I recently purchased a pair of antique shears intending to use them for pruning bushes and stems. When searching for information on the shears I found out they are antique poultry shears. Is there any reason they couldn't work well for gardening?

My primary concern is the convex blade but also I didn't know if there's something I am missing.

open side view of shears

view of blades closed

EDIT: I wanted to add some clarification (I don't have the rep to comment)

There is a hidden, internal spring it works very well.

On the bottom there is a latch which keeps them closed.

I do have a modern pair, I intend to use these for small jobs, maybe a novelty when showing off my garden. I was unable to find information on the differences between poultry shears and gardening. Much in the way a metal cutting saw is ineffective on wood, I wanted to know if there was a reason these wouldn't be useable in the garden.

  • Well I guess you could try them for clipping the odd stem or two - they'll either work or they won't, but they're no replacement for real garden shears. You may find they don't cut through wood, or they chew thicker stems up - might be okay for use as topiary shears, where light snipping is required.
    – Bamboo
    Sep 9, 2019 at 20:57
  • Is there a functional spring mechanism in the shears? If not I would try garden shears instead, they shouldn't be very expensive.
    – benn
    Sep 9, 2019 at 21:01
  • @benn there is a functional hidden spring. Sep 9, 2019 at 21:03
  • They look like you are supposed to use them one-handed, but the blades will be too long to get enough leverage to cut anything substantial, the "notch" is too small, and the blades are much too thick. Not the best tool for the job, considering the real thing only costs $20 or $30, e.g. wilkinsonsword-tools.co.uk/products/ranges/cutting-range/…
    – alephzero
    Sep 9, 2019 at 22:48
  • If they don't have some sort of latch to hold them shut when not in use, they are an accident waiting to happen. Maybe the thing on the end of one handle is the latch, but in the small pictures it's hard to tell.
    – alephzero
    Sep 9, 2019 at 23:00

1 Answer 1


These shears remind me very much of similar perhaps smaller shears found in many garden sheds in the UK some 40 years ago. Bypass pruners, handles sometimes covered in green paint to make them look like garden tools, that worked quite well since they were sharp, often used for rose pruning. When used in limited applications they lasted a long time.

The posted image is a tool designed to cut dead chickens; soft flesh with the long blade and bones with the notch. Since there are not a lot of intermediate uses it probably lasts a long time. No paint in that situation of course, it would flake off and end up in someone's soup.

Positive attributes: easily cleaned and disinfected, throw into a bath of whatever, wiggle about and no abrading plastic handles to harbour odd things, long tip can reach hard to access nooks and corners, bright metal visible among foliage and twigs.

Negative attributes: all bypass pruners suffer the problem of tip spreading, where the tip is used frequently to cut small but hard things. This bends the sharp top blade outwards away from the bottom part particularly where cutting is combined with twisting. This gets worse over time so tip cutting becomes less and less efficient as the hinge wears loose. Also the long blade means less mechanical advantage - if the cutting side is short then the same amount of force can be applied more effectively to the cutting action. Likely your tool was used for long days in an abattoir by hard, coarse hands accustomed to the thin handles. Modern pruners tend to have thicker handles since they are mostly used by weekend gardeners using gloves covering soft hands which would not enjoy the thin handles.

By all means use them for gardening, but keep them for the fine work, and have a regular pair of pruners that can be used by less expert helpers and for the brute work that gardeners are often faced with.

  • Fantastic, thanks! I do have a pair of modern shears, I was hoping to use these mostly for fun. Thanks for explaining the difference in shears! Sep 10, 2019 at 13:21

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