So if you got here by Googling “best hand pruners,” I have some good news for you. You don’t need a list. You don’t need a wide range of choices. Once you’ve arrived at the Felco F-2 hand pruners, you pretty much have the only pair of pruners you’ll ever need.
You may be surprised to learn that one pair of bypass pruners can really stand head and shoulders above the rest, but I can assure you that you’re no more surprised than I was back in 1997 when I got my first pair.
I still have that pair, by the way. And although I bought some new ones for the purposes of this review, the Felco F-2 pruners that were gifted to me by the owner of a landscape company I worked for 25 years ago are still my go-to hand pruners. I don’t expect they’ll quit any time soon.
Design & Construction
It’s hard to get to the essence of what makes these bypass pruners so great, but part of it comes down to their innovative design. Felco introduced their F-2 hand pruners in 1948, and the basic layout has only been slightly tweaked in almost 75 years.
The Felco F-2 hand pruners feature a hardened carbon steel bypass blade, which comes exceptionally sharp right out of the packaging. It holds its edge well through repeated use and is also easy to sharpen when the time comes. A sap groove catches stray plant material and helps keep the blade from getting gummed up when cutting wet or sticky vegetation.
The handles are lightweight and durable aluminum, with candy-apple red rubber groups that make the tool both non-slip and easy to see if you happen to drop it in thick vegetation. The handles are virtually indestructible.
There’s also a hardened nut and bolt system that allows for easy micro-adjustments of the blades, and a thumb catch that locks and unlocks the blades. A nickel-coated spring provides smooth, assured opening and closing.The Falco F-2 hand pruners measure 8.5 inches from end to end, and weigh 8.8 ounces.
Use & Cleaning
The blades of the Felco F-2 simply melt through stems and branches with minimal effort. They make clean cuts on everything from rose bushes and sunflower stalks to tree branches and wooden dowels.
There isn’t a specific limit to the thickness of materials the pruners can cut, but it’s safe to say that they handle ¾-inch limbs with ease, and are keen enough to make clean cuts on more delicate materials as well. The handles absorb shock very effectively, which is a big help when making tougher cuts.
I live in a part of South Carolina where it often feels like the woods are trying to take back every inch of human encroachment, so my Falco hand pruners get a lot of use. I also find myself constantly reaching for them in the garden, for pruning trees and shrubs, cutting wires (there’s an effective wire cutter built in, so you don’t have to dull the main stainless steel blade) and breaking down old Christmas trees.
The Felco F-2 pruners can be used completely one-handed. The only complaint I’ve ever heard about them is that the handles do spring out a little wide for some people. If you have smaller hands, you may find the Felco F-6 pruners a little easier to grip for total one-handed deployment and use.
The sap groove is a great help for keeping the stainless steel blades working cleanly through sticky, dirty jobs, but it’s still important that you clean your tools after use. The steel isn’t fully corrosion-resistant, so a good wipe-down is recommended after each use, and a periodic deep-clean is also wise.
You don’t have to be super delicate with these pruners, but basic common-sense maintenance is essential to really get the maximum lifespan out of them. That said, I’ve used the flat part of the handle to hammer in garden stakes when I couldn’t find another tool within reach, and they don’t seem any worse for wear.
Repairs & Replacement
Up top I mentioned that I’ve been using the same pair of Felco pruners for 25 years now. One reason these pruners are able to last so long, other than their durable construction and quality craftsmanship, is that all the parts are replaceable.
I’ve replaced the stainless steel blade of my bypass pruners a handful of times over the years, and every other element of the tool is also fully replaceable. It’s easy to take the pruners apart for cleaning or repairs using the adjustment key that comes with them. There’s also some great info and diagrams on the Felco website about disassembling and replacement parts.
At the end of the day, if you take basic care of your pruners and replace certain parts as needed, your Felco F-2 hand pruners can give you decades of reliable service.
Final Thoughts on the Falco F-2 Hand Pruners
If you haven’t purchased really high-quality hand pruners before, you might get a little bit of sticker shock when you see the $60 price tag on a pair of Felcos. I get it; you could buy a set of pruners at Walmart for around $10.
But tools at that price are basically disposable, and you’ll be lucky if they make it through their first year. Better quality tools are an investment and for my money, a worthwhile one (for what it’s worth, if you’re really looking for a budget option, these Corona pruning shears are a pretty good compromise).
It’s also worth noting that many knock-offs are out there. Authentic Felco F-2 hand pruners will have “FELCO Swiss Made” printed on the packaging and stamped into the handle.
There’s a reason why Felco pruners are the gold standard among landscaping and gardening professionals. When I was given my first pair 25 years ago—and that pair was by no means new, even then—I hadn’t yet fully learned the difference that kind of quality can make. At this point, it’s fair to say that the lesson has been learned, and I can state with confidence that these are the only pruners I’ll ever need.
Alternatives to the Felco F2 Hand Pruners: Other Options
If you’re anything like me, you need multiple pairs of the same tool. Or, I’m just crazy. My kids like to garden and work around the yard in my house with me, so we have several sets of hand pruners. This also gives us a chance to actually test out in the real world pruners from different brands, not just post some links to random Amazon listings.
The hand pruners below are all ones that we own in addition to the Felco’s. Perhaps you don’t want to spend $50 for the Felco F2s, maybe you need a pair today and want to see what’s hanging on the shelf at Lowes or Home Depot, or maybe you need a basic set for the 3 times a year you will use them. Whatever the reason, the hand pruners below are great alternatives to the Felco F2 Hand Pruners.