Niwaki hand tools for the garden review.
Before I became a garden designer, I had always loved gardening in whatever way, in whatever space and its fair to say that during that time I've been through quite a lot of tools. Some date back to what seems the Jurassic period, past down from previous generations and some recently purchased. If like me you have been gardening for some time you've probably gone through a few pairs of secateurs.
I have used many brands of secateurs familiar to all gardeners and in view of my previous understanding, I had come to the conclusion that they have a limited lifetime. However, with this experience in mind I thought it might be useful to give a review on some items I have started buying over the last few years, which has changed that perception. Around 6 years ago (with a few hints from me) one Christmas my wife treated me to a pair of Niwaki secateurs.
The pair in question are the Niwaki B-Type 200mm (right handed). This is a mid-range priced pair of Secateurs and as with all Niwaki secateurs these are “by-pass” secateurs. I've personally never understood the point of Anvil secateurs.
On first receipt of these secateurs, you are somewhat struck by the cold, raw, utilitarian appearance of these tools, thinking that at the first sign of rain, they'll be covered in rust (which they will if treated as such). Niwaki do make secateurs with coloured hand grips and I've noticed there is also options on secateurs with ‘posh' looking Walnut inserts. Mine were just what they term ‘S58 carbon steel'. However, after the initial shock of the corporal Jones-esque “cold steel” I found they actually have a very tactile quality. They are very comfort to hold and there is a real sense of excellence of manufacture with a razor sharp blade. I subsequently purchased a leather holster to keep them in with a belt so they are always at arm's reach. This also helps to protect the tool when not in use.
In addition, I have since purchased the care accessories of two sharpening stones, “Crean mate”, Camellia oil, dispenser for the oil, and a diamond sharpening file, which in total (with the secateurs) comes in at an eye watering £177.50. There are ways of buying bundles of some of these items, which brings the cost down slightly but if looked after (and if you're buying the care accessories, you've clearly made that decision) this is a tool for life.
Using the secateurs
When you first use these secateurs it is really apparent how sharp they are, slicing through everything within their cutting range with ease, leaving very clean cuts. Somewhat surprisingly, you are warned to “not cut wire, metal, stone, plastic or any other hard material (even bamboo fibres and some very hard woods, especially knots and burrs, can damage steel edges)” but I would hope that this is mostly common sense. If you have to cut wire, metal or stone use pliers or some other tool, not your treasured secateurs!!!
I have used them over a number of seasons now and have grown really comfortable with their handling and reliable sharpeness.
I do make sure I clean them with the Crean mate and oil them with the oil dispenser after every use. Camellia oil is a very light oil and really gets into the mechanism. Its recommended that you should not to use 3 in 1 oil. If needed I also give them a light sharpen before putting them away. This involves soaking the stones first until all the air is removed and mostly using the finer stone. If you have ‘chipped' the blade then you will need to use the diamond file and coarser stones first to re-establish a curve but treated with respect this shouldn't happen. In the 6 years I've had mine this has never happened.
One point of Caution
Obviously the blades are razor sharp, so as with any sharp tool sensible care is required but one additional point to just to watch out for is the spring clip that holds them closed when not in use. When I'm using them I fold this inwards (below right) to avoid catching it on anything and when closing and securing the secateurs, if you're not wearing gloves, make sure your fingers are clear of the clip area. The spring clip is pretty taught and springs closed with an 'extremely' positive action but a couple of times I caught the skin on the side of my little finger in the clip, which acts as a ‘severe' reminder of how well it works.
Since my first investment I have purchased a number of Niwaki tools including the Pro-snips (shown below ) for getting into more delicate pruning on plants with a more dense habit.
I've yet to be dissappointed with any of the tools I've purchased from Niwaki and found they are all high quality items and they tend to be my ‘go to' supplier.
Overall, both the secatuers and the pro-snips are 5 star tools with a long life if looked after. They are expensive but really well made and for me, personally, I believe its value for money.