For some of the toughest tree pruning tasks, even the best pruning shears won’t quite cut it. To trim thicker, tougher branches, you’d be better off using a lopper. These specialized tools should have greater cutting capacity and power, thanks to their wider jaws and two-handed grip.
As a geared anvil lopper, the Fiskars PowerGear Anvil Lopper XS L31 has two additional standout design features that maximize cutting power.
First there are the gears: a large one on the handle of the anvil blade, and a smaller one on the handle of the cutting blade. The smaller gear turns the larger one to leverage the blades, which increases the force applied to tree branches during cutting.
And then there’s the L31’s anvil blade assembly. When the blades of a lopper or pruner are referred to as ‘anvil’ blades, this means they have one sharp blade, built for cutting, and one flat blade, which is good at crushing tree branches. The combined cut-and-crush action of the anvil blades can prove highly effective at pruning branches that are too tough for you to simply slice through them, as you would using a bypass pruner.
Loppers are purpose-built for cutting branches – so you probably wouldn’t want to use the L31 (or another tool of this type) for cutting soft plant stems. If what you’re looking for is a dedicated tool for pruning tree branches, then the L31 could be ideal.
However, before I go ahead and recommend this tool to you, I'm going to put it through some rigorous, hands-on testing in my backyard. Read on to learn how well the L31 cuts tree branches – from slender twigs to fairly thick limbs.
Pete has reviewed hundreds of gardening products for titles including TopTenReviews, Ideal Home and the London Evening Standard – as well as writing articles on diverse topics for other publications such as The Guardian and BBC Good Food. A long-term contributor to the blog of leading scissors-maker Ernest Wright, Pete has in-depth understanding of the qualities and design features that go into a really good pair of shears.
Fiskars PowerGear Anvil Lopper XS L31: At a glance
The Fiskars PowerGear Anvil Lopper XS L31 is part of the PowerGear range of cutting tools, which includes pruners and bolt cutters, as well as various loppers. Part of the appeal of these tools is their clever geared design, which will enable you to generate more cutting power, without the need to blow a bicep.
The specific lopper reviewed for this piece is in an extra small (XS) size, measuring just 15.35". It’s an incredibly light tool, too, weighing in at a little over 13 oz. This is thanks, in part, to the lopper’s carbon fiber handles.
Fiskars PowerGear Anvil Lopper XS L31: key specs
|Geared anvil lopper
Fiskars PowerGear Anvil Lopper XS L31: Performance
Let’s start by saying this: the Fiskars PowerGear Anvil Lopper XS L31 made it easier to cut through tough tree branches than any other lopper or pruner we’ve tested. When you take into account the fact that the L31 comes at a far lower price than some of its competitors, that's incredibly impressive.
Our first task during hands-on testing was to try using the L31 to cut tough, thick tree branches, over one inch in width. I was genuinely surprised at how easily the tool cut the wood of the crabapple trees, which had proven fairly challenging for other cutting tools to prune.
Clearly, the L31’s geared design and anvil blades really do combine to generate superior cutting power. And not only were the cuts quick and easy to make; they were also clean and regular, which is an important factor for tree health.
I also tested the L31 to trim much thinner tree branches, including some which were in hard-to-reach places. While the L31’s blades are not the easiest to maneuver, it proved possible to isolate thin branches and cut them effectively with the lopper. The cutting blade was consistently sharp enough to sever thin branches at any point of contact along its edge.
When opening the L31’s handles to their maximum extent, there’s a slight risk that you’ll bring the gears out of their proper relation. If this happens, you’ll need to use a bit of brute force to get their teeth back into alignment.
Fiskars PowerGear Anvil Lopper XS L31: should you buy?
|Price & availability
|Sensational price, relative to performance.
|Clever geared mechanism and effective anvil blades.
|Far better than most other manual tools at pruning tree branches.
Buy it if...
Branch-cutting performance is paramount
The L31 cuts thick tree branches (up to 1.38") more easily and more effectively than any other lopper or pruner that I've used before.
You want to give your arms a break
Many loppers can be tiring to use for extended periods. This is not the case with the L31, which is incredibly lightweight.
You’re on a moderate budget
While the L31 costs more than the average Fiskars pruner, it is relatively affordable compared to most other two-handed loppers.
Don't buy it if...
There are soft plant stems to cut
While the L31 is capable of cutting tender stems, there are much more appropriate, purpose-built pruners for that type of yard work.
Most of your tree pruning will be up high
To safely cut high-up tree branches, you’re probably going to need a tool that extends your reach, such as a trigger-activated pole lopper.
You prefer a traditional aesthetic
I really like the contemporary product design of the L31 – but some gardeners will prefer a more classic style. Other brands like Wolf-Garten and Felco might be more suitable.
How does it compare?
The Fiskars PowerGear Anvil Lopper XS L31 compares very favorably to other loppers and pruners we’ve tested – including some models that come at a far higher price. For buyers who simply want an effective tool for cutting tree branches (that are easily reached), there’s no need to buy any other lopper than the excellent L31.
With that said, trees very commonly grow higher than you’ll be able to reach with the L31 (or with any other traditional lopper). If you have lots of high-up pruning ahead of you, we’d recommend using a pole lopper instead. These tools use a telescopic pole to help you reach high-up branches, without necessitating the use of a ladder. One very good example is the Ryobi ONE+ 18V Cordless Pole Lopper.
If you’re happy with the functionality of the Fiskars L31, but you’re looking for longer-lasting build quality, then the Felco 211-60 could be a good option to investigate.
How I tested the Fiskars PowerGear Anvil Lopper XS L31
I tested the Fiskars PowerGear Anvil Lopper XS L31 by using the tool to cut a variety of tree branches in my yard, ranging from spindly twigs under ¼" in width, to far thicker branches that were close to this tool’s maximum cutting capacity. I paid close attention to the lopper’s user-friendliness and the cleanness of cuts made.
See more about how we test.