
The only small criticism I can make of Felco secateurs is that the small metal safety catches can be hard to access by people with arthritis or large cold fingers.
Made in Switzerland
Original Felco 2 and the slightly larger, more ergonomic Felco 8
You will notice that most of the Felco range are bypass type secateurs.
These are the most versatile type and were invented by the French over 200 years ago so have been well tried and tested!
Spares are available for every part of every Felco Secateur. see links below
Best "all-round" Secateurs ?
Wolf Secateurs - Made in Germany
Curved Ergonomic handle and easy to use Safety catch - Plastic or Metal Models
These German made pruners were designed with comfort and ergonomics in mind and are the most comfortable and easy to use.
The downward curve of the blades puts your wrist in the best position and reduces the risk of repetitive strain injury (RSI).
The large yellow safety catch is easily visible on the top of the tool and can be used by left or right handed people, and those with reduced dexterity from conditions like arthritis. Another good feature is the hard grey Teflon coating to the blades that protect them from the corrosive properties of plant saps.
They have been given various, confusing names. Wolf Basic Plus, Comfort, Comfort Plus and Premium Plus - similar tools - increasing quality
The original model had an external spring and came in 3 sizes and were known as wolf comfort pruners.
The new versions have the springs and are available with either bypass or anvil blades
I like the budget price Comfort Plus models and the more expensive metal bodied Professional models
This metal version (RR5000) has a built in spring that cannot fall off, and gives a superb cut
(not suitable for small or weak hands)
Ratchet Secateurs for Easier cutting
In my work former work for the NHS as a Horticultural therapist I recommended ratchet secateurs to hundreds of patients with arthritis or who had a weak hand grip. This enabled many people to continue gardening when they would otherwise have given up. However anyone can benefit from using ratchet pruners as you will be able to cut larger stems more easily.
The ratchet action will enable you to cut woody stems up to 25mm with 30% less effort and reduce the chance of damage to arthritic knuckle and finger joints. The downside to ratchet pruners is that they only come with Anvil blades, not bypass and the pumping action required takes slightly more time (but we are talking nanoseconds). There are many versions available and these Spear and Jackson versions are as good as any, are made from Aluminium and also have the finger guard that helps keep thorns at bay.
If you use the link below you will get them at a brilliant price and support my work too as anything purchased from my links generates a small commission for Fredshed.
Remember the technique for using ratchet pruners
When cutting thick stems -
Squeeze -release- squeeze-release - squeeze - cut done!
In between squeezes of the handles you will hear a little click as the mechanism re-sets itself for optimum leverage and cutting power.
Teflon coated blade, aluminium body with soft grip pad and finger guard.
The pack with the sharpener is only an extra £1
NEW PRODUCT - SWITCHABLE RATCHET SECATEURS !
This new model has a simple switch that locks off the ratchet mechanism so you can cut thinner material too!
I absolutely love these and for the extra couple of quid I think they are well worth getting.
Best Value Good Quality Secateur
If you want cheap - but good secateurs, with a really clean cut these bypass secateurs from Bulldog are superb value for money.
They have a top quality Japanese SK-5 steel blade and an Aluminium body for strength. This makes them lightweight. I also like the comfy but durable soft green grips on the handles. For the money these have to be the best secateurs and are a real pleasure to use.
Despite the low cost these are well made secateurs. The only small downside is the unusual rear mounted safety catch and the fact that they are a "one size fits all" job. However the size has been well chosen so will suit anyone with the possible exception of those with large hands the size of a German goalkeeper!
I keep a stable of different secateurs scattered around my gardens and in my car. I am always pleased to see these ones and use them mostly for pruning live stems where I need a good clean and accurate cut. Japan has a long history of using high grade steel in cutting tools (knives and Samurai swords) so it is fantastic to have such a high quality blade on a relatively cheap tool.
You can buy similar looking secateurs from other companies but most I tried had poor quality springs and the mechanisms became stuck. Secateurs of this type and price range are all made in the far east so variants in price and quality will exist between different "brands" and suppliers. Bulldog have specified good features and quality control.
The "heavy duty" bypass version in the link below performed as well as the Bulldog ones but are cheaper! I would not describe them as heavy duty myself but they are very good and cut well.
These secateurs will make a great present and should last many years with just an occasional oil and clean.
If you buy them using my link you will join many of my happy readers and also help my site and work with a small commission.
Use the links above and support Fredshed too!
Keeping your secateurs sharp is actually quite easy and will make a lot of difference to your plants and possibly to your joints and tendons. There are several types of tool and material that can be used, the main ones are ceramic, tungsten carbide and diamond.
Spear and Jackson make a neat little sharpening tool with a tungsten carbide blade whilst Felco opt for a small dual sided ceramic stone. The Darlac Diamond sharpener is great value and comes in 2 grades. I like the Spear and Jackson Razorsharp Secateur sharpener as it has a curved head that reaches right into the back of the blade you are trying to sharpen and there is no need to take the secateurs apart.
All work well but the important thing is to use them regularly and clean the Secateur blade before using sharpener because diamond and stone sharpeners do not work well if clogged with grime.
Solid Forged Forks and Spades - Made in the Traditional British way
This pair of classic British made border tools cost around £35 each
I have used Bulldog garden tools for more than 35 years and my dad, (Big Fred) used them before me.
Bulldog makes the same top quality products in the same English forge - as it has done since 1780, but due to energy and labour costs have moved the forge to India where the tools are made to the same standard and managed by UK craftsmen.
These tried and trusted tools are the favourite of professionals and enthusiasts across the world.
Compared to what you find in the shops these tools seem relatively expensive but will outlast cheap tools several times. In the long term you save money - and help the environment as these tools will last and not become landfill after a short time.
Long Handled Cut and Hold Pruner
Golden Shed Award winner
This long handled cut and hold pruner is one of my favourite tools and one that I have used for over 16 years. That's why it won the first ever Golden Shed Award.
There are different sizes and makes available now, from the 650mm Darlac Snapper, version shown here right up to the telescopic versions that extend to 3m!
This tool is ideal for light pruning up to 16mm thick, and for deadheading roses etc. Whilst working for the NHS as a horticultural therapist I recommended this tool to hundreds of patients with back pain. I received many letters of thanks and never had a tool returned faulty.
The best version from Spear and Jackson is 30 inches long and has an articulated head that can be angled to reach into very confined spaces
The "snapper" can be used one or two handed and has a lot of handle adjustment. It is also very well made and I am still using one that I have had for over 16 years. The image below shows the articulated head on the improved Spear & Jackson 30inch version.
Heavy Duty Pole Pruner - Fiskars Long Reach Universal Cutter.
This is me with the shorter version (220638)
Great for reaching into prickly bushes too!- Angled head for perfect cutting
I have used this tool for over 10 years now and still marvel at its incredible cutting power and ease of use. It is easier to use than traditional tree pruners as the cord is on the inside and does not get tangled up in the branches. Also the multi-angle head contains a brilliant mechanism with a belt and chain that enables the tool to effortlessly slice through branches up to 32mm.
There are 3 ways of activating the cut, pull the sliding handle, pull the side cord or for extra reach pull the ball at the bottom of the handle. Superb design! The Fiskars Geared Universal Cutter won a 2002 Golden Shed Award and has recently won other prestigious design awards. In 2008 it was re-engineered using newly available materials and is now lighter and cuts with an anvil blade which is less likely to jam on a hard stem..
The standard version is 1.6m long and weighs only 1.1kg. This is ok for large shrubs or small trees but if you want to be more ambitious the telescopic version that extends to 4m is the one to buy.
Fiskars Telescopic Long Reach Universal Cutter.
This is an unconventional tool, but trust me, if you have branches to prune in hard to reach places, you will love this one. The advantage over a conventional cord operated tree pruner is that there is no cord to get tangled in the branches. I have owned and used this tool since the first version was introduced around 15 years ago. There have been a couple of improved versions and the latest one is much lighter so is easier to handle. The downside is the extra cost so I have put a link below to a couple of good quality, standard pole pruners for those who want to stick to the old ways of doing things.
Spare blades and springs available too.
If you found my advice helpful you can support my work by returning to this page and using my links when purchasing your tools.
Also, any products bought from Amazon found by the searchbox below will produce a small commission that helps cover my hosting costs. thanks, Fred
Alternative Digging Tools
This is a Mattock Fork
(also known as an Azada Fork)
It is not a good idea to use your garden tools for really tough jobs like clearing
weed infested land or digging trenches in heavy soil or for building work.
Most garden tools sold in the shops are designed for use in well cultivated
soil.. Much better to use a
more ancient tool that goes back to the iron age. These tools are described by various names such as
"mattocks", "picks" , and in Spain the "Azada".
They are very common in developing countries and are far less likely to
break than a fork or spade when used in stony ground. If you have good arm strength and co-ordination
the fork style tool may cause you less back pain when digging than the
typical tools we insist on using in Britain.
It is not a good idea to use your garden tools for really tough jobs like clearing weed infested land or digging trenches in heavy soil or for building work. Most garden tools sold in the shops are designed for use in well cultivated soil.. Much better to use a more ancient tool that goes back to the iron age.
These tools are described by various names such as "mattocks", "picks" , and in Spain the "Azada". They are very common in developing countries and are far less likely to break than a fork or spade when used in stony ground.
If you have good arm strength and co-ordination the fork style tool may cause you less back pain when digging than the typical tools we insist on using in Britain.
Small Garden Hand Tools, Forks and Trowels
Dutch Made Gardening Tools
There are 2 family firms in Holland making top quality hand crafted gardening tools.
DeWit tools use hi boron carbon steel for strength and flexibility. As this metal ages it goes black and develops an "antique patina".
Sneeboer tools use Stainless Steel which is more expensive and some say looks nicer.
Sneeboer have just bought out this new long handled flowerbed trowel that is so nice to use.
My Favourite Fork and Trowel
Whilst my readers know that I am not a fan of stainless steel for full size forks and spades I am more enthusiastic about its use in small hand tools.
As stainless steel is not as strong as normal carbon steel it is more suited to the smaller tools that suffer less strain.
These Spear & Jackson Select tools are a joy to use as they are well made and have comfortable soft grip handles.
If you are using garden handtools a lot then you will really appreciate these handles. I have left these tools out in the garden to see how durable they are and they are doing well. Wooden handled tools would have started coming apart by now as the changes in temperature and moisture shrink and crack wood.
I also like the hole in the handle for a hanging strap.
At about £8 each these tools are very good value and will probably outlast wooden handled tools as the plastic and rubber is good quality and seems not to be affected by water and weather. I use these tools a lot and leave them outside to see just how durable they are. So far very good!
If you prefer traditional wooden handles the Draper range are a good price for the quality supplied
British made Fork and Trowels
These are my 5 Bulldog Premier handtools - all shiny and new.
I have used them for 5 years now and some are a bit scratched up but all work fine.
These tools are made in Wigan and have been for decades.
Best Garden Tool for Hoeing and Shallow Rooted Weed Removal
The Wilkinson Sword "Swoe "
In my opinion this is one of the best and easiest to use weeder/cultivators ever made. It is also one of the strangest looking. Which explains why even after 30 years on the market -it is still hard to sell. The Swoe is a cross between a golf club and a hoe and is light-weight yet extremely strong.
The chamfered steel blade slides under the soil backwards and forwards, (or at an angle) and can even be hooked around the back of a hard to reach plant. Turned on its edge it can be used to dig small holes for planting, seed drills and for ridging soil.
All new versions have a stainless steel blade that remains cleaner and smoother therefore offers less resistance when sliding through the soil.
This hoe, along with my own Stealth weeder is the tool of choice for most of the gardeners at Le Manoir.
You will probably not be able to find a Swoe in your local garden centre as the unusual design makes them harder to sell than other types of hoe.
The links below will get you one at a great price and also help me and my site keep this great tool going. I promise you that will be impressed with this tool!
If you hoe larger open areas or want a more traditional type hoe then I would recommend a stainless steel Dutch hoe.
Thin but tough Showa Plant master gloves
(also known as assembly 370 as they are often used on factory assembly lines)
Showa gloves are the real deal and cost around £5
I bought some cheap copies at a garden show and they ripped in no time.
Don't waste your money on poor quality gloves. These are strong but also soft enough for delicate work.
(Towa gloves are also good)
Thin but strong - small - medium - large
Please use my links when purchasing gloves if you want to help my work testing and reviewing the best gardening products. - (long term since Feb 2000!)
BACK TO GARDEN HANDTOOLS RECOMMENDED BY FRED
Wolf Multi-change Garden Tools
I have used this multi-change system for 20 years now and also tried many "wanna-be" systems.
With the exception of the very hard to find Gardena Combi-system all were poor in comparison and none have the range and variety of handles and heads.
In 2010 Wolf tools are now owned by the same company who make Wilkinson Sword tools and a limited number of tools will be available in black and orange and branded Wilkinson Sword
To cover a plethora of jobs in the garden I like to have a system of tools that fits different handles. .The advantage of this is that you save space on storage and can transport lots of tools all at once.
The Wolf Multi-change System has been around the longest and is superb quality. The range includes the amazing soil miller cultivating tool, a hollow tine lawn aerator and tree pruning attachments. The longspan rake is great for levelling soil before turfing.
Brooms, brushes and even fruit picking attachments make this the widest range of tools available from any one company. This system has been around many years and will be available for many more.
The Wolf Multichange system is made in Germany to the highest standards.
Wolf Tree Pruning Tools
The Wolf Multichange system has been around for decades now and I have been using their tree pruning tools for nearly 20 years.
This curved saw has a hooked end for side shoots and can be fitted to a 4m long telescopic pole
In fact it can be fitted to any length of pole to suit your exact needs, from a handsaw to a 4m pole!
Whilst Silky from Japan seem to be the top brand with professionals for this type of tool the high cost of Silky Tools is prohibitive to most people.
The Wolf tools are made in Germany and are excellent quality. The curved saw and adjustable tree pruner are both superbly efficient and can be fitted to the telescopic aluminium ZMV4 pole to extend to 4m, giving you a reach of 4m plus your own height.
UPDATE - WOLF SAWS BEING REPLACED
Wolf has improved the design of the pruning saw by including a small handle so that it can be used more easily on its own.
Previously you had to have a separate small handle.
I like this improvement but be aware that the new saw does not fit some of the old telescopic handles
Other Fredshed recommended ranges of interchangeable tools systems
I frequently use 2 other ranges of tools system as I find that no -single range has all the best accessories
The Darlac range uses a very lightweight telescopic pole and is cheaper than Wolf
Gardena are German made and used to be more popular in the UK.
I particularly like their Combi System Yard broom and cannot find anything to beat it for outside use.
Best Loppers Tested - Which Garden Loppers should you buy?
Over the last 16 years of running Fredshed I have tried and tested dozens of pairs of garden loppers. These tools have evolved over the years with the introduction of telescopic handles and ratchets. Some of the current budget versions of these tools are rubbish and best avoided. The strength of loppers were greatly improved with the introduction of oval rather than round tubing and telescopic loppers improved with sliding rather that twisting adjustment on the handles.
This is me using my Bulldog telescopic ratchet loppers and wearing my favorite Rogue ventilated hat
The Bulldog loppers are light but strong.
(I am a bit heavy, but also strong)
These are the Best Value Heavy Duty Garden Loppers
Telescopic handles & ratchet mechanism
If your budget is limited or you want some extra cutting power then these Bulldog telescopic ratchet loppers are excellent.
At around £25 they include several features found on more expensive tools.
Square section aluminium handles give strength but remain lightweight
Ratchet mechanism adds power to cut up to 50.mm branches
The only negative thing about these loppers and ALL ratchet loppers is that the handles have to be opened wide to get the full effect of the leverage from the ratchet mechanism. So they are a little more awkward to use in confined spaces.
Fantastic New Geared Shears and Loppers
New Fiskars versions- with lighter handles - coins show maximum cutting diameters
This first geared loppers were from Wilkinson Sword and they have now been improved further with the use of lighter stronger handles.
As the Wilkinson Sword brand has been bought by MTD of the USA the best new geared loppers are now made by Fiskars of Finland. The geared mechanism gives extra power and is made from super strength composite
I strongly recommend the larger size bypass lopper, it has thicker handles, the blade is Teflon coated and it gives the most cutting performance per £ spent.
I have been using geared loppers and shears for a many years now and hundreds of readers have bought them on my recommendations and provided positive feedback.
These loppers have the all important gearing mechanism that provides extra cutting power but now the tool is 80% hi tech plastic which makes them ultra light - but still very strong.
Available in 2 sizes with bypass blades
Medium -cuts up to the size of a £1 coin
Large - cuts up to the size of a £2 coin -( from my own testing)
use my links below to make sure you get the latest version
Best Hedge Shears
The hedge shear is one of the essential garden tools and one that if selected badly can cause you a lot of pain and hard work. It is also a garden tool that requires more maintenance than most to keep its performance.
Buying cheap shears is a fools option unless you have one bush and little money. A quality pair of garden shears are a pleasure to use and will last many years with only a little attention now and again.
The choice is enormous and some of the old ones are still the best. Recent innovations include lightweight telescopic handles and some sort of gearing or leverage to make cutting easier.
Some of the shears I have tested and owned.
I tested many makes and types of Garden shear from the ridiculous £2.20 Tesco specials to the £50 Golden Ceka classic shear.
To test hedge shears I took 5 of the best I could find and used them over a 10 year period. During this time other shears were occasionally introduced to the trial and all of the tools were loaned to my test team for further feedback
The Bulldog Premier wavy blade shears are the smallest but are well made enough to cut most hedges.
The wavy blade actually helps to trap the stems so that they can be cut cleanly. At only 18 inches long and weighing around 1KG these are ideal for small gardens, small sheds and small gardeners.
They have comfortable soft grips and the blade tension is easily adjusted by use of a large knob.
Best Budget Priced Hedge Shears
Best Telescopic Hedge Shears
These German made shears are my favourite telescopic versions. The handles are oval for extra strength and adjusted by durable sliders rather than the unreliable twisting mechanisms found on inferior models. They also have Teflon coated blades. The tool shown above is over 10 years old and gets frequent use.
Here is a big tip -avoid telescopic tools like shears or loppers with round tubular handles, they usually jam. Go for oval tubing, it's stronger. Even cheap Chinese made hedge shears have now copied this design. However, take care when buying unbranded cheap Chinese tools as many use poor quality metal or do not harden and temper it properly to reduce costs. You wont know this, until they fail.
Think about this, how can a pair of metal shears weighing 2kg be made and transported from China and be sold in Tesco for £4.20 and a profit be made?
In retail a 50% margin on shop sales is usual, so if Tesco buy these tools for £2.10p then there cant be much decent metal in them.
Best Professional Quality Hedge Shear
My favourite are these German made shears Golden Ceka shears with a wavy blade that have been around many years and have the best cutting ability. However this power comes at a price and they are a tad heavy.
The most commonly used shears amongst professional gardeners are from Bahco of Sweden who make a huge range of no frill hedge and garden shears like these P51 models shown (orange handles). They are available in 2 handle lengths and unless you work in confined spaces I would recommend the longer handled model.
Bahco are literally at the cutting edge of blade technology and also provide simpler budget priced tools with the same quality blades for domestic use.
A note on lightweight shears
The action of shearing can put a lot of strain on the moving parts of shears so if you want lightweight shears then don't expect them to do heavyweight work.
Also if you want lightweight telescopic shears then please be aware that the introduction of more moving parts introduces more weakness and parts so again don't expect them to be very lightweight or be able to handle heavyweight tasks.
Professional hedge shear
This has notches for cutting thick stems
You will find Bahco shears in most professional gardeners sheds.
An alternative product is the Golden Ceka from CK tools of Germany. This is heavier but has the wavy blade that many gardeners prefer.
CK Legend Golden Ceka hedge shears
Don't forget why you need these tools!
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