By Stephanie Lezotte
You can get this bypass lopper for under $20. The entire tool is 27 inches long, perfect for removing my neighbor’s tree branches that have steadily been creeping into my property. It features plastic grip handles that have a rubbery feel, and while I always wear gloves while doing gardening tasks, the grips feel soft enough to be used comfortably by bare hands for a short period of time.
Surprisingly, I noticed that the grip handles did not get a grimy build-up after several uses the way some other grip handles do. The 25-inch straight handles are made of tubular steel and the entire tool weighs in at a manageable 2 pounds. The tool feels sturdy and durable but is not cumbersome.
This tool is best used for small and large shrubs. As I expected, it was able to cut through hydrangea, ivy, bamboo, and rose bush with minimal exertion. This tool does requires a quick jerking motion in order to cut effectively (perfectionists like myself who take time to carefully aim—steer clear of this tool and use a hand pruner instead). The tool struggled a bit on larger varieties that I expected it to cut with ease (see: The Bad).
The single-bevel curved blade is rated to cut branches up to one inch thick and is made of coated steel. I have neither cleaned nor treated the blade before storing the tool in my gardening shed, yet the steel has remained rust-free. Not only that, but I can be a little rough on my tools, tossing them here and there after use. This lopper has handled the abuse well, and I’m happy with its overall quality and value.
While I found that the Blue Hawk could cut through shrubs and pruned rose bushes easily enough, I had another test for it. Strong winds had uprooted a large buddleia (butterfly bush) that had grown over the years into a twelve-foot tree. The roots were exposed for about ten days before I could tend to it. I decided that the best hope for salvaging the pretty plant was to trim several feet off of the top before replanting. The branches were not at all large; I could snap off with my hands some that had already died, and none of the green branches were over an inch thick.
On the thicker branches I used the lopper. The rate at which the blade dulled made each successive cut harder to execute. I found that I had to get the branch deep into the blade by fully extending the handles in order to get the easiest cut. However, it struggled with some branches—not only were the cuts becoming jagged, but sometimes I had to force a full cut by using a semi-circular sawing motion.
Even worse, sometimes the blade failed to cut at all and instead just twisted the green wood. Eventually, about 20-30 excess branches about 2-3 feet in length were pared away from the butterfly bush and the tree was re-planted (it has shown excellent signs of life, by the way). I would recommend this tool only if you plan to do occasional pruning of thin branches or shrubs, otherwise you might be re-sharpening this tool more often than you want to.
Also, the Blue Hawk lopper may be easy on the wallet but I found it to be hard on the wrists. With continued use, I experienced more wrist pain with the lopper than with any other gardening tool due to the effort I had to maintain. Rather surprisingly, I experienced pain not on the thicker branches of the butterfly bush, which required some pauses to decide where the next cut would be, but rather during the rapid trim motions of small hedges. It’s tempting to overuse these, as they can be powerful and quick, but I found that my trusty hand pruners did most jobs just as nicely and with less pain.
The drab military green color of this Blue (go figure) Hawk product is not very attractive, but it doesn’t have to be if it gets the job done for you.
A published writer and novice gardener, Stephanie Lezotte dabbles in over 1500 square feet of newly purchased gardens that yield hundreds of tulips, daffodils, hostas, and daylilies. She enjoys trying new gardening tools and techniques and isn’t afraid to get (a little) dirty.