Pruning Trees: Tools & Equipment

Proper tools are essential for effective pruning. The choice of tool depends on numerous factors, including the size of the branches to be pruned, the location of the branch, and the amount of pruning to be done. The following is an overview of the tools most commonly used for pruning.

Hand Pruners:

Hand pruners are used to prune small branches. They can cut any branches up to half an inch in diameter. Hand pruners are grouped into bypass or anvil styles depending on the model’s blade configuration. Anvil style pruners have a straight blade that cuts the branch against a small block or anvil. Bypass pruners operate more like scissors. They are fitted with a curved cutting blade and a broader lower blade that are capable of slicing through small branches with ease. Bypass pruners are more expensive than anvil style pruners, but they often produce cleaner cuts.

Lopping Shears:

Lopping shears are used to prune branches up to two inches in diameter. They have a pair of long handles that are operated using two hands. Similar to hand pruners, lopping shears are available in both anvil and bypass styles.

Hedge Shears:

Hedge shears are used primarily for shearing plants into hedges, or altering their shape. There are two types of models: those that rely on power, and those that are manually operated. Manually operated hedge shears are more ideal for small hedges, and isolated plants. For multiple hedges, or larger plants, power-driven shears are more practical.

Pruning Saws:

Pruning saws are useful for cutting larger branches over one inch in diameter. They are available in many different forms, each saw varying in handle and blade configuration. Tri-cut or razor tooth pruning saws are some of the most effective models. They can cut through branches up to four inches in diameter. Most pruning saws come equipped with tempered metal blades that retain their sharpness.

Chainsaws are preferable for removing trees and cutting firewood. They can also be used to prune larger branches. They come in a variety of sizes, and are available in both gas powered and electrical models. Due to the risk of injury, chainsaws should only be operated by qualified professionals.

Pole Pruners:

Pole pruners are used to cut otherwise inaccessible branches. They allow for extended reach, and are effective at cutting branches up to two inches in diameter. Pole pruners come equipped with a pruning head that is attached to a long pole. A lengthy string or rope is fastened to the pole, which the user pulls downwards to operate the blade. For larger branches, saw blades can be fastened to the pruning head. Separate saw heads can be purchased, and are available in bypass and anvil styles. Pole pruners are made of several materials, each with their own distinct traits. Wooden poles are sturdy, but heavy and difficult to manage. Aluminum poles are light, but can conduct electricity if used near electrical wires.

Tips for Maintaining Pruning Equipment:

  • Hand pruners, lopping shears, and pole pruners should be sharpened periodically, preferably with a sharpening stone.
  • If the blades have become dull or rusty, replacements are available in many styles.
  • Pruning saws and chainsaw chains should be routinely sharpened, or replaced.
  • Tools should also be cleaned and sanitized to avoid spreading disease from infected trees.
  • Sanitize pruning tools with 70% denatured alcohol, or with a mixture of one part bleach and nine parts water.
  • Tools should be immersed in the solution for one to two minutes.
  • Upon removal, tools should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water.
  • Avoid leaving tools submerged in bleach for longer than the recommended time; bleach is corrosive to metal surfaces, and can quickly tarnish blades.
  • Oil pruning equipment regularly to prevent rusting.
  • Wooden handles can be painted, varnished, or treated with linseed oil to retain their quality.
  • Once all the equipment has been properly tended to, store it in a dry room.