The experts from Sorbus explain how to choose and use garden tools, with particular emphasis on the company’s wide range of ARS tools
• What different types of shears are there for different garden jobs?
You may be surprised to know just how many variations of pruning shears there are. At ARS we have a tool perfect for every job and every corner of your garden.
So let’s start:
Hand Shears (secateurs) – Secateurs are an essential tool for any gardener, no matter their experience level. They have the capacity to cut the thinnest of vines and stems all the way up to small branches and even roots from a tree. The most popular style is bypass secateurs – this is where you have two sharp blades passing past each other to make a clean cut. These are popular because they are versatile and easy to maintain. The other is anvil – these are likened to a razor sharp knife on a chopping board. You have one sharp blade and one flat surface that meet each other in the middle. It is essential to keep the blade extremely sharp. Anvil is particularly good for harder, woodier stems and dead wood pruning.
Thinning and Harvesting Snips – These are smaller in size, weight and their cutting capacity. The blades are usually thin and long, which makes them a perfect tool for precis and delicate pruning. Very popular for fruit harvesting and floristry or simple pruning tasks such as dead heading. ARS also produce a curved blade snip which is commonly used for pruning soft fruits and carrying out intricate and delicate work.
Lopping Shears – Loppers, as they are otherwise known, are built to make easy work of the cuts your secateurs cannot cope with. Loppers have a heavy duty set of bypass blades on a set of extended handles. The extra handle length allows you to generate more power in your cutting action and cut through much thicker branches and stems.
Hedge shears – Whereas the previous shears can be pushed beyond their primary functions, hedge shears should only be used for trimming hedges or light stems and leaves. Hedge shears have two longer blades with a very fine and sharp edge. They make an immaculate clean cut but can be chipped or blunted when cutting thicker or harder stems. ARS are proud to boast the multi award winning all-round garden shear in the range. The KR-1000 is perfect for hedge cutting, thinning and boxwood topiary.
With many more variations available within each category weather they have slightly longer, thicker or curved blades, this is still a great start to understanding what tools you should hold in your shed.
• What jobs should a gardener be doing at this time of year?
The winter months do not mean time in the garden must come to a stop. In fact, many professional gardeners will tell you that work not done in winter can cause disaster next summer.
With the leaves fallen and the plant skeleton exposed you should look to prune and shape whilst the plant is dormant or “sleeping”. Not pruning in the winter can cause your plants not to flower in the summer and look sad and unhealthy. Pruning back also helps prevent the growing risk of pests and diseases. Although decay pathogens also enter a dormant phase over the winter, in the periods where it is damp and mild it is a perfect time for the fungi to grow and spread quickly. A heavy cut back in winter can save a lot of problems you may experience in the spring. Once your pruning is done do not forget about weeding, this is a task that most people despise but no one ever had a beautiful garden of weeds. It is easy to let them get out of hand in the winter so make sure you don’t forget!
Preparation for the new growing season. This includes the planting of hedges, fruit trees and bulbs. You can also use this time to plan your dream garden for next summer. How you wish to organise your plants, which plants you want to grow and why not order your seeds whilst you’re at it!
General tidying and cleaning of the garden and tools. You may be very good at wiping down your tools but let’s assume you aren’t. Winter is a perfect time to clean, sharpen and oil your blades whilst they will be out of use periodically. It also makes the actual pruning element of gardening far more satisfying. Our ARS cleaner – for use on tools only – is one of the best solutions I have come across for getting rid of thick and stubborn residue.
• How should you maintain and store garden tools?
Possibly the easiest thing to do and forget as a gardener… clean your tools. Your tools will get dirty, pick up scratches and maybe begin to creak after a while, but that is the nature of work in the garden.
By cleaning the blades after each use, you will prolong the life of your tools and potentially avoid ever hearing a creaking handle and I bet you will also enjoy using them more too. There is not a lot of things better than a sharp shiny blade gliding through a stem.
Make it a priority to wipe down and dry your tools after each outing, it doesn’t need to be a deep clean every time, but just enough to give it that new look. The ARS cleanser (available from Sorbus-intl) is the best cleaner solution I have used for removing thick and stubborn residue.
As well as cleaning the surface material you should also sanitise the blades to remove any harmful pathogens and stop the spread from one plant to another. We recommend Cleankill and Propellar disinfectants – the only two recognised sanitising sprays for tools by the Arboricultural Association and Forestry Commission. Harmless to the garden but effective on tools.
Sharpening blades, tightening up your screws and bolts and sanding down any wooden handles is another maintenance chore that can be left until it’s too late. Sharp blades make life easier in the garden and your plants will benefit from this too. Use a whetstone to sharpen your blades and be sure to soak the stone in water or oil before use. Several long consistent rubs in one direction should leave your blade looking razor sharp but be sure to follow the guidelines from each manufacturer. Do not over sharpen or sharpen unnecessarily, sometimes a clean is all the blades need.
Now that your tools are clean and serviced you should look to store them in a dry and clean space. Outdoor sheds and garages are great places to leave your tools. Just make sure they are not prone to holding moisture and making your stationary tools damp. If possible, hang your tools off the floor and give them their own space. This allows them to air out and it makes it easy to locate them at the next use. Make sure your storage method is locked and secure.
• What’s distinctive about ARS shears?
ARS tools have been leading the way in innovation and quality since 1876. All of our products are made in Japan using the very best high carbon steel Japan has to offer. We use a number a techniques to produce the sharpest and most durable cutting blades on the market. Carbon steel is already remarkably hard, but by thermally treating the steel it adds another level of “hardness” to our blades. Our pro range has a hard chrome plating which adds durability and a wipe clean and rust resistance surface. This keeps the blade razor sharp for longer and easy to maintain. Impulse hardening techniques are used on the very tips of our saws. This is a process of heating and cooling the blades within 1/1000th of a second to create a ultra-hard tip which lasts up to three time longer than conventional saw blades. Many of our tools have unique ergonomic features as well as the best blades on the market which is why ARS has won so many awards across its range of secateurs, hedge shears, long-reach pruners and hand saws.
ARS also provide spare parts for all our tools should they ever be required. This includes new springs, fresh blades and even handles.
The quality and design is replicated across over 100 products in our pruning range.
• How are they manufactured?
ARS tools are all designed and manufactured in Japan using the very best high carbon Japanese steel. Thermal treatments add tenacity and hardness which is a key factor to ARS’s leading cutting edges. Across the range there are many additional techniques used during manufacture to add quality to specific tools. Impulse hardening on the saw teeth increases blade life by up to 3 times that of a conventional saw. Hard chrome plating of the blades offers greater hardness, rust proofing and superior durability. Flourocarbon coatings are added to prevent resin sticking and staining as well as improving cutting performance. All products are rigorously tested before launch to ensure true ergonomic features and expert cutting performance.
• What other tools are in the ARS range?
ARS product quality and durability is second to none and the award-winning range includes handsaws, high reach polesaws, secateurs, shears, loppers, telescopic pruners, fruit pruners, scissors and floristry products – so you need look no further than ARS for all your pruning & cutting requirements. A full range of spare blades and spare parts are available should they ever be required.
• What sort of safety gear is needed for working with gardening tools?
ARS pruning tools include many safety features to reduce the risk of injuries but that does not mean we shouldn’t always be aware of the dangers. When using cutting tools it is advised to wear some style of gardening glove to offer increased grip, comfort and cut resistance. Many of the gardening gloves available allow you to maintain excellent dexterity.
Gloves are fantastic way to prevent small scratches as well as keeping dirt out of previous cuts you may have on the hands. You should always wear a covered shoe with good comfort. It is very easy to drop tools and if they land on open toes, they are not very forgiving. In some instances, such as hedge cutting or pruning trees above your eye line, goggles or safety glasses should be worn. You are always at risk of getting plant material in your eyes. Using a protecting pair of glasses will ensure no significant damage should ever occur and you can feel confident in not taking your eye off the target area you are looking to prune.
As mentioned above, ARS include many safety features with their tool designs. This includes ergonomic grips and handles to reduce the risk of carpel tunnel and repetitive injuries.
Not all the risk lies within the use of tools, here are some extra things to consider when spending time working in the garden:
• A hat will offer sun protection to avoid burning and sun stroke.
• Long trousers or tops will reduce the risk of cuts and scratches as well as offering sun protection.
• Sun cream should also be worn on warm days, even when cloudy!
• Drink lots of water, you will soon find yourself dehydrated and worn out.
• Kneeling pads or garden stools offer a lot of protection for those who struggle with joints.
• Insect spray will reduce the risk of bites or stings
• Good waterproof clothing will keep you dry, warm and help you enjoy the wetter days in the garden
• What’s the story behind Sorbus?
Sorbus International Ltd is a family run business based in Frome, Somerset. In November 2022 Sorbus will celebrate 15 years in business, this milestone has been reached with invaluable support from our staff, suppliers and of course our customers.
The roots of Sorbus lie with the multinational Japanese subsidiary Fujikura Europe Ltd where Phil Wade (Director of Sorbus) was a divisional manager. From the mid-1990s Phil spent over a decade building up business in Arboriculture and Forestry, specifically for specialist equipment, PPE and hi-tech wood decay detection systems, the latter leading the business into utilities for testing decay within telegraph poles. Although sales continued to grow it was never a part of Fujikura’s core business and in 2007 they decided to pull out of arboriculture and forestry. This is where Sorbus was formed to take over this business – in the middle of the infamous 2007-2008 recession!
In 2015, with Sorbus’ annual growth rings getting larger and larger we moved into a much larger facility in Frome complete with a trade shop, showroom and even a climbing wall to give customer the true try before you buy experience.
Today Sorbus are market leaders in the supply and technical support of a wide range of traditional and hi-tech equipment for wood decay detection (trees, utility poles, construction wood) & survey work. Beyond this our range includes products for all aspects of tree care and land management. This of course includes the excellent and award-winning Japanese pruning range, ARS (Always, Razor, Sharp) for which we are the UK master distributor.
Since taking on ARS some 12 years ago, our tools are heavily used in Horticulture, Arboriculture and Forestry industries. Our main business being soft fruit growers and harvesters as well as professional gardeners. We still strive on building the brand in the UK to become the household gardening product of choice, for all levels of gardener – features on well-known British gardening tv shows, best buy product awards and testimonials from countless happy customers remind us how lucky we are to be able to supply the ARS pruning tools.
The first 15 years have flown by and who knows what the next 15 years will bring? One thing that is certain is that Sorbus will do their very best to continue to provide the very best high-quality products and service to the Horticulture, Arboriculture and Forestry sectors.
• Where can I find out more about and buy Sorbus products?
To find out more about Sorbus and purchase our products please find us at any of the below:
We also like to be accessible on social media platforms. Our pages can be found on each platform using the following handles:
LinkedIn: Sorbus International Limited
Tel: 01373 475540
Or visit our trade store at at:
Sorbus International Ltd, L1-L3 Marshall Way, Frome, Somerset, BA11 2FB
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