How it works
The technology is simple. You mount a little plastic widget onto your shears (Corona, Felco, Brushking, etc.). Next, you fill a specially-made cartridge with le herbicide du jour, and seat it on the widget. Herbicide slowly leaks from the cartridge, through a metal tube sticking out of the widget, and directly onto the cutting blade. Each time you cut through a plant stem, the herbicide is immediately applied directly to the cut stem. Pretty neat!
I tested my KlipKleen Shears on small Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust) saplings and Hedera helix (English ivy) stems of various thicknesses.
I immediately discovered that if I closed the "Air intake" (see photo on this page), herbicide did not dribble out of the cartridge: I had to squeeze the cartridge before each cut. (This is what the instructions advise.) This was annoying. If I squeezed a little too hard, herbicide splattered all over. This was also annoying. I tried operating the shears with the air intake open, but while herbicide oozed out by gravity, it came out too rapidly. Unless I snipped & cut & sliced very quickly, excess herbicide dripped onto the ground. Annoying, again.
Using dye to track my results, I noticed that herbicide coverage on the cut-stem surface was pretty good, but not always ideal. Furthermore, the herbicide coverage was not the same on both fresh surfaces of a newly cut stem. The stem surface facing the herbicide-coated side of the shear blade received more herbicide than the other stem surface did. Note, however, that the other stem (that presumably falls to the ground) will get partial herbicide coverage. (More about this in a few paragraphs.)
At only about $17, this device is cheap. You can buy it from A.M. Leonard by calling them at 1-800-543-8955 and ask for item #KK1, or by looking at their web site. (Beware: their poorly designed site crashes Netscape.) The KlipKleen assembles easily and comes with two cartridges. While the A.M. Leonard web site says the two cartridges are for different flow rates, this is wrong--the two are identical.
1)Regulation of herbicide---This is the biggest problem with the system. Since the rate of flow depends upon your squeezing the cartridge you are constantly worried about the amount of herbicide on the blade. If you keep the air intake open and rely on gravity to power the fluid flow, the herbicide tends to ooze out too quickly. In either case, herbicide often drips off the blades.
2)Herbicide on both stem surfaces---Recall that the shears coat both stem surfaces with herbicide. While this could be an advantage when treating plants that reroot from just about any propagule, it also means that you must be thoughtful regarding the trimmed plant fragments. Should you leave them on-site? Should you cart them out? What if your trimmed fragments fall right into water or sensitive areas?
3)Awkward shear orientation---In order to get herbicide on the correct bit of stem (see the previous note) you must hold the shears with the herbicide-blade side towards the ground. While this is a little awkward, it also means that herbicide is even more likely to drip off the blade.
4)Cartridge falling off---While I worked in dense growth, branches occasionally knocked the cartridge out of the widget that seats it. In my case, I just picked the cartridge off the ground. What if it fell into water and plunked out of sight? If I used this device for real, I'd want to use a bit of cord to attach the cartridge to the shears as a back-up system.
5)Target size limitations---Obviously, hand shears should not be used against stems much larger in diameter than about 2.5 cm (one inch).
KlipKleen shears try to make it easier to apply herbicide to freshly cut, thin stems. Unfortunately, the design of the tool just does not seem to work well. I spent so much time worrying about the herbicide flow onto the blade (and trying to keep it from dripping onto the ground) that it was not a convenient, time-saving device. If you do use the shears, I advise you use an appropriate dye to keep an eye on how well the herbicide coats the cut stem surfaces.
I think that in some situations the KlipKleen might be a great tool. I just can't think of the situation. Consider looking at the Kut-N-Kill Hand Pruners as another attempt at the herbicide-shears approach.
--Barry Rice, TNC/GIST, November 2000