K's Garden

Building a large garden on a budget

Okatsune Secateurs and Snips Review Thursday 31 July 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgarden @ 12:00 am

I’m a long time Felco [link] owner – I have had my main pair for more than 20 years – they work well, and my only gripe is that the locking catch can “lock” by itself during work; flip-side is that it is easy to unlock with just a slide of the thumb. A major plus point of Felco secateurs is that you can take them to bits, sharpen the cutting blade on a stone, and replace anything that is worn out. World of Felco also offer a sharpening service [link] which allows a much loved pair to be rejuvenated – but its only a couple of quid less than buying a new pair.

But I have been wooed and now I have a new love! I bought a pair of Okatsune Secateurs and Snips. The Secateurs came direct from Japan, where they are the tool of choice amongst professional tree pruners and shapers.

Okatsune Secateurs and Snips

Okatsune Secateurs and Snips

Okatsune Secateurs and Snips

Okatsune Secateurs and Snips

They look just like a pair of secateurs, of course, except that they have a trademark one-red and one-white handle. But when they cut Wow! the cutting action and noise is mesmerising.

The snips have a nice pointed nose, which is easy to get into a leaf-joint and liberate a flower stalk.

Knocks my original Felco’s into a cocked hat.

I’m in two minds about the locking catch.

Okatsune Locking Catches

Okatsune Locking Catches

On the one hand I have a love-hate relationship with the Felco one. Easy to flick off with your thumb, but tends to lock itself again during work. Where you have the occasional single cut to make, lock them, put back in your holster, do some more work, and then want to make a single cut again perhaps the ease of the Felco lock wins. The Okatsuna catch, once open, won’t close unintentionally, but when it does it will happily bite your finger! I read someone saying that they shut it by rolling the catch/handle on their thigh, and I think that will be the answer for me, but not sure about opening it, so far I haven’t been able to do that with a roll-on-the-thigh action. Everything I cut today was 20 or 30 things to cut, before re-holstering, so I’ll have a re-think next time I have to do a bunch of single-cuts and re-holster.

A contrary point, on the locking mechanism, is if you garden with gloves (I don’t). The little catch on Felco’s that I find so easy to flick off with my thumb probably won’t work with gloves on, so if you need to “gloves-off” to flick the catch then I expect the Okatsune would win for you on that point. I see Felco’s on display stands in the garden centres around here, worth trying the handles for size, in your hand, before deciding which model you want to buy – and think about the locking catch if you garden with gloves on.

The snips have a twisted rubber-like loop for a catch. I wonder if it will last? You definitely have to “unlock” them, so again for single cuts it might be annoying. I have been putting them back in my toolbelt / holster without locking and that seems to work OK, so far.

By the by, I treated myself to a suede leather Bob-the-Builder tool belt a month back.



Cost less than a fiver off eBay, and is much better quality that I was expecting. To have the tools supported off my waist independently of my trousers / their belt is much more comfortable. I hated having my trousers weighted down by a pair of secateurs in the pocket, and yet I have been doing that for decades … so now when I go out into the garden I just don my tool belt, in which lives the secateurs. I don’t have to try to remember where I last left them! and I have the snips and a pair of scissors in there too. The Snips are now replaced by an Okatsuna pair too – they are equally awesome, and I use them for cutting flowers [nice pointy ends get right into the leaf joint to liberate a flower stalk] and trimming tufty things like ornamental grasses.

I have promised myself I’ll look after these, so I bought a sharpening stone too (actually the Felco 902 sharpening stone, which has back-to-back medium and fine surfaces) so that I can just touch up the blades each time I come in after some pruning tasks.

Felco 902 Sharpening Stone

Felco 902 Sharpening Stone

Felco 902 Sharpening Stone Instructions

Felco 902 Sharpening Stone Instructions

For prolonged use:

I have chatted to professional gardeners and one of their considerations is how much effort secateurs take to operate, and if they make their wrists hurt at the end of the day. I’ve only spoken to a couple, both long term Felco users who have tried Okatsune, and their first impressions were that the Okatsune cutting action and effort required on the handles was quite jarring on their wrists. They favoured the Felco’s with the rotating handle for ease of use. I have had a pair of those for more than 20 years, and can’t say that I have noticed. However, even though I think I have decent sized “Wicket Keepers” hands (or “Octave-and-one” if you are a Pianist!) I find them large in my hands, and my wife would definitely not be able to use them. If you want to try them look out for Felco #7’s (or Felco #10’s if you are left handed)

I bought:

Okatsune 103 secateurs £23.00 from Amazon Marketplace (Okatsune 101 is a bit smaller, and would suit smaller hands)
Okatsune 304 Thinning Shears £14.50 from Amazon Marketplace
Felco 902 Ceramic Sharpening Stone £15.95 from Amazon Marketplace

Update December 2017

I’m still using Okatsune secateurs, its been three seasons now. I have a big garden, so I now get myself a new pair each Christmas – and pass on the old ones to a fellow gardener – someone with a smaller plot!

I find rolling the catch on my thigh to either open, or close, works well – now that I have the hang of it. Much easier than a “finger catch” (of the style found on Felcos) when wearing gloves.

I have caught my finger between the handles on more than one occasion, and its a painful nip. Wearing gloves would probably negate that. I think the shape of the handles contributes to this problem, my hand slides up them, in particular when I am cutting something like Lavender flowers which is more of a trimming action than a pruning one, where the repeat snip-snip-snip causes my hand to slide up the handles. Felco handles are much more contoured, in that regard.

But I love the keenness of the Okatsune blade. I think my earlier comment about the blade not working well after some use was because of a build-up of sap, and I now clean the blade regularly (I’ve got a spray can originally intended for a hedge trimmer blade, which seems to do a good job) and don’t have that problem any more.

So until I save up for a very expensive pair of Tobisho Hiryu I think Okatsune is going to remain an, annually replaceable!, best friend.


4 Responses to “Okatsune Secateurs and Snips Review”

  1. Hello, from Cambridge,New Zealand.
    I have found your blog by chance, researching the fabulous Okatsune gardening tools.
    I recently bought the Okatsune 60(long handle shears.)
    Now as you are planting hedges, then this fine piece of equipment is a ‘must buy’.
    Talk about impressive……………..WOW.
    The surgical steel and that ‘trade mark…. sound’, is wonderful.
    Since using mine, I have been recommending everyone to seriously consider a great purchase.
    Wishing you well.
    Allan @ http://www.blackwoodhouse.co.nz

    • kgarden Says:

      I’ve had my eye on some of the shears … but I am waiting until my topiary are big enough to benefit from them, which will also gave me a bit longer to save up!


  2. Andrew Says:

    How are you getting on with the Okatsune? I ordered the secateurs but wasn’t keen on the handle so returned them (so never got to use them or get a proper feel for the locking catch), but am now looking at the snips and also the Tobisho, Nobuichi and Crocus secateurs as they have different handles with a shoulder.

    • kgarden Says:

      I’m less enamoured with Okatsune than I was initially. I did like the keenness of the cutting blade, but they are not cutting anything like as well now (bear in mind that my garden, and the amount of pruning, is much larger than average). I’ll sharpen them up and see if they improve. You are right about the handles, I have nipped (very painfully) the skin between thumb-and-index-finger on a couple of occasions when not concentrating, and narrowly missed doing it on countless more, when using the secateurs in a “sheering” action rather than pruning single-stems (might not be a problem for people how wear gloves to garden with, I never do). The handles are not well shaped in that regard. But there is no way I am going back to Felco, their tendency to self-lock in the middle of a job, and the difficulty of unlocking them one-handed is a pain.

      I’m not sure (from looking at photos, only) that the Tobisho handles are significantly more contoured. They are Monty Don’s secateurs of choice, I believe (he has a huge range of nice tools, but hard to know if he tried all brands before deciding, or just “lived with” the first that he came across, perhaps as a promotional gift?, which he liked? They are twice the price too … assuming you weren’t refering to the Hiryu model – I’d love them, but I’m lazy in using nearest-tool-to-hand for a job and jake Hobson says you mustn’t buy Hiryu if you will use them to open a can of paint, that rules me out!

      Not come across Nobuchi before, thanks for that. The handle contouring looks very like the old fashioned type that my parents used to use, and probably worked well enough.

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