A.M. Leonard Ergonomic Bypass Pruner (#1234): Product Review
Ranks in the higher quality pruner category. A great bang for the buck.
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A.M. Leonard was founded in 1885 with the emphasis of doing business “the old fashioned way” and “offering quality products, superior customer service and a selection of over 10,000 items”. I had the good fortune to review one of their new items, the A.M. Leonard Ergonomic Bypass Pruner (model #1234).
- Type of Cutting Head: Bypass
- Adjustable Blade Tension: Yes. Micro adjustments very easy to make
- Locking Mechanism: Thumb latch
- Spring Type: Volute
- Advertised Cutting Diameter: 1 inch (cutting dowels)
- Offered In Right And Left Handed Models: No, only right-handed model available
- Special Features: Wire cutter, angled head, sap groove, ergonomic handles
- Bumpers: Yes
- Handle Frame Material: High-strength, lightweight, drop-forged aluminum
- Handle Grip Material: Rubberized top and bottom coated handles. Signature A.M. Leonard “orange” color.
- Blade Material: Japanese high carbon steel
- Blade Plating/Coating: Chrome
- Replaceable Blades: Yes
- Can Blades Be Sharpened: Yes
- Weight: 9 7/8 oz.
In the video, you can see the A.M. Leonard Ergonomic Bypass Pruner in use and get a closer look at some of its features, including a volute spring, ergonomic handles, and bumpers for shock absorption.
I’ve done a LOT of hand pruner reviews lately and most if not all the packaging is pretty much the same. A clear plastic thermoform window that holds the pruner in place, a cardboard placard back, and a hole at the top of the packaging to hang the unit on a pegboard. The A.M. Leonard Ergonomic Bypass Pruner (model #1234) is no exception.
Hey, I’ve seen this before, it looks just like a Felco F-8 pruner but with orange handles. But on closer inspection, I could see that the A.M. Leonard design was ever-so-slightly different and the machined/stamped parts were not quite as “beefy” as a Felco pruner.
FIT AND FINISH
The “fit and finish” is pretty good on the A.M. Leonard pruner. Most of the tool has smooth edges and the parts fit together like a glove. The tension between the cutting blade and counter blade (the hooked blade opposite the cutting blade) was perfect right out of the package. Quality parts were used in this bypass pruner and the attention to detail is excellent (except for a few sharp edges – see below).
In spite of the overall good finishes, I did find some of the edges around the cutting head (not the blade itself) to be rather sharp, although not something that would cut you. I just wish the manufacturer had chamfered (a fancy term for rounding over the edges) these surfaces. I’m just a stickler when it comes to this sort of thing. This is one area that sets the truly excellent quality pruner apart from the competition. It’s attention to detail in these little areas that makes the difference. But often at a higher price point.
True to its name, the A.M. Leonard Ergonomic Bypass Pruner has an ergonomic design. It just “felt right” and fit in my hand perfectly, plus it was very comfortable to use. I also liked the non-slip vinyl handle grips which provided excellent grip and dexterity – no slipping here.
Be aware that someone with small hands may find this pruner a little large, especially when trying to open it to its full cutting capacity.
In terms of quality, this is the real deal. Both the stamped and machined parts are well made. The frame handles are made of high strength forged aluminum, which makes them lightweight but very strong. The machining tolerances are very good, giving a nice tight fit between the handles and blades. And the cutting blade, made from high carbon (hard to dull) Japanese steel is razor sharp to the touch. Be careful here.
Springs are used in bypass pruners to help open the handles between cuts and reduce hand fatigue. This bypass pruner incorporates a Volute spring. Basically, it’s a type of spring that uses a closed loop of wound stainless steel. It is almost impossible for dirt and debris to accumulate in this type of mechanism.
The other advantage of the Volute spring is its ability to compress more than a conventional helix (coiled) spring, thereby making it possible to close the handles more closely together.
Excellent Shock Absorbing Bumpers
Another important piece of a hand pruner is the shock absorber (also known as a bumper). Handles tend to slam together at the end of a pruning cut and can cause hand fatigue and possible injury. The bumper minimizes that shock.
In the A.M. Leonard pruner, there’s a rubber-like material on both handles that provides excellent shock absorption when the handles came together.
FINE TUNE ADJUSTMENT
The A.M. Leonard design has a blade tension mechanism that includes a bolt, gear toothed locking nut, gear toothed micro adjustment lock, and a thumb latch pruner lock. This mechanism gives the operator the ability to fine-tune the cutting quality/performance and keep the pruners securely closed when not in use.
If you find that cuts are a little ragged, or the blades get stuck, simply use the adjustment mechanism to get the blade tension back where it needs to be.
Chrome Plated Blades
The high carbon Japanese steel blades are extremely sharp. They’re also coated with a chrome plating that helps prevent rust and sap residue build-up and makes it easier to slice through woody stems.
The pruner claims to have a 1-inch cutting capacity. I’m going to go out on a limb (bad pun) here and interpret that as being able to cut “up to” 1-inch diameter material. I’ve tested a LOT of hand pruners and, for the most part, they don’t actually achieve their maximum claimed cutting diameter. (As a caveat, I test all pruners on pretty hard wood from the southwest called mesquite. I don’t expect hand pruners to live up to their maximum cutting claims when trying to bull my way through this stuff. It’s kind of like rebar in wood form.)
That being said, I was able to make nice clean cuts at both 90 and 45 degrees in ½ inch diameter mesquite wood. I’ve found that this type of bypass pruner excels in the ½ – ¾ inch capacity. That’s not to say that they won’t cleave through 1-inch wood, but this is typically in laboratory tests on dowels that are much softer than most woods.
In everyday use, without extreme hand fatigue, I’d plan on expecting a maximum cutting capacity of around ½ – ¾ inch with a “sweet spot” closer to ½ inch. I did not subtract points because it did not live up to its 1-inch claim.
This pruner has a few extra features that I really like, including:
- a sap groove to help prevent the blades from accumulating sap (so they don’t stick together),
- a wire cutting notch to slice through soft gardening wire without having to use the pruning blades (and potentially damaging them), and
- an angled cutting head to reach into tight pruning spaces.
There is one area that I think this pruner needs improvement – removing the sharp corners on the cutting head of the tool. Don’t get me wrong, the tool passes muster with me in terms of overall quality. As far as “fit and finish” are concerned, the fit is excellent, but I think the finish needs some work. I’ve reviewed many A.M. Leonard products, and because of that, I’ve come to expect high quality from their products (and I’m rarely disappointed). But while this pruner met most of the criteria to be considered with other top-rated bypass hand pruners, the fact that the machining processes didn’t include rounding over the sharp corners of the cutting head caused me to subtract one point for quality.
Proper care of your pruning tools will greatly extend their useful life (and who wants to spend money buying new tools if they don’t have to??). Check out the articles below for the simple things you can do to keep your pruning shears in tip-top shape.
Pruning Tool Care & Maintenance
Although I know some gardeners and home landscapers prefer not to wear gardening gloves, I recommend doing so when pruning. Pruned branches, splinters, thorns, and the pruner blades can all cause painful cuts. My favorite gloves to use are the Atlas Nitrile Work Gloves; they give great dexterity, are breathable and relatively cut resistant and keep your hands clean and scratch free.
And finally, safety glasses are another good thing to wear. A twig or rose cane in the eye can make for a really bad day. I always recommend Wiley X safety glasses (they’re stylish AND strong).
According to A.M. Leonard, “We sell only new items and warrant them in accordance with the manufacturer’s warranty policy. We realize the need to actually see and handle an item to know if it is acceptable. Therefore, you may return any item to us within 30 days, new or used. Shipping and handling charges for returning items are the responsibility of the buyer. Special orders, closeouts, and spare parts are not returnable. All returns are subject to a 5% restocking fee (minimum of $5.00) This charge must be paid with the return, no C.O.D’s will be accepted.” After the 30-day period, A.M. Leonard only warrants its products to be free from defects in materials and workmanship.
If you’re in the market for a quality bypass hand pruner at a competitive price, then the A.M. Leonard Ergonomic Bypass Pruner (model #1234) is a definite contender. You’re not going to get the highest quality or features of the most expensive competitors, but what you will get is a pruner that if taken care of properly will likely last a lifetime. It makes excellent pruning cuts, is very comfortable to hold, and reaches into those nooks and crannies that a straight-headed pruner would have difficulty doing. Its high carbon Japanese steel blades with the non-stick chrome coating cleave through even the toughest wood I could find, although not at the 1-inch diameter the company claims – expect it to cut in the ½ to ¾ inch range. It has excellent ergonomic grips making for good dexterity and comfort. The signature A.M. Leonard orange vinyl-coated handles make them easy to grip with either wet or dry hands.
WHERE TO BUY
The A.M. Leonard Ergonomic Bypass Pruner (model 1234) is available on Amazon, as well as directly from A.M. Leonard (it’s currently listed for $45.98 – $34.99 for the pruner + $10.99 super saver shipping).
Last update on 2023-03-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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