There are several types of cutting tools, or shears, used for gardening. Each shear has a different purpose and is best used for the purpose for which it was designed. Lopping shears have long handles and a hook-like head. These shears are used to remove branches, vines, and roots that are too large for pruning shears or are slightly out of the gardener's reach.
One of the key design elements of lopping shears is the handle length. This is one of the main factors that separates loppers from other types of gardening shears. The standard handle length of garden lopping shears is about 13 inches (33 cm), but handle length can range from 9 inches (22.9 cm) to 21 inches (53.3 cm). These long handles allow the gardener to cut branches that are farther away, reducing the need to climb or stretch to reach a branch.
Lopping shear handles are typically made from either carbon-fiber or aluminum so that they are light weight and strong. Both types work equally well; however, aluminum handled garden loppers are typically cheaper than those with carbon-fiber handles. Handles are usually covered by plastic shock absorbing grips to help protect the gardener from joint injuries while gardening.
Both the lopping shears' head and blade are designed for cutting. The blade is usually made from forged steel so that it will easily cut through larger branches and roots. The head's hook design allows the blade to snuggly wrap around tree roots without digging into the ground. The non-sharpened portion of the hooked head may be serrated so that the cutting area can firmly grab onto the material that it is cutting.
Some gardening loppers do have straight cutting heads, but these are typically much smaller than the standard size lopper. These loppers more closely resemble pruning shears with extra long handles. Either style lopper will work well in the garden.
Lopping shears should not be used to cut through objects that are larger than 2 inches (5.1 cm). Besides cutting through branches, roots, and vines, loppers are practical for cutting through small cactus. The handle length provides sufficient distance between the gardener and the plant to prevent injuries from thorns.
Like other outdoor gardening tools, lopping shears are usually made from non-corrosive materials. Lopping shears are made so that minimal exposure to the elements and the cleaning process will not harm them. To keep lopping shears looking new they should be cleaned after each use and stored in a water tight building or garden chest.