It’s usually not until you try something new that you realise how rubbish the old has become. I’ve been using the same pruners for years. Over time they’ve gotten a little stiff, have started to sport a rusty fringe and prefer to bludgeon their way through thicker branches rather than cut, but they’ve always just about done the job so I’ve never considered replacing them.
Towards the end of last year Dutch retailers Knives and Tools sent me a pair of Japanese Okatsune Pruning Shears to review and they’re so impressive that the old tool has now been banished from the garden.
Pruning fruiting plants is one of the first gardening jobs I undertake in a new year, so this provided an ideal opportunity to test the cut and thrust of this Japanese piece of craftsmanship. There were three key jobs to undertake. My apple trees are now established so don’t need the the same level of hacking back as in their first few years, but there were a few branches that had crossed and needed to be removed, along with some additional snips to maintain shapeliness. The casseille (a blackcurrant / gooseberry cross) and Big Ben blackcurrants needed more serious attention – they’ve been getting a bit out of control, not helped by being clumsily bent over during a fence installation, pushing most of their branches out to a horizontal direction. Besides removing old wood (currants grow best on the most recent growth) they also needed further thinning so the remaining growth had a vertical inclination. There were also a few Autumn fruiting raspberry canes to cut back to the ground.
Okatsune Pruning Shears: the verdict
I like the look of Okatsune’s pruners. They’re not flash and they don’t have weird design features that claim unusual ergonomics: they are simply a product of their functionality. I assumed the only nod to any type of aesthetic was the fancy red and white colours of the sleek, curved handles – a nod to their Japanese origin perhaps – but Rich informs me that even these are borne of function. Apparently the colour choice is to help locate them should careless cutting cause them to tumble into the undergrowth: red for daytime, white for low levels of light.
Between the handles is one of the major assets of the pruners: a tight, powerful spring that assists with the ease of the squeeze while keeping the blades running in smooth, flexible order. Those blades are forged from tough Japanese carbon steel (which is also used to make katana swords) and are hard and sharp, which should mean they stay fit for purpose for a far greater length of time than my old pruners. The cuts to every branch I tackled were managed with swift precision, and were each perfectly clean (which those plants will be extremely grateful for). The recommended upper diameter for cutting is 20mm and, although I didn’t measure what girths I overcame, the pruner managed every thickness presented to its steely blades (including a few apple branches that would’ve been too much of a burden for my old tool).
I’ve always quite liked the job of pruning and, having raced around the fruit in no time, started eyeing up more of the garden that might benefit from a trim. But apart from dealing with an unruly bay tree branch I resisted the urge to get carried away and gave the pruners a quick clean before putting them away for next time.
A pair of pruners should be a tool that lasts a very long time, so it’s worth considering getting the best you can afford and are comfortable with. If, like me, you prefer the utilitarian approach married with ultimate functionality then I can highly recommend Okatsune’s Pruning Shears – I reckon it’ll be decades before something new makes this tool feel old and unwanted.
Okatsune pruning shears KST103, medium are available from Knivesandtools.co.uk, priced £42.10
Footnote: free casseille
During fence installation my casseille was bent over to such a degree (and probably trodden on) that a branch tracked along the soil and has rooted. This has now been snipped from the main plant and will be transplanted to Rich’s allotment for a new free fruit bush.