Anvil or Bypass

What's the difference between
bypass and anvil shears?

Anvil or bypass - is one of the oldest questions since the invention of pruning shears. As far as I'm concerned, if you're asking which one is better, you're asking the wrong question. The question is, better for what? It only depends on what it is you're wanting to prune, and what you want to achieve. 

Begin by asking yourself what am I about to cut? an old apple tree with thick branches? or thin (dry and dead) rose stems in winter? Who will be using the shears? And how often?

Before I answer these questions, let's talk about the differences between anvil and bypass pruning shears. As for the advantages or disadvantages of each, I'll get to that later. Let's start with understanding the differences. 

Anvil or bypass - Let's begin with anvil 

Anvil pruning shearsanvil pruners were developed for a specific use. So if your planning to use them for your everyday garden needs, think again. (Unless most of your plants are "tough guys" like deciduous shrubs, bamboo, or a veteran vineyard) For most home gardens, Anvil pruners are overkill, and should be the backup pair. Although today you can find pruners that combine anvil and bypass within the same pair, I still think you might be better off choosing something else for daily use. And always begin by asking yourself 'what am I about to cut'?

What makes anvil pruners so special? Good question!

First, there's the fact that one part is a blade (the metal side) and the other is the anvil (the black side). The anvil is not sharp, often flat and made of either metal or rubber. Pruning with anvil shears is more of a "breaking the branch" method of cutting. Watch the short video to see how anvil pruners cuts the branch. Squeezing the shears required strength, and you can see how the olive branch is broken until it splits into two parts and falls. Try to listen to the sound the cutting makes, so you can later compare it to the sound of the bypass pruners. To demonstrate the two shears I chose to cut the branch of an olive tree. 

Anvil or bypass - now for the bypass shears 

Bypass pruners, on the other hand, were developed specifically for everyday use in your home garden.
So, anvil or bypass? Most home garden hobbyists and even pro gardeners will chose bypass pruners as their most common pair, and the one most in use. But keep in mind, it all depends on what you're about to cut. 

How they work - In this case, one part is a blade and the other part is (that's right) the anvil. But this time the anvil and the blade cross each other while cutting. Here the cutting method is more like "splitting" not "breaking". The bypass cut creates a cleaner cut and separates the two parts of the branch. Watch the video to see how the anvil cuts differently in this case. Don't forget to listening to the sound of the cut of the bypass pruners, it is totally different to what you heard with the anvil shears. 

Which one is better for me? 

Generally speaking - it is most likely that you will get more use from bypass shears as your main cutting tool, because first, they require less effort, and second, they give a fast clean cut that is simply more fun when you're pruning, and I personally believe the user experience counts. Also, bypass shears can easily serve two purposes, they are more of a multi-tool. Over my 22 years of pruning I always chose to work with bypass shears. I found them more useful and convenient in my daily work. but, rest assured, I always had a back-up pair of anvil shears, which in my case were bypass loppers.  

Bottom line, both are good, both are useful (though some may be more useful than others ;) You just need to know what you're planning to cut. And if you're not sure, use my expert advice - tell me about your pruning plans and I'll help you find the perfect shears for you. 

Happy pruning! 

Providing general guidelines on 'how to prune' any kind of plant is important, but there are plants, and there is YOUR plant. So despite there being loads of information on this site, I also provide specific and personalized support. If something wasn't clear, or you're not sure of your plant's name, simply send me a picture with your question. Use the form below and I'll get back to you. In the mean time, see what others are asking. 

Gardening gift ideas
to use indoors or out