ARS LongReach Pruner (180LR-1.8): Product Review
Lightweight, easy to use and makes extremely clean cuts, but has a potential safety issue.
Available on Amazon
How do you prune shrubs close to the ground, prune trees and shrubs that have thorns and prickers, and tree branches and twigs that are just beyond reach without using an extendable pole pruner, a ladder, or getting on your hands and knees? Use a specially designed stick-style pruner developed by ARS, called the LongReach Pruner, model 180LR-1.8.
What’s a Fixed Length (Stick-Style) Pruner?
Virtually all stick-style pruners are constructed with an aluminum shaft to reduce the pruner’s weight. Aluminum is an excellent conductor of electricity, so never used aluminum shaft stick-style pruners around power lines.
Typically, this style of pruner is between 5’ and 6’ long and made with a straight aluminum shaft to keep the weight down. There are two types of cutting heads: a fixed set of cutting blades that rotates around a pair of handles or an adjustable cutting head that rotates around a fixed shaft.
The ARS LongReach Pruner makes use of the first design; it activates the blades using a pair of grip handles at the end opposite the cutting blades.
Specifications for the ARS LongReach Pruner (180LR-1.8)
- Overall Length: 1846mm (approx. 6’ 1/2”)
- Blade Length: 53mm (approx. 2”)
- Weight: 870g (approx. 1.91 lbs.)
- Blade Material: High Carbon Steel
- Surface Finish: Hard-Chrome Plating
- Grip Material: Aluminum Die Casting
- Maximum Cutting Diameter: 22mm (approx. 7/8”)
Cutting Head Design
The cutting head incorporates a sharp cutting blade and an offset blade (called the counter blade) opposite the cutting blade. The counter blade acts as a gripping mechanism; it doesn’t cut and it’s not sharp.
To make a cut, squeeze the handles at the end of the shaft. There’s a solid rod that runs inside the shaft and opens and closes the blades.
I like that there’s a spring inside the handles that keeps the blades open until you’re ready to use them.
The handles also have rubber-like coated grips. They provide for a comfortable and secure grip, and reduce the heat when exposing the pruner to direct sun.
Another nice design element of the cutting head is the built-in hook that acts as a hanger. This was very handy when I wanted to hang the unit on a branch while moving to another nearby area. While surveying what I wanted to cut next, I could have the pruner hanging within reach and without stooping over to pick it up from the ground. Also, by hanging it up (when possible), this kept the blades out of the dirt that could dull them.
The ARS LongReach Pruner has a fixed blade assembly attached with two screws to a rotating aluminum shaft. The shaft spins about 100 degrees from side to side making it easy to position the cutting blade in virtually any pruning condition.
There’s also a nicely placed rubberized grip on the shaft about 12 inches above the handles. The grip is very comfortable to hold and makes it easy to spin the shaft for optimum cutting angles. Of course you can also hold the aluminum shaft itself, instead of the grip.
Safety Issue With The Blade Locking Mechanism
An important safety feature of stick-style pruners is the ability to lock the blades in the closed position for safe transport or when laying the pruner on the ground (to prevent dirt from dulling the blades). It’s especially important when the blades are as sharp as those on ARS pruners.
So I was disappointed that the blades on the ARS 180LC-1.8 didn’t close all the way when locked.
There’s a plastic locking tab attached to one side of the grip handle; just squeeze the handles together and slide the plastic piece into place so that it wedges itself against the other grip handle. Unfortunately the test unit I received didn’t operate as designed. When I engaged the locking mechanism, the blades were still open at the tips by about ¼”, causing a safety hazard. My first impression was that the plastic locking tab just isn’t long enough.
For the time being, I’m using the plastic “sheath” from the packaging to cover the cutting head but I don’t expect it to last long.
What Diameter Will It Really Cut?
The specs say that the LongReach pruner will cut live wood to a maximum diameter of 22 mm (that’s just under 7/8”). While that’s technically true, it comes with a caveat – you’ll have to adjust the connecting rod length to get the blades to open far enough, and when you do that, the problem with the locking mechanism gets worse (the blades gape even farther apart). The optimum blade distance seems to be just under ¾”.
I tested this by unscrewing the connecting rod from the cutting blade and turning it to lengthen the rod. The more I lengthened it, the farther the blades opened – and the farther they stayed open when “locked”.
If you’re going to do this, be aware that if you adjust the connecting rod too far out, the blades won’t fully close so you won’t be able to make clean cuts.
When cutting through ¾” live wood, the extremely sharp blades made very clean cuts. The blades are made of chrome-plated high-carbon steel and so have a very sharp edge. The chrome plating reduces rusting but you’ll still want to clean and dry the blades before you put the pruner away.
When cutting deadwood, I found that the 180LR-1.8 had a cutting range just over ¼”. It’s important to remember however that this tool is designed, for the most part, to cut live wood. When I want to hack through really tough deadwood, I’d normally get out my anvil hand pruners or loppers.
I like this pruner very much. It’s light-weight, easy to maneuver, makes exceedingly clean cuts, and the rotating blade design makes it easy to get into tight spaces. The handles are comfortable and the molded grip on the shaft provides a secure place to hold onto to while moving the cutting blades from side to side. I also like the hook at the back of the blades; it’s an innovative feature that allows you to hang the pruner on a tree branch while repositioning yourself before making another cut.
An item that needs immediate attention is the locking mechanism. ARS blades are extremely sharp and present a cutting hazard if they can’t be securely locked into place. If it weren’t for this manufacturing glitch, I would have awarded this pruner our highest rating.
Where to Buy
ARS pruning shears can be hard to find; they’re generally not carried in hardware stores or local garden centers. Your best bet is to buy the ARS LongReach Pruner 180LR-1.8 through Amazon where they sell for around $147.99.
Now over to you – Which stick pruners have you used? What did you like? Not like? Let us know in the comments below!
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