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What are Lopping Shears?

By Susan Elliott
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are several types of cutting tools, or shears, used for gardening. Each shear has a different purpose and is best used for the purpose for which it was designed. Lopping shears have long handles and a hook-like head. These shears are used to remove branches, vines, and roots that are too large for pruning shears or are slightly out of the gardener's reach.

One of the key design elements of lopping shears is the handle length. This is one of the main factors that separates loppers from other types of gardening shears. The standard handle length of garden lopping shears is about 13 inches (33 cm), but handle length can range from 9 inches (22.9 cm) to 21 inches (53.3 cm). These long handles allow the gardener to cut branches that are farther away, reducing the need to climb or stretch to reach a branch.

Lopping shear handles are typically made from either carbon-fiber or aluminum so that they are light weight and strong. Both types work equally well; however, aluminum handled garden loppers are typically cheaper than those with carbon-fiber handles. Handles are usually covered by plastic shock absorbing grips to help protect the gardener from joint injuries while gardening.

Both the lopping shears' head and blade are designed for cutting. The blade is usually made from forged steel so that it will easily cut through larger branches and roots. The head's hook design allows the blade to snuggly wrap around tree roots without digging into the ground. The non-sharpened portion of the hooked head may be serrated so that the cutting area can firmly grab onto the material that it is cutting.

Some gardening loppers do have straight cutting heads, but these are typically much smaller than the standard size lopper. These loppers more closely resemble pruning shears with extra long handles. Either style lopper will work well in the garden.

Lopping shears should not be used to cut through objects that are larger than 2 inches (5.1 cm). Besides cutting through branches, roots, and vines, loppers are practical for cutting through small cactus. The handle length provides sufficient distance between the gardener and the plant to prevent injuries from thorns.

Like other outdoor gardening tools, lopping shears are usually made from non-corrosive materials. Lopping shears are made so that minimal exposure to the elements and the cleaning process will not harm them. To keep lopping shears looking new they should be cleaned after each use and stored in a water tight building or garden chest.

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Discussion Comments
By B707 — On Jul 18, 2011

For many years, I lived in a house with a good-sized yard full of trees and bushes. I did quite a bit of the yard work and my favorite garden tool was the lopping shears.

Because it had long handles, it was easy on my elbows. The hooked shaped blade worked so well - thick rose stems, tree roots and branches were easy to cut.

I liked the way you could reach up to a tree branch or into a

thick bush to cut a wayward twig.

With lopping shears I could stay on my feet most of the time, unlike when I used other types of shears where I had to go down to my knees and up again - ouch!

By lighth0se33 — On Jul 17, 2011

I often plant thick shrubs and bushes in my yard, as well as small fruit trees. I use lopping shears frequently, and I have a few extra tips on how to care for them.

First of all, after you clean the blades, you should oil them as well as the joints after every time you use them. This ensures that they will be ready for their next job.

If your shears ever start to make sloppy or jagged cuts, you should check the pivot joint. If it has become loose, tighten it. If the nut and bolt have stripped out, then you need to replace them.

Lastly, you should sharpen them whenever they become less effective. Sharpen along the beveled edge with a handheld mill file. A grinding wheel could be too harsh for these blades.

By wavy58 — On Jul 17, 2011

@StarJo - I did the same thing you are doing until I saw a show on the Do It Yourself network about how to properly care for lopping shears. Now, I clean them after each use to keep them in their best shape.

The guy on the show said that between each cut you make with the shears, you should wipe the blades either with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide or with rubbing alcohol. This will keep you from accidentally spreading any disease that could be present on an area you just cut to another part of the plant or another plant altogether. Be sure to wipe them with the same solution when you are all done, too.

You should never use an ammonia or chloride disinfectant cleaner on lopping shears made of steel. These disinfectants will corrode metal.

By StarJo — On Jul 16, 2011

I have a pair of lopping shears, but I am scared to clean them. If I clean them with water, I am afraid it will cause them to rust. I have just been wiping them with a paper towel to get the green stains off and placing them in the storage shed.

Does anyone know what I should be cleaning them with? I figured it was best to not clean them at all than to clean them with the wrong thing and risk ruining them.

By cloudel — On Jul 16, 2011

I have designated myself the official gardener of my parents’ yard. I have planted so many shrubs and flowers there that I feel it is my duty to continue to care for them, even though I no longer live there.

My dad has a pair of lopping shears with the straight edge. Though he uses them to trim unruly limbs from the young oaks out front, I use them for the huge old rosebushes. I find that the handle on a pair of regular garden shears is not long enough to keep the thorns from sticking my arms and hands while I prune the roses, so the loppers are best suited for this job.

After the hibiscus plants have died down in early winter, I use the lopping shears to prune them down to about 12 inches. In the summer, they grow to a height of about 5 feet, so I have to prune down low where the stalks are thick, and these shears are the only ones that can handle the job.

By elizabeth23 — On Jul 15, 2011

It's true about storage. Tools, even ones that are supposed to be rust-resistant, often do rust after a few years, or faster if you don't store them properly.

By sherlock87 — On Jul 14, 2011

My parents garden, and while lopping shears are an essential tool for them, it's true that you need multiple types of garden hand tools and other cutting tools. Pruning shears and hedge shears are also important if you have trees or bushes.

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