Product Review – Fiskars UPX82 PowerGear X Tree Pruner

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Fiskars UPX82 PowerGear X Tree Pruner, a super-sturdy and lightweight, ergonomically-designed pole pruner for easy cutting in all directions

Pole pruners are versatile pruning tools which provide extended reach, allowing gardeners to access tree canopies and dense bushes to trim overhead branches without needing a ladder, or to trim inaccessible dense growth at ground level without bending or kneeling.

In general, pole pruners come in two sizes. The shorter fixed length pole pruners are around 1.6m (5.5’) long, and are perfect for managing smaller trees up to 4m (12’) tall, whereas the longer telescopic pole pruners, which extend from 2.4m to 4.0m (8’-12’) long, can reach up to an incredible 6m (18’), but are a bit too long and unwieldy for smaller jobs.

Extending the versatility of these tools, many pole pruners support extra accessories which can be attached to them, such as pruning saws and ever fruit pickers!

Gardeners tasked with managing trees will find that pole pruners make tree maintenance much easier, and are much quicker, and way more efficient than using a tall ladder for most routine tree pruning tasks.

Garden tools are not all made equally, and some are much better than others, so when eBay Australia asked me to select some home and garden products to review, I chose the Fiskars UPX82 PowerGear X Tree Pruner from their Garden Hand Tools & Equipment – Pruning Shears & Snips category.

The reason for choosing this particular product to review is that I’ve owned and used the really long Fiskars UP86 Universal Telescopic Tree Pruner Model # 115560 for somewhere close to ten years now, so it’s a quality brand that I trust, but a 2.4m (8’) long pole pruning tool is not ideal for smaller jobs or for use in restricted spaces, so I was keen to try the shorter, non-extending Fiskars pole pruners for that kind of work, and I wanted to see what design improvements they made on an already excellent product.

If you’re not already familiar with Fiskars brand of tools, they’re a European company based in Helsinki, Finland which is renown for their durable and ergonomically-designed tools with their trademark orange handles. Fiskars started in 1649 as an ironworks company in Finland, and today is one of the oldest businesses in the western world. That’s an impressive track record!

Product Description

The Fiskars UPX82 PowerGear X Tree Pruner is a 1.65m long, non-extending pole pruner with a bypass-style secateur blade for clean cuts on live branches or stems up to 32 mm (1-1/4”) thick, providing approximately 3,5 meters of maximum reach.

Designed for precise and powerful cutting, the PowerGear X™ tree pruners have an orange blade support for improved visibility, and the cutting head can be rotated so that the cutting angle can be adjusted up to 230°.

The cutting mechanism is geared to provide additional mechanical advantage, making cutting up to 3 times easier than with standard mechanisms, allowing for effortless and exact high-level pruning.

This tool is strong but lightweight, it only weighs 1100g due to the materials used in the construction. The lower portion of the shaft is made of some form of fibre composite, while the upper portion is made of aluminium. The shaft is fitted with durable soft-grip handles and non-slip base for easier and comfortable handling.

This pruner comes with a 25 year international limited warranty on manufacturing defects.
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The product label attached to the shaft details the tool’s specification in a quick-reference format.

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The cutting head is shipped covered with a protective clear plastic case which uses two snap clips on the long edge and one on the short edge to close shut.

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Since the cutting head can be rotated up to 230° to allow for pruning at difficult angles, it can also be folded down flat against the shaft to shorten the overall length of the tool and provide further protection, particularly when the tool is being transported.

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Removing the cover and rotating the cutting head out,  we can see the cutting blade, which is made of hardened steel and has a dark non-stick coating for easy cleaning and smoother cutting. A chain attached to the cutting blade closes the jaws to make the cut, and the return spring at the top pulls the jaws open again.

The chain-drive gearing provides maximum cutting power, allowing for a 3x greater cutting force to be exerted by the blade.

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Looking at the other side of the cutting head, we can see the bright orange blade support which increases the visibility of the blade when it’s high in the tree amongst leaves, making it easier to locate the jaws of the cutting head around a branch.

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From the side, we can see the large orange lock that is used to keep the cutting head in place when it’s adjusted to the desired angle.

With the lock loosened, the cutting head can be pushed or pulled by hand into the chosen angle, and it clicks into defined steps as it’s moved all along the whole range of motion.

When in position, the lock is turned to fix the cutting head into place.

The design of the orange lock is very deliberate, it sits fairly flush within the body of the cutting head so it doesn’t snag on branches during pruning. The whole cutting head has a rather streamlined design for the same purpose, and there are exposed no cords or strings that can get tangled.

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This instructional photo from Fiskars shows how the orange knob is used to unlock and lock the head for adjustment.

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The orange handle midway along the shaft activates the blade, pulling down on the handle slides it down the shaft, closes the blade and makes the cut.

The handle is ergonomically shaped for comfortable holding, and has a durable,orange soft-grip coating that has an almost slightly rubbery grip.

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The opposite side of the handle has more of the soft-grip covering where the fingers wrap around, and here we can see the internal heavy-duty woven strap which runs inside the aluminium top section that activates the blade. This hidden rope-less cutting action means there is never a problem with tangled lines.

Other pole pruners use an external rope attached externally to the cutter head to activate the blade, which can tangle in branches, and requires one hand to hold the rope, leaving only one hand on the pole. With a rope-free design and a sliding handle on the shaft, this allows for more precise two-handed control and more power when making the pruning cut.

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There’s an orange non-slip base at the end of the tool which allows for a better two-handed grip, but it does more than serve as a gripping surface. To further extend teach, it’s possible to hold the pole pruner near its base. But if you we that, how can we reach the sliding handle midway along the shaft you may ask?

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The grip at the end of the handle is also an actuating ball which can be pulled to close the blades and perform a cut. This way both hands can hold the pole pruner at the very end for maximum reach, and one hand can pull on the orange handle at the base to work the blade action. Quite innovative!

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This pruning tool blade uses a BYPASS action, much like pruning secateurs. The black cutting blade at the top by-passes the silver counter blade below in a scissors-like action.

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Both blade and counter blade press into the wood to make a clean cut with less compression damage. With a bypass cutting action, it’s possible to cut close to the stem to make a clean cut. Bypass action pruners are more suitable for pruning fresh wood, as in live branches, rather than really herd, dead branches, but they work fine on thinner dead branches, this one can cut dead branches around 20mm (3/4”) thick, and fresh branches up to 32mm (1-1/4”) thick.

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Improvements in the Design

To highlight the design improvements in the Fiskars UPX82 PowerGear X Tree Pruner, I compared it to the previous version of the longer, extendable model, the Fiskars UP86 Tree Pruner Universal Telescopic Wand PowerReel – 115560 1000598, which is well used and still going, but can use a good clean after a decade!

In the picture below, we can see that the newer model (at the top of the picture) has a larger plastic body attaching to the shaft, and the long orange blade support which helps place the blade onto high branches and see where the blade will make the cut from  a distance away.

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The design of the orange lock that secures the angle of the cutting head has been changed completely. The newer model (top of the picture) has a recessed locking knob which can’t snag or be accidentally unlocked when brushing against branches, which the older finger tab style lock would be more prone to, though I’ve never had that problem with it.

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Just for the sake of size comparison, I leaned both the longer and shorter versions of this pruner against the wall, and the size difference is phenomenal! The long, extendable pole pruner at its shortest, collapsed length is 2.4m (8’), compare to the shorter fixed length pole pruner which is a mere 1.65m (5.5’). Incidentally, the new updated model is available both lengths, choose whichever length is more suitable!

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Product Assessment

How ell does the Fiskars UPX82 PowerGear X Tree Pruner work? I put it through the paces, using it to prune back the tops of various fruit trees to see how it performed.

Pruning the top of a persimmon tree close to 3m tall, I was able to make very precise and clean cuts to its hard, brittle timber without having to reach to far with my arms over my head. The blade slides smoothly through fresh wood, with a very reassuring pop as the blade slices clean through and the branch fall away.

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Figs on the other hand have soft, pliable wood, which cut cleanly and didn’t jam in the blades. The big leaves of fig trees tend to obscure the cutting head, making it hard to see, but the bright orange blade support made it easy to see where the cutting jaws were, whether the light was dim, or looking up almost into the sun where the glare made it hard to see clearly.

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The third tree I tested the pruners on were a white sapote, which tends to have ragged fibrous edges on the pruning cuts when tools aren’t sharp enough, and I managed nice clean pruning cuts on this tree also. More on this tree in a moment!

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For purists of the pruning world, the way pruning is taught in horticulture school, when using bypass pruners such as this, the black cutting blade at the top should be placed on the side of the cut towards the tree, and the silver counter blade or jaw below should be placed towards the tip of the branch being cut off.

The idea is that when the sharp cutting blade slides past the flat, blunt counter blade below, the blunt side may crush the part of the branch it’s pressing against, while the sharp slicing blade wont. If the part of the branch being cut off get crushed a bit, then it won’t matter, as it won’t be attached to the tree and will be thrown away.

Anyone using hand secateurs will realise how frustrating it can be orienting them the right way when making every pruning cut. (For the record, I teach students pruning and how to sharpen their pruning tools to razor sharpness, and that’s the way I keep mine, and in my experience I’ve found when tools are really sharp, it doesn’t make an iota of difference which way around bypass pruners are held).

For those who wish to orient their bypass action pruners the ‘right way’ when pruning, with the bright orange jaw, it’s really easy even high in a tree where visibility is not the best.

Here’s the simple pruning rule: Orange side towards the tip of the branch, black blade towards the base of the branch.

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For proper pruning instructions, see my article – How to Prune a Fruit Tree, Step By Step

A few pruning cuts don’t tell us how well a pruning tool would work when used to prune a whole tree, so that’s what we did next!

Here are the before and after photos of my white sapote tree, it was fairly overgrown and well overdue for a good pruning. The height of the top of the canopy was close to the roof guttering and the overhead wires.

In the photos I’ve leaned the pruning tool against the tree to give a sense of scale, remember the tree pruner is 1.65m long, so this tree is around twice that in height.

Pruning the tree barely took more than 5 minutes, because I was able to more quickly and efficiently around the tree to access the branches without having to constantly move and relocate a ladder, climbing up and down.

To see if it was possible, I completes the whole pruning job, including some very small, precise cuts at the tips of the branches, using only this tool alone and nothing else. Realistically, you could probably make 90% of the cuts in any pruning job with this tool alone, and use a pair of hand secateurs for the finer work.

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Before and after photographs of a white sapote tree pruned with just the short pole pruner in minutes!

Here’s the completed tree, pruned down to around 2m (6’) high, a much more manageable and very productive height for home garden fruit trees.

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A short pole pruner is also an invaluable tool for reaching into thorny shrubs, either at ground level to thin the out at the base where they have formed a clumping thicket of impenetrable branches, or when thorny branches make it hard to reach the other side of a thorny shrub which backs onto a fence. It makes easy work of roses (pictured below), and makes the task of clearing wild blackberry brambles more more pleasant.

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How tough is this tool? I usually ‘torture test’ tools in reviews, using them slightly beyond what’s reasonable to determine their durability.

Bypass pruners are design to be used on fresh wood, while anvil style pruners are intended for hard, dead wood. I took an extremely hard, very dry eucalyptus branch a bit over 20mm (3/4”) thick, and attempted to cut through it. Trying to cut this with hand secateurs wouldn’t even dent this timber, but the geared cutting head which triples the cutting force, with some effort, managed a very nice, clean cut, as pictured below.

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After the pruning tests were completed, I decided to test how well the non-stick coating worked when cleaning the blades. It’s best to clean pruning tools after use, if they are covered in tree sap and gunk, they don’t cut as well, and can rust if they don’t have a protective finish like this tree pruner.

If also a good practice to sterilise pruning tools between different trees to avoid spreading diseases, and I use a water-alcohol mix and a paper kitchen towel for the purpose. The blades wiped clean effortlessly, returning them to their pristine, new appearance.

There is a small gap between the lower silver counter blade and the orange plastic blade support, so make sure to clean any debris that may have gotten stuck in that space when cleaning the tree pruner at the end of the day.

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Parts and Accessories

Any durable tool with a long life can be repaired to extend its serviceable life, and that’s possible with spare parts.

  • A spare cutter head can be purchased, it’s the same one on the shorter UPX82 reviewed in this article, and the longer, extendable UPX86.
  • A handle and rope set, containing the middle and lower handles, and the woven strap cord that actuates the blade is also available.
  • A blade, spring, chain link set for UP82, UP84, UP86; UPX82, UPX86.

Accessories can extend the versatility and uses of this pole pruner.

  • The Branch Saw fits UPX82 & UPX86 Tree Pruners, and can saw up to 80mm thick branches. It has an impulse hardened, quality steel blade, with a hollow-grind blade to makes sawing easier, and the sawing angle is adjustable with this accessory.

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  • A Fiskars Fruit Picker UP80 Plus Part can be used to harvest fruit even from the higher tree tops without damaging them. The bag is made of durable cotton fabric and to assist lifting, the frame is made of Fiskars signature FiberComp which will neither rust or wear out.

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There’s also a downloadable Fiskars Spare Parts Manual (2.2 MB) which covers a range of pruning tools, including this one, to ensure that owners can get continued use from these durable tools.

Conclusion

The Fiskars UPX82 PowerGear X Tree Pruner is a sturdy and durable European-made quality gardening tool with a very refined ergonomic design, which they’ve even improved over the previous model. Its light weight makes it very manageable for repeated precise, accurate cuts in very high, low or inaccessible branches, without making it tiring to hold for long periods. In fact, its ergonomic design combined with its light weight make it an absolute delight to use.

This model is ideal for pruning backyard sized trees that are maintained up to around 3.5m in height, which is way higher than you’d ever want any garden fruit tree. It really speeds up the task of tree pruning, and it’s way faster than using a ladder. All anyone would need is this tool and good quality hand pruning secateurs to maintain most small trees.

The previous generation of Fiskars tree pruners were excellent tools, and the company’s continuous innovation has made them even better. The Fiskars UPX82 PowerGear X Tree Pruner met my expectations of what I look for in a quality tree pruner, and even exceeded them. This is a fantastic tool, and it comes highly recommended!

Deep Green rating for the “Fiskars UPX82 PowerGear X Tree Pruner” is 5 stars!

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If you are interested in submitting a product for review, please contact us via email at deep_green@optusnet.com.au , thanks!

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