Controversy often rages on the subject of the best tool for pruning. I have heard partisans argue on the rival claims of secateurs and knife as vigorously as if they were discussing a political question. Well, the point is just as interesting as, and very much more useful than, many political topics. I confess, however, that there seems to me to be little real ground for argument: the question is largely one of circumstances. In training and pruning young trees in nurseries - trees so small that the grower has easy access to every part of them - the knife is almost universally used, and, I think, rightly, for the cleanest of cuts can be made at the exact spot where they ought to be. But when large, unwieldy trees have to be dealt with the case is wholly different, and the secateurs are far more useful. I have heard it said that. secateurs make jagged wounds. That is a very poor compliment to the skill of the owner in sharpening and handling. When as sharp as they ought to be, and handled properly, they make beautifully clean cuts. I should like some of the gentlemen who decry secateurs to have to tackle some trees such as it has been my unhappy lot to have to reform - trees of considerable size, and so crowded with interlacing shoots as to make it almost impossible to penetrate them. Here the secateurs have a tremendous pull over the knife, for the work can be done as well and in half the time. In certain positions it is difficult to sever a shoot with the knife without steadying it with the other hand; the secateurs steady and cut at the same time.
In using pruning knives inexperienced persons frequently gash their thumbs. They have not learned the art of checking the progress of the blade directly it has got through the shoot. This is owing to their clinging fondly to the seductively curved handle. Personally, I regard the curved handle, admirable though it may be in theory, as a snare. It is all right when the pruner wants to take a sweeping pull, but not for delicate work. If the pruning novice gets his upper fingers well up the back of the blade he will not cut himself, because he has complete control of the knife.
B, large clasp pruning knife with straight blade, handle slightly curved. A popular type in nurseries, but not the best for general pruning.
C, medium clasp pruning knife, blade pointed and well curved, handle also curved, the best knife for general pruning.
E, a Gooseberry primer, about 15 inches long, with curved, hooked, and inward cutting blade. A handy tool, but not indispensable.
H, two-bladed secateurs with iron handles, a splendid tool when properly handled and kept sharp. The blades are curved and pointed, and will negotiate shoots up to 1/2 inch in thickness with ease. It is not well, however, to strain them upon very thick shoots.
I, pruning saw with thick blade and close teeth.
J, pruning saw with hook, a handy and useful saw.
K, American curved saw, cutting with a pull instead of a push, and very useful in dealing with crowded trees.
L, keyhole saw, handy for cutting dose to branches where a deeper blade would be inconvenient, but not suitable for very large branches.