Counterfeit Felco Pruners


The Japanese are excellent craftsman. The best canera is Nikon, The best burnable media (CDR’s DVD-R’s Blu-ray etc) are Japanese, all others are not even worth trying. When Tanyo Yudon stopped making media they sold the process to another company in Taiwan, they make excellent discs, the only exception.
ARS is not perfect, and you are lucky this has not happened. It has been reported on large hard wood, the blade can shatter. The biggest complaint against ARS. They seem to have solved the problem though. Making the blade super hard makes it susceptible to cracking.


Pruning with a helper about 7 working months a year all day long I’ve been using ARS hand pruners for at least a decade now, I think. I don’t twist the tool when I cut but I cut a lot of thick diameter wood for a hand pruner. My helper and I have never damaged this tool in all that time except when I’ve dropped the thing on ice on a very cold day (the type we haven’t had for a while, in the single digits)- that did snap the tip, and I’ve done it twice. Another time I accidentally clipped at a piece of strong wire and the blade chipped then as well.

You are right that there’s a price to pay for such hard steel. It also takes a good sharpening tool and a bit more effort than sharpening the relatively soft steel of a Felco.

However, I’ve recommended the tool to many of my gardening friends as well as people on this forum, and I’ve yet to hear of anyone chipping or damaging a blade.


If you do damage the blade they are very expensive to replace and somewhat dangerous to do. It really isn’t worth the effort- just buy a new tool.


Almost all japanese steel from swords and chef knives to loppers and ARS pruners need regularly oiled with a high quality oil like the fine mineral oils. I use avocado oil for all my chef knives and go ahead and use it on the saws and pruners because they are prone to cracking or breaking if not.


I have a couple battery operated Kamikaze pruners. One has a 2’ extension which is really nice. We don’t have to wade through the tree to cut things. A lot of pruning can be done by standing in one place. It wouldn’t seem like it would be that helpful, but it does make things easier and faster.

The battery operated pruners may make my hands weak and soft, but… I expect to make it up with a stronger trigger finger :wink:

Who knows I might even be able to bust coconuts with it.

We rarely oil the ARS pruners. We mostly only oil them if they get so gummy they won’t open/close easily. Of the five pairs we’ve got, I’ve not seen any crack. In fact I’m not aware that oiling any type of steel would prevent cracking, or that not oiling it would cause it to crack or break.

Of course oil is a corrosion inhibitor. In that sense the steel could rust and lose it’s edge, which would necessitate re-sharpening.

That happened to one pair of ARS pruners I keep in the tractor tool box. They started to rust a little bit. That pair didn’t get used much and a little rain gets in the tool box, if the lid doesn’t get shut tight. They were still sharp enough, so I didn’t sharpen them. The rust on the surface of the blade pretty much came off when they were used a little more often.


Bought my first pair of Felco’s this past month and used them to prune all of my trees, bushes and vines. I am very pleased to say that I think I got a real set! I like them but the Gerber ones I was using prior were very good as well. I have bought a couple cheapos over the years when I first started but finally have a some pruners that won’t fall apart of dull quickly on me. Of course you all have me looking at the ARS pruners now :joy: I also use diamond stones or rather diamond plates when sharpening.


I didn’t understand the physics of that recommendation and I never oil mine. It isn’t like the oil can penetrate hard steel, unless my logic has failed me again.

I do oil my loppers so I can make the blades as tight as possible without increasing friction that makes them harder to use.

Most of my peach pruning is lopper work, BTW.

I used Felcos for many years- they were and still are the most common pruners for professionals. The Felco closure system is superior (at least when you keep them in your pocket) to ARS as is the fulcrum bolting system and the ease of replacing blades. The last thing isn’t an issue for many years unless you accidentally chip an ARS blade on metal or something.

There is just something about how the ARS feels in your hands and the relative sharpness of harder steel. When I used to use Felcos I would get repetitive use hand problems- nothing that ever kept me from work. It may be coincidental, but since I began using the ARS this hasn’t happened.

That said, the ARS design can be dangerous when stored in you pocket if you place them handle first and they accidentally open. I gave myself a bad gash once when that happened and use a smaller lower quality but decent Barnel Chinese pruner as a pocket tool now.


I use ARS cleaner which has oil in it. Great stuff. Oil prevents rust, I have left mine outside in the rain and no rust. I keep them clean. If I use them, I clean them when done. Mine are 6-7 years old and look brand new.

Probably not. Cracking is because it was hardened a little bit too much. Usually seen in lot numbers of blades, or batches made improperly. If hardened correctly they should not crack. Hardening is basically removing impurities in the metal. It’s a matter of physics too. Metal fatigue I find an interesting subject. So important on aircraft.


Yah, me too! Nothing wrong with my Felcos, and had I never heard of ARS I would be perfectly happy with them. But now I want to pick up a pair.

The hardness vs toughness thing in steel is devilishly complex, heavily dependent on the particular alloy and on the techniques of hardening and tempering. My brother likes a knife with a relatively soft, tough blade that takes an edge quickly, while I’ll go for a harder steel. I’ve got a couple of Japanese cooking knives made by laminating a very hard steel with a softer alloy. Broke the very tip of one when I dropped it on ceramic tile, and a triangle at the back corner of the edge when I tried to cut into a tin can. Kinda dumb, huh? Great knives when I treat them right.


I have some Zenport battery operated pruners, they were a bit cheaper than other brands but still professional grade. They generally work well, but unlike my ARS pruners the blades don’t seem to stay together like they should and on many cuts there is a sliver of bark still holding on. I replaced the blade and it worked better for awhile but is back to not working so well again. I probably need to keep the blades super sharp all the time to get good cuts.


My understanding is japanese steel has less chromium and more cobalt vanadium and it helps season the polish on the stainless steel, Once it rusts you are losing a lot of the stainless steels inherent qualities and it is much more apt to break and become brittles and loses some of its inherent flex which puts more pressure on certain spots. I was taught to basically oil all my hardened tools i want to keep around and have some that were my grandfathers still around.
Edit I also thought i had added oil prevents oxidation and that because of the less chromium it is more important for japanese steel.


Well, regardless of the metallurgy, what you’re doing with your tools is just plain good practice. You’ll be sure to get good use from them. I still use a couple of my dad’s saws (a Disston D-10 and D-11) that, having been professionally sharpened and set some years ago, still cut beautifully. I know he had them in the 40’s, quite possibly before that.


ARS pruners are not stainless steel. Deep rust can obviously compromise any steel, but neither of us was initially referring to that. It would take considerable abuse to effect deep rust on these pruners. Something like soaking in salt water/acid, burying them, or leaving them out in the weather for an extended period.

Light surface rust wouldn’t compromise the alloy’s elasticity or ductility. Light surface rust is the worst I’ve seen with ARS pruners, even with a little rain on them and no oil.

Stress cracks are caused by carpy (impact), fatigue (repeated intermittent stress), and creep (prolonged stress). None of these would be prevented by oil in the context we are discussing. This is excepting substantial corrosion, heat, or other events which wouldn’t apply to normal use during pruning, or normal storage.

Elasticity (ability of a material to spring back) or ductility (ability of a material to deform and not break) is not enhanced by oil. Steel will not become more brittle due to lack of oil.

I’m not trying to be contentious but there is no reason for folks reading this thread to excessively fret over oiling their Japanese steel. It’s a good practice to keep any steel oiled to prevent surface corrosion, but there is no worry about the steel cracking or breaking if it’s not oiled.


Rust also comes from a lack of practice:wink:. My pruners get very little sleep. I think the ARS are pretty resistant to it anyway. I sometimes prune in rain and snow and only my loppers ever show any rust.


It is certainly true that carbon steel (the more carbon the harder, to a point, ignoring for the moment the other elements in the alloy) rusts more quickly and deeper than iron. But true “iron” is almost unavailable any more, I think. Even “mild steel” has quite a bit of carbon, especially considering that a lot of it is recycled from just about everything out there. Actual iron forms an external layer of rust that can be stable for decades -witness old bridges, for example, the kind held together with rivets. But no doubt, oiling carbon steel tools to prevent rust is good practice.

Back in the day when steel was a lot more precious that now it was common practice to forge a thin piece of steel into the center of a sandwich of soft iron when making knives or axe blades. I think that was the case when Captain Ahab took his best razors to a smith to have a harpoon tip forged in Moby Dick.

Anyhow, it’s a fascinating (to me!) subject about which I know only a tiny bit. Story of my life, ay?


Hardening steel is the process of converting some of the iron/carbon into martensite. The metal is first softened with heat, usually heating 3 or 4 times to relax internal stresses from the shaping process. Once fully relaxed, it is heated to the non-magnetic stage, then quenched to convert Austenite into Martensite. This produces a very hard but extremely brittle metal. Tempering is the process of heating the metal to low temperatures allowing some of the martensite to relax back into other forms. Tempering changes the brittleness by making the steel more flexible. Too much tempering makes softer steel that won’t hold an edge. Too little produces brittle steel that will break easily. There is a balance point where the steel is flexible enough yet hard enough.

The percentage of carbon in good tool grade steel is usually in the 0 to 2 percent range. Other metals used in the alloy change characteristics balancing hardness, ductility, malleability, and flexibility. While correct that impurities have to be removed, there is a lot more to the process than just removing impurities.

Sorry, I oversimplified this, there are much better descriptions on the net.


This is what I was talking about when I mentioned it’s a matter of removing impurities. Sure carbon is needed but if you do not remove the impurities, the metal will be soft. , Other softer metals are removed, and so are other impurities. Sure it’s a process (heat treating etc). Some companies keep the process secret, not all steel is the same as mentioned.
ARS made a batch of brittle steel and it hurt their reputation, but they fixed and replaced what they could. Still is the best no doubt.

From Wiki
Carbon steels which can successfully undergo heat-treatment have a carbon content in the range of 0.30–1.70% by weight. Trace impurities of various other elements can have a significant effect on the quality of the resulting steel. Trace amounts of sulfur in particular make the steel red-short, that is, brittle and crumbly at working temperatures. Low-alloy carbon steel, such as A36 grade, contains about 0.05% sulfur and melts around 1,426–1,538 °C (2,599–2,800 °F).[8] Manganese is often added to improve the hardenability of low-carbon steels. These additions turn the material into a low-alloy steel by some definitions, but AISI’s definition of carbon steel allows up to 1.65% manganese by weight.



I think you are referring to wrought iron? That material was used some to make old bridges. It was close to 100% Fe. I’m sure you are aware there are iron alloys now which have good weathering ability, surpassing wrought iron.

There are so many alloys out there now, for just about any application, it’s mind boggling. Like you, I have a little knowledge and interest as well. I’m a hobby machinist. Mostly make a few simple parts for my equipment.


Hi Mark,

I don’t know for sure how much true wrought iron was used, but my understanding is that there was a fair amount of it early on, and the old bridges are an good example. I’ve got a few pieces that I rescued from an old water supply system that used iron hoops to hold the wooden slats together -they placed them about every 6 inches I think. (In fact, I know where I could get about a ton of them if I cared to wrangle a lot of cable into a gorge!) And I’ve got a little old anchor chain. It’s fun to forge with them because of how the pieces forge weld and shape.

I’m no machinist, wish I’d developed the skills. My dad worked in the California lumber camps and the cannery circuit pre WWII and was a machinist during the war, knew steam engines and such pretty well. You’d have had a lot to talk about with him. I’ve puttered around a bit with forging and grinding and tempering knives and chisels and the like, but basically using road-kill steel, so every new piece is a new learning experience. Like you say, the choice is just mind-boggling. The tool steels like D-? are just super tough and hard to work, have a very narrow range for forging; I’ve got a piece of steel used to cut veneers in a plywood mill that I can’t do a dern thing with.

Big subject for such a limited mind, but we do what we can.



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