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When you own a mature garden liberally peppered with trees and shrubs you soon realise two things; firstly any garden with more than a few flowerpots is going to require quite a lot of maintenance, secondly that you really need the right tools for the job. When we first started attacking the jungle that is our garden we bought this Fiskars Tree Care Universal Anvil Cutter, which has proved to be a great purchase and one of the most used and essential items in our garden artillery.
Essentially this tool is a very long stick with a cutter on top. The pole itself, which is 140cm long by my measurements is made of strong, lightweight, hollow painted metal and the cutter on the end is mounted on a swivel plastic head. There are two ways to close the blades and cut, either by pulling on the orange part at the base of the stick or using the orange part in the centre of the pole. I find that I use both methods as I tend to use this to cut off branches and to trim the tops of bushes that I can't otherwise reach. It is safe as at all times your hand is a big distance away from the cutter, though you may have to watch out for falling branches!
The blades on the cutter, which extend to a maximum of about 5cm wide open, are non-stick and extremely sharp. You can't, in my experience, cut through very thick branches where a more hardcore tool is probably required, but you can slice through branches of up to 3cm to 4cm in diameter with comparative ease. As you can angle the head it's not too difficult to reach even the most out of the way branches, the head in its upright position gives you about another 20cm's reach and I find it is long enough to get up to the climbing rose that reaches up to my bedroom windows or to attack quite high branches.
A very good thing about the design of this item is that the string which closed the spring loaded cutter head shut is contained within the shaft - having used a borrowed neighbour's tool before I bought this, which didn't have this feature, I know that this is a plus - there's nothing to get tangled. You pull the string via the orange pullers and the branch is cut and the blade opens itself ready for more destruction - it's as simple as that. As I said earlier the cutter isn't heavy, but I do find I get quite sore arms if using it for a while as the angle you are working at is a little unnatural to say the least. If you do tackle a branch that is a bit over ambitious for this cutter you simply pull the orange grip again and you can release the cutter ready to move on to more realistic targets.
I've used this tool a great deal and I've noticed no problems with the blade thus far - fiskars do say that this item has a lifetime guarantee, I've not had cause to use this and the cutter does seem very well made so hopefully I won't need to. I paid £50 or so for this tool and though this might seem a lot it has been well worth it for keeping my garden more or less under control. Fiskars (formerly Wilkinson Sword Garden tools), do also make a telescopic longer version of this cutter, but in all honesty for any greater heights than this I would rather get a professional to do the job, I have no problems cutting to the 160cm this tool allows me to but I think any higher and it would be a little hard to see what you were doing. You can't go wrong with this cutter in my opinion if your need is similar to mine - it won't replace a tree surgeon but it will allow you to reach and cut branches that otherwise would be inaccessible or dangerous to reach with a step ladder and shears. Thoroughly recommended.