The basic design of hedge shears has changed a little over the years to become even more efficient than ever before. Basically, you're looking at a tool that's from 1 to 2 feet long from tip to handle's end (unless you get an especially long-handled model). This form allows the average-size person to slice away while standing comfortably. These cutters are meant to be used to trim hedges, whether evergreen or deciduous. They're too big and unwieldy for spot-cutting jobs or regular pruning.
The shafts are either light but tough tubular steel or heavier hardwood, usually with cushioned grips to make your work more comfortable and your grip more secure. The cutting blades are long and sharp, the cutting edge is ideally beveled, and the base (near the fulcrum) may have serrations for those occasions when you encounter especially tough branches.
You can get better results and longer use if the blades are tough, drop-forged carbon steel. Check also that the point where the cutting blades meet the handles is secure and tough.
The blades of hedge shears vary. Wavy-edged ones help keep branches in place as you work without gathering dirt or roughening the cut. Serrated-edged ones can tame unruly stems of wayward shrubs by holding them while you cut.
Assuming you can run a cord from a power source out to your hedge or other shrubs that need occasional shearing, electric hedge pruners are worth considering. They can often do a neater and faster job, which may be important to you if you have a lot of hedge to cut or are striving for a formal, tidy look.
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