Walk into the gardening section at your local big box and you’ll to notice two different kinds of cutting tools — bypass and anvil. You’ll see these two options for everything from pruners to clippers to loppers to hedge shears. So how do you know which one is right for you? Learn more after the jump.
With a bypass cutting tool, you draw a curved or straight blade past another blade — this creates a scissor-like motion that works well for cutting live green plants. The spongy, firm outer wall surrounding the stem yields easily to that bypass motion.
With an anvil cutting tool, you bring down a straight blade against a wide anvil usually made of steel or hard rubber. Anvil pruners are better suited for dead and dried-out plants — the crushing motion causes the brittle stem to kind of explode and separate.
Choosing the wrong tool for the job can frustrate your pruning project. A bypass cutter used on a dead plant causes the brittle stem to bend and get caught between the two blades as they glide past each other. This can damage the bolt mechanism holding the blades together, reducing the tool’s cutting effectiveness. And when you try to cut a live plant with an anvil, the spongy stem tends to crush, even with a sharp blade, resulting in a jagged cut and causing damage to the live plant.
So next time you need to do some pruning, ask yourself: Bypass or anvil? That is the question.