Fiskars PowerGear2 Bypass Pruner (P551): Product Review
A technologically advanced bypass pruner with less than stellar results.
Available on Amazon
Fiskars, known for its pruning tools, has come up with a new design that incorporates a gear-driven cam mechanism and rotating handle into a bypass pruner. The PowerGear2 Bypass Pruner claims to have 3x more cutting power than a standard bypass pruner and is endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation.
POWERGEAR2 TECHNOLOGY – IS IT AS GOOD AS THEY CLAIM?
I’m a big believer in using new or different technologies to improve on age-old products. That’s why I was excited to see how the new Fiskars PowerGear2 stacked up against a high quality standard bypass pruner.
After opening the package, I could see right away that this pruner is different. It incorporates a gear drive/cam system into both handles that looks completely different than any other pruner we’ve tested.
GEAR DRIVE WITH CAM MECHANISM DIDN’T DELIVER
Fiskars incorporated a gear train/cam mechanism into their pruner that’s supposed to multiply the cutting force by 3x and thereby reduce the energy required to make a pruning cut. In theory this should work, but what I discovered was the opposite.
I found that a standard non-geared bypass pruner did a better job than the PowerGear2. The PowerGear2 is supposed to cut through ¾-inch wood so I took some medium density wood and applied pressure to the handles. To my surprise, I actually found it harder to cut through this wood using the geared pruner than I did with an equivalent sized standard bypass pruner.
In fact, I was almost unable to cut through the last 1/4 inch using the PowerGear2; I had to squeeze incredibly hard to finish off the cut. I’m a strong guy with strong hands – I can’t imagine someone with arthritis even approaching this kind of exercise and succeeding.
Fiskars claims that the gears are designed to make the first ¾ of the cut easier than with traditional pruners. I didn’t find this at all. And of course that raises the question “What about the final ¼ of the cut?” Well, as mentioned above, I found that to be the hardest part of the cut (so maybe the gears had at least some effect).
ROLLING HANDLE REDUCES FINGER FATIGUE BUT FALLS SHORT WHEN CUTTING
The Fiskars PowerGear2 has a rolling handle that’s the driving force behind the geared/cam mechanism.
If you’ve never used a rolling handle before, you may find it a little awkward at first. As you open your hand, the handle held by your fingers rotates outward; as you close your grip, the handle rotates inward with your fingers. A well-designed rolling handle reduces finger fatigue and minimizes friction between your hand and the handle (no more blisters!). On the PowerGear2, the rolling handle is adequate but not as smooth or easy to hold as others (see for example the ARS HP-VS8R).
After close examination of the rolling handle and the gear/cam interface, I could see that the 3x cutting power isn’t activated during the final part of the cut – oddly, there are no gears in that critical part of the pruner. As a result, there’s no mechanical advantage (geared leverage) as you finish your pruning cut, making it that much more difficult to cut through the last bit of branch or stem.
ROLLING HANDLE HAS A PINCH ZONE
I had an instance where my finger slipped off the rotating handle and slid forward toward the geared mechanism as the handles were opening. My index finger got pinched in the rolling gear area. This shouldn’t be a frequent problem because the lower rolling handle has a pretty aggressive bump to hold your index finger in place. But with a sweaty or wet hand, there is a greater slippage factor that can cause your index finger to slide forward into the gear train. One more reason to wear a good pair of gloves while pruning! (see our recommended gardening gloves here)
When using the pruner, I continually pinched my palm between the two handles as they closed. I attribute this to the huge force I had to use to cut through ¾-inch branches and the flexing of the handles as the cut finished.
In smaller diameter wood (1/2 inch) the handles didn’t pinch my hand but my fingers bumped into the handles. Maybe people with small hands wouldn’t have this problem, but if you have mid-sized or larger hands, you’ll find that the handles are spaced too closely together. Perhaps there’s a reason for the handle spacing (maybe for arthritic hands?) but I am unaware of it.
Ironically, the PowerGear2 pruner seems to be sized for a large hand. I have big hands and the rolling handle just caught my fingertips. I think the handle spread would be a problem for a medium and certainly a small hand.
FOR RIGHTIES ONLY
The PowerGear2 bypass pruner is designed to be used by right handed folks, so those who are left hand dominant are out of luck.
NO BUMPER CAUSES UNDUE SHOCK
Most bypass hand pruners have a shock absorber built into the handles. These are usually a single or double rubberized pad that slams together at the completion of a pruning cut and cushions the impact. The shock absorption of the bumpers helps reduce wrist, hand and finger fatigue when making multiple pruning cuts.
The PowerGear2 bypass pruner does not have bumpers. Instead, it has plastic hitting plastic when the handles come together. As a result, there’s no force dampening and the handles slamming together quickly becomes tiring and uncomfortable. This can’t be good for people with arthritis.
GOOD LOCKING BUTTON
The pruner has a sliding locking button on top of the pruner, just aft of the cutting blades. It’s easily accessible, slides nicely and stays put in the both the open and closed positions.
NON-STICK BLADE COATING
The blades are coated with a non-stick material that reduces friction and makes it easier to cut. The coating also reduces rusting (although with all cutting tools I recommend that they be dried off after each use and a thin coat of oil applied to the blades). The PowerGear2 bypass pruner has an oil hole at the bottom of the cutting blade assembly to lubricate where the two blades meet.
There are no replacement parts, not even blades, for the Fiskars PowerGear2 hand bypass pruner.
Fiskars offers a lifetime warranty for the life of the tool that only includes defects in materials and workmanship.
Also, they do not warranty the sharpening of their blades and suggest buying a replacement blade. Since there are no replacements to be found it’s a little hard not to sharpen the blade when dull. If it were me, I would sharpen the blade as needed. In most cases, by the time they’ll need a sharpening any warranty issue will have arisen, so you might get a replacement pair before you need to sharpen the blade.
The technology behind the pruner design is an honorable attempt at making something better. It just missed the mark. Instead of making pruning easier, it turned it into a struggle that required a lot of grip strength. Overall, the problems outweighed any positives.
WHERE TO BUY
The Fiskars PowerGear2 Bypass Pruner (model P551) is available from Fiskars for $24.99 plus $10.95 shipping ($35.94 total if purchased online) and Lowes for $24.98 ($32.99 including shipping if bought online). Your best bet is to purchase it on Amazon for $24.99 (free shipping for Prime members).
And now over to you – what’s your favorite pruning shear? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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