Understanding bypass & anvil blades

November 13, 2017

When using secateurs or loppers its important to choose the correct blade for the job & to understand how each cutting action works so as not to cause undue damage.

boy cutting a twig with a pair of anvil secateurs
Author: Muddy Faces

Age Range: 3+

Duration: less than an hour

Location: anywhere

Time Of Day: any time

Season: any

Tags: cutting, pruning, secateurs, tools, trimming

Category: growing & gardens tool use & traditional crafts


There are many different brands, styles and shapes of secateurs and loppers, some with gear actions or different spring actions, many with different-shaped blades.

There are two main types of blades: Anvil (crushing action) and Bypass (shearing action).


Anvil blades are for cutting dead or dry wood.

The blade presses down onto a flat surface, like a knife onto a chopping board, and a crushing action cuts through the wood.

An anvil blade is ideal for dried sticks and twigs.

This is a popular tool to use when working with groups outside as you may often collect sticks and cut them to length.

Anvil blades should not be used on live stems as they will damage them during the crushing cut, leaving the wound left on the plant susceptible to rot and diseases.


Bypass blades are for cutting green/live wood.

The action is similar to scissors, with two blades passing closely past each other.

If used correctly bypass pruners cause hardly any damage to the stems they are cutting.

Bypass secateurs will by the ideal tool for most small pruning jobs.

Safe use

Both types of blades should be routinely-inspected to make sure they are safe and working optimally.

See our how to use loppers and secateurs activity for ideas of how to introduce and use these tools.

Tool maintenance and storage

Check tools thoroughly before use. If anything looks damaged decommission it.

Ensure the correct use of the correct tool, eg. cutting stems that are too thick can cause force to be applied that can twist and damage the tool.

After use ensure the blades are wiped free of debris and dried before storing away. Keep an old rag in the tool box for this purpose.

Use oil regularly to make sure all moving parts are working efficiently.

Store in a tool box or similar and if necessary ensure it is lockable.