You’re in the midst of pruning a large, overgrown shrub with your loppers when you hit a 1-½ inch branch. Do you go back to the garage for your pruning saw? Or do you tackle the job with your loppers, squeezing with all your might to force the blades through the branch?
I’ve broken a few loppers this way and bent more lopper blades than I care to admit. So finding loppers that make cutting through thick branches easier is high on my gardening priority list.
The Fiskars 9168 Telescoping Power-Lever Lopper promises to alleviate pruning woes in two ways – (1) the handles extend from 25 to nearly 37 inches, making it easier to reach branches and increasing leverage, and (2) Fiskars claims that the Power-Lever technology will increase leverage to make cutting “two times easier than single-pivot loppers” so you can power through 1-5/8 inch branches.
We had two licensed arborists (and expert pruners) test the loppers on both live and dead wood of differing diameters. (Editor’s Note: Bypass loppers are best used for cutting live wood but, since we know that many gardeners also use them on deadwood, we test all pruning tools on both types of wood.) Here’s what they had to say …
Telescoping Handles Stay Firmly in Place
The problem with some telescoping loppers is that the handles don’t lock securely in place (this generally applies to loppers with a twist-and-lock telescoping mechanism, although there are some noticeable exceptions, like the Dramm ColorPoint Telescoping Lopper). Fiskars has addressed this problem nicely with their Tight-Lock locking mechanism. Simply flip up the orange locking tabs, extend the handles to the desired length, and press the tabs back in place.
The handles can be extended to any length you want. Just be sure that you extend both to the same length or your pruning cuts are likely to be a little “wonky”.
Because the locking tabs are made of plastic, they could become brittle over time (especially if left in the sun). They seem sturdy enough and didn’t give our testers any problems, but it’s something to consider.
Be careful not to get dirt, sand, or grit inside the telescoping handles as that can cause it to get stuck.
About the Power-Lever Technology
The Power-Lever loppers use a four-point pivot design, rather than the single pivot point found in traditional loppers. This compound action increases leverage and should make it easier to cut through larger diameter branches and stems. The downside is that the extra moving parts add to the overall weight of the lopper.
If it’s uncomfortable to hold your pruning tools, how often are you going to use them? Thankfully, the grips on the Fiskars Telescoping Power-Lever loppers are nicely cushioned, providing padding where you need it without a lot of bulk.
The downside is that the cushioning is made of a foam-like material that’s easily dinged or torn. Over time, parts of it will wear away and that could make it somewhat uncomfortable to hold.
Bumper Absorbs Shock
An important part of a quality lopper is the bumper. This cushioning mechanism absorbs shock when you complete a pruning cut. On the Fiskars telescoping lopper, the bumper is made of metal with a rubber ring acting as the shock absorber. As you close the lopper blades, the rubber is compressed between two metal plates, making for a softer cut.
The bumper works well but over time the rubber started to crack. I’m not sure if the shock absorption will decrease over time because of this but it’s worth noting that the bumper is not replaceable.
Unusual Blade Design
Most loppers have blades that both curve in a similar shape. The wider you open the handles, the further apart the blades move, allowing you to wrap the blades around branches of varying sizes.
In contrast, the Fiskars Power-Lever lopper has two very differently shaped blades. Our testers noted that this makes it much more difficult to insert branches into the mouth of the lopper. It requires a strange motion to get the blades around branches or stems and limits the angle at which you approach a stem/branch to make cuts.
Although Fiskars says that the Power-Lever telescoping lopper has a cutting capacity of 1.625 inches, we found it almost impossible to cut a branch that large. Our testers had difficulty cutting branches over 1 inch in diameter; in most cases, the blades simply slid off the branch, rather than cutting through it. This seems to be an issue with the design; because the blades aren’t similarly curved, there’s nothing to hold a larger branch in place as the blades close around it and the branch gets pushed out of the blades. On traditional designs, the non-cutting blade acts almost like a hook to hold the branch in place.
Blades Were Easily Damaged
Although the blades are made from “fully hardened steel,” they do not appear to be very strong. All of our testers found that the blades chipped easily, possibly because the cutting edge seems rather thin. Because of the difficulty in getting blades around branches or stems, the lopper sometimes twisted when making a cut (and these are experienced arborists who know how to make clean cuts). This caused the blades to cross and nicked the cutting edge.
The blades have a non-stick coating that supposedly reduces the amount of effort need to make cuts. We can’t comment on that.
Replacement Parts Available Online
If you break or damage a blade through normal use, oversharpening, etc., you can buy a replacement blade for $3.99 on the Fiskars website.
For other parts, call Customer Service at 866-348-5661 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to see if replacement parts are available.
All Fiskars products are warranted for as long as you own the product. Note that the warranty does not cover damage caused by sharpening, normal wear and tear, environmental factors (don’t leave it out in the rain), accidental damage, misuse, and industrial or commercial use.
We give the Fiskars Power-Lever Telescoping lopper a 3-shovel rating. It has some nice features, such as the locking mechanism for the telescoping handles, but it’s difficult to cut larger branches because of the blade design. That defeats the whole purpose of telescoping handles and the Power-Lever technology…
Where to Buy
The Fiskars Telescoping Power-Lever Lopper is available at garden centers and big box stores, as well as online through the Fiskars website for $29.99. You can also buy the Fiskars Telescoping Power-Lever Bypass Lopper, Cushioned Grip on Amazon for $22.97 (free shipping with a Prime membership).
And now over to you – Which telescoping loppers have you used? What did you like or not like about them? Let us know in the comments below.