Choosing a pair of secateurs from Niwaki should be pretty straight forward: they're all great and obviously the more expensive they are, the greater they are. Here are some more helpful points though:
Short answer: for most people, the decision is Okatsune, or Tobisho v Niwaki. If you are the kind of person who leaves things lying around and uses the nearest thing to hand to open paint tins etc - get the Okatsune. If you enjoy owning beautiful, well made and highly useable stuff, move on to the next dilemma.
Tobisho v Niwaki. Both secateurs are made in similar techniques, using similar grades of steel, in small workshops by family businesses. Tobisho tends towards a finer finish, while Niwaki are slightly more robust. Jake uses both, and within minutes of switching is very happy with either - once one gets used to these tools, they both do the job.
1st question, SIZE:
- most people find the standard size works well - if however you have enormous hands, then you need the Okatsune Large or the Tobisho A-Type Large - giving you more to hold on to, more leverage and more cutting power. Users with very small or weak hands may prefer the small size. It's worth understanding that all these secateurs open up quite a way, and the trick is only to let them open as far as is comfy in your hand. Your four clenched fingers set the limit for how far they open.
2nd question, QUALITY:
- Okatsune, in whatever size, are the industry standard in Japan and what most pros and jobbing gardeners use day to day. They are machine made - the steel is pressed into shape, welded to the handle, then sharpened and assembled individually. If you're after a robust, simple pair of secateurs that will handle just about anything, these are the ones. The spring action and solid catch at the bottom define Japanese secateurs, and they have a direct action that doesn't rely on cushioning or gearing. If you're serious about pruning, but are prone to mislaying your tools, get these. Bunny Guinness has had nice things to say about them in the Telegraph.
- Tobisho slightly confuse things by making various styles of secateur, all remarkable. They're a small family business in Yamagata, currently run by Yasuhito Tobitsuka, 3rd generation. As their tools are hand forged by skilled craftsmen, they can be prone to supply problems, and we quite often find ourselves out of stock. We do three: the SR-1, A-Type, and the Hiryu.
1. SR-1, with the red and yellow handles, are beautiful, hand forged with high quality carbon steel running the entire length of the blade and handle. They have a lovely refined feel to them - they clearly feel (and look - and indeed are) better than the Okatsune. If you treat pruning as a pleasure, rather than a necessity, get these. Monty Don uses them sometimes on tv and has had kind things to say about them in the Telegraph.
2. A-Type. Moving up a level in quality, these are forged with Aogami Blue Paper Steel blades brazed to the softer steel of the handles - similar to how Japanese knives are forged. Aogami is renowned for its edge, but needs a bit more care in use, and is slightly harder to sharpen than softer steels. They have a slightly different grip to the SR-1, especially in the shoulder.
2. Finally the Tobisho Hiryu - these are exceptional, and clearly not for everyone. Using a more traditional design, the cutting blade has a concave inner edge, meaning it is only in contact with the bypass piece at the point of cutting, so there is less friction and resistance during the cut. Tobisho have also tucked in a little hidden grease reservoir within the blades to keep things moving. Although they are amazing, and very pleasurable to use, they are not suitable for heavy thrashing - keep them for careful, deliberate pruning.
- Our Niwaki brand are forged by a small family blacksmith in Hyogo. No fancy vinyl handles or brass nuts here - just simple, refined quality. We see the entire Niwaki range as the perfect combination of form and function - they just work.