Anvil Pruner vs. Bypass Pruner – What’s the Difference?

If you have ever asked yourself the difference between an anvil and bypass pruner, you’re not alone. The confusion between the two types of pruners has plagued many novice gardeners and avid outdoorsmen alike. This post will help you understand the differences between the anvil and bypass pruner and explain how both work.

The difference between the anvil and bypass pruners is that anvil pruners have a flat blade that clamps down on the branch and cuts below the node, while bypass pruners have two blades that swing past the handle and cut the branch above the node.

While you can easily differentiate an anvil from a bypass with the feature above. There are so many other differences that distinguish an anvil from a bypass runner. Learn more about them in this guide.

Differences Between an Anvil and a Bypass Pruner

The difference between these two types of pruners is their design and how they work – one uses an “anvil” while the other uses a “bypass” mechanism to cut through stems and branches.

Anvil pruners have a flat blade that closes against an anvil made of hardened steel, while bypass pruners have sharp blades that cut as they pass each other and open up again to form their own spring-like shape.

The cutting action of anvils is similar to that of knives and they are best suited for deadheading flowers, while bypass pruners are similar to a pair of scissors and are designed for cutting live woody stems and branches.

Anvil pruner cuts by crushing the material while bypass pruner cuts by rubbing the material. The bypass pruner cuts the branch above the node, or growth bud, where the leaves and branches meet, while the anvil pruner cuts below this node.

Bypass pruners have two blades that move past one another to make a clean cut on your branches. They do not crush or pinch the branch-like anvil pruners do.

Some people like using anvil pruners because they are less expensive than pruners, while other people prefer bypass pruners because they’re faster and easier to use than anvils.

Curious to see the difference between the Anvil and Bypass pruners in action?

Check out the below 75-second video by Gemplers. He demonstrates the bypass pruner is most effective on green branches, whereas the anvil pruner works best on dead branches:

In summary, the difference between the anvil and bypass pruners is as follows:

FeaturesAnvil PrunersBypass Pruners
DescriptionAnvil pruners resemble a knife cutting against a chopping board; they have one straight blade that cuts down against a flat surfaceBypass pruners work like scissors and have two curved blades that cross over each other to give a clean cut
Nature of UseAnvil pruning shears are used for dead wood, fruit tree pruning, and cutting woody stemsBypass pruner is used on green live plant stems
Degree of UseAnvil pruners are generally smaller and lighter than bypass pruners, which is why they’re better for light work.Bypass pruners are more suited for heavier jobs because they can cut through thicker branches.
Type of BladeThey have a flat blade that closes on top of the branch.They have curved blades that slide past the branch
WeightThe weight of an anvil pruner can vary depending on its size, but many models weigh less than 1 pound (454 grams).Bypass pruners usually weigh more because they use more materials in their construction and may have more moving parts than anvil pruners do.
CostAnvil pruners are quite affordable to purchaseA bypass pruner is usually more expensive than an anvil pruner because it requires additional technology to make it work.
Depth of CutAn anvil pruner is designed to cut branches up to ¾ inch in diameter.A bypass pruner is designed to cut branches up to 1½ inches in diameter.
Mechanism of OperationAnvil pruner cuts by crushing the material.Bypass pruner cuts by rubbing the material.
Degree of Damage to BranchWhen you use anvil pruners, there is a high chance that you may damage the stem or branch of the plantsThe curved blades prevent the tool from damaging the stem or branch of the plants.
Best for Which BranchesAnvil pruners are good for cutting thick branches with a little girthBypass makes a cleaner cut on branches with a large girth.

What is an Anvil Pruner?

Anvil pruners are a type of pruner that is used mainly to cut branches and twigs. They are usually made of steel and have a blade that is sharpened on both sides, making them double-sided.

Anvil pruners have a flat cutting blade and a concave-shaped jaw. The jaws are made of steel or plastic and are replaceable.

It works by cutting a round piece of wood with its flat blade and pinching the branch between the blade and the jaw to cut it.

This action creates more friction and makes it harder to cut through thick branches than with other types of pruner.

The flat piece of metal (the anvil) is attached to the handle and closes down on the branch as you squeeze the handles together. The anvil holds the branch against the cutting blades.

When a branch is cut with an anvil cutter, it will not have a smooth cut end. As the branch is cut, it is crushed between the blade and anvil, resulting in a rough edge.

Here’s a close-up of an anvil pruner in action. Notice that the upper blade rests in a slot when the handles are squeezed:

What is a Bypass Pruner?

Bypass pruners are the most common type of pruner. They have two blades that cut on the outside of the tree trunk, leaving a smooth surface. The blades are usually on opposite sides of the handle and rotate around an axle at the pivot point.

Bypass (or lopper) cutters use two opposed sharpened blades to slice through branches when pressure is applied to the handles.

Bypass pruners work differently than anvil models do: Instead of clamping down on a branch and cutting it off at an angle, these shears make two separate cuts on opposite sides of the stem — one above.

This makes it easier to cut through the wood because there’s less friction involved in the process. The two edges also give you more leverage when cutting through thick branches, which means you don’t have to use as much strength to get the job done quickly.

The blades are sharpened to a point, and the cutting edge is lined with a serrated pattern. This allows the blade to cut cleanly through woody stems without crushing or tearing them.

A bypass pruner will be the best friend of any avid DIYer.

Here’s an example of a bypass pruner. Notice how the blades “bypass” each other and this is a distinction from the anvil pruner:

How Do You Use a Bypass Pruner?

When you wish to use the pruner, simply open up the handles and place your hand in the middle of each one. The blade will then come down over your hand and pinch the stem between both blades. This allows you to make a clean cut across any piece of woody material such as twigs, branches, or even small tree trunks if required.

When using the bypass pruner, you simply need to squeeze the handle and slide the blades. You don’t even have to use both hands — since it takes so little effort, one hand is enough! The handles are comfortable for every user, even if you have small hands.

How Do You Use an Anvil Pruner?

To use an anvil pruner, first find a branch you want to snip off your plant. The best choice is one that is at least 1/2 inch thick and no more than 3 inches thick.

Next, place your thumb over the rounded blade of the anvil pruner so that it doesn’t cut into your skin while you’re working with it. Then slide the flat blade down onto the branch until it makes contact with the wood.

Holding onto the handle of the anvil pruner with one hand, grab onto the branch with your other hand and pull back as hard as you can until both blades have completely severed through all layers of wood fibers before letting go!


What is an Anvil Pruner Used For?

Anvil pruners are perfect for cutting branches or plants with narrow diameters. The principal application is for the removal of dead wood.

Anvil pruners can be used to cut branches that are too large for standard pruning shears to handle. If you want to cut a lot of dead stems and limbs, it’s best to work with an anvil pruner.

What is a Bypass Pruner Used For?

A bypass pruner allows you to cut wood with a greater diameter or a thicker material than an anvil pruner can handle. They are mostly used to cut green live plants, vegetables, fruits, flowers, woody branches and stems.

Which is Better Anvil or Bypass Loppers?

Your choice should be based on whether you’re cutting a living or a dead wood. If you’re mostly cutting live wood, bypass loppers are the way to go. If you’re primarily cutting dead wood, anvil loppers are the way to go.


Both the anvil and bypass pruner are essential and useful tools for gardening. A combination of the two types of pruners should give you a full range of options when working in the garden. Happy Gardening!

Plantician Guy (Mike)

Hi I'm Mike, a self-proclaimed plantician (an invented profession to describe a plant enthusiast). Based in Sydney Australia, I enjoy the great outdoors and the greenery things around the garden, in particular, indoor climbing plants.

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