Guide to choosing and using hedge and grass shears

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Last updated July 2014

Hand shears for gardening

Hand shears cut in the same way as scissors, with edged blades closing onto the material to be cut, and it’s handy to have a pair of these in the shed, ready to tackle soft growth that needs trimming back. As ever with garden hand tools, there’s a huge range, so read on before making any decisions.

Large and small shears for hedges and other plants
Extra features of some garden shears
Long reach garden shears
Long-handled shears for lawn edges
Single-handed grass shears for lawn edges
Looking after your shears

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Large and small shears for hedges and other plants

Hedging shears are made in various sizes and weights so it’s important to choose the right pair for the job. Smaller shears with shorter blades are fine for short lengths of leafy hedge and other soft trimming jobs such as tidying up herbaceous perennials and heathers. But woodier material tends to slide out of short-bladed versions, so larger shears with longer blades are necessary to give you the leverage and power to snip through twiggy hedges with their thicker harder stems. Very woody material can still escape, so shears with wavy-edged blades are the better choice here.

Generally, the meatier the shears, the heavier they are, so if you think this will be a problem, look for lightweight shears such as the ARS (=Always Really Sharp) K1000 pair, which weigh 780g (that’s about 1½lbs in old money) or other shears around this weight.

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Fiskars HS22 SingleStep Hedge Shears with Wavy Blade 580mm from Tooled Up £17.95

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Extra features of some garden shears

A cutting notch at the base of the blades is useful for cutting through the occasional thicker twig without having to fetch the secateurs. However, hedge shears are not suitable for cutting back into older wood – it takes a lot of effort to cut material more than 3mm (1 inch) thick.

Trimming hedges soon becomes tiring, so make the work as easy for yourself as possible by choosing shears with adjustable blade tension. This solves the problem of the blades being too tight or too loose. If the blades are too tight, it’s difficult to open and close the shears. When the blades are too loose, they don’t meet and can’t cut material cleanly.

Also, look for shears with shock absorbers in the form of rubber stops or buffers fitted to the handles, because these reduce the jarring each time you snip and close the blades.

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Long reach garden shears

Trimming above waist height really tells you about your arm and shoulder muscles, and although long-handled shears give you greater reach, they are usually heavy, so many gardeners prefer to use their usual shears and stand on steps to reach the hedge top.

Long-handled shears are too awkward to use for jobs where you don’t need the extra reach, so if you have many different tasks in mind, but only want one pair of shears, then look at our online garden centre to see versions with telescopic handles for versatility. Also consider ARS long-handled shears that weigh less than a kilogram.

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Long-handled shears for lawn edges

Long-handled lawn-edging shears are made by nearly all the garden tool companies and you’ll find a good range available.

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Long Handled Edging Shear 113310 from £72.00

Some have blades at right angles to the handle, for trimming tall grass. Most have blades in line with the handles, designed for you to tidy up lawn edges (best done after every mowing session so that the clippings can drop and shrivel unobtrusively). The main points to look for are appropriate handle length, blade length, and weight. Ideally you should be able to edge your lawn while standing upright, not stooping over and getting backache. Shorter blade versions are better for curving lawn edges and are lighter too.

Some gardeners hate lawn edging because they make it hard work for themselves – by opening and closing both handles as if using loppers. A more efficient technique is to hold one handle still (the one connected to the lower blade) and just move the handle connected to the upper blade in order to snip through the grass. Try it and see – it’s faster and less tiring.

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Single-handed grass shears for lawn edges

You have to bend down to use these short-handled shears, which are specially made to trim grass in awkward places and are also useful for snipping off flowering grasses (that cylinder mowers often miss) and for dead-heading flowers in the border. They are easier to use on dry grass, but will cut wet grass if the blades are in very good condition. Most hand tool manufacturers include these in their range.

Grass shears are designed for single-handed use, leaving your other hand free to gather up the material. Basic grass shears open and close in the same plane as the handgrip so you have to twist and turn yourself for different angles; more versatile ones have adjustable blade angles so you can twist them around for vertical lawn edging.



Spear & Jackson Razorsharp Advantage Single Handed Grass Shears from Tooled Up £11.95



Gardena Classic Rotatable Single Handed Grass Shears from Tooled Up £13.95

The handles on grass shears are off-set to be higher than the blades so that you don’t graze your knuckles on the ground, but for greater protection, consider designs with an enclosed handgrip (suitable for left- and right-handed use), and with swivel blades.

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Looking after your shears

Whatever shears you have and whatever plants you trim, the job is much easier if you take care of your shears.

The sap which builds up on the blades makes opening and closing them more difficult, so wipe them clean with an oily rag after use (and part-way through trimming, if there’s a lot to do). For ease of use and cleaning, consider buying shears with stainless steel or Teflon-coated blades. Stainless steel doesn’t go rusty and Teflon-coated blades are easier to clean than ordinary ones.

Check the blade tension is correct and oil the pivot point regularly.

Some shears are self-sharpening. If not, check whether one or both blades have a cutting edge, and sharpen that edge at the same angle with a sharpening kit or whetstone.

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Sealey SMS2001M.10 Sharpening Disc for SMS2001M from Rapid Online – Rapid Electronics Ltd. £2.32



Handy Rotary Lawnmower Blade Sharpener from Tooled Up £3.95

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