Tree pruning is the process of removing dead and still living twigs and branches to encourage tree growth and health. Although pruning is not difficult, using the right tools to trim your tree minimizes tree damage and safety risks. It is important to select the tool suited for the size and location of the branch you will be trimming.
Pruning shears are handheld shears that are good for cutting branches up to 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Pruning shears can range from simple scissor-like shears with two cutting surfaces (known as bypass shears) to shears that have a sharp edge on one side that presses against a flat plate on the other (known as anvil shears). Bypass shears are often more maneuverable than anvil shears. However, anvil shears cut through branches more easily than bypass shears.
The blades on lopping shears are similar to bypass pruning shears. Lopping shears have longer handles that allow more cutting pressure to be brought to bear on the branch. Because of this additional force, lopping shears can cut branches up to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
Hedge shears look much like large scissors. They have two straight, long cutting surfaces attached to two handles with a pivot approximately halfway down the tool. Hedge shears are not intended to cut thick branches and are designed for trimming small new growth stems on hedges. In some cases, hedge shears can help prune large areas of dense trees, as long as the growth being removed is very soft.
Hand saws are best suited for cutting branches between 1 inch and 4 inches in diameter. Basic woodworking saws will work well for smaller branches. However, it may be easier to cut larger branches with specially toothed pruning saws, known as pole saws.
Pole saws are specially toothed pruning saws mounted on long poles. Pole saws are somewhat unwieldy, and making clean pruning cuts requires care. Using a pole saw requires you to stand under the branch you are cutting, so be prepared to move away quickly when the branch drops.
Chain saws are useful for removing larger branches. A chain saw is a power saw, either electric or gas, that spins a chain on a bar. The chain has cutting teeth that make a series of slices through a branch, eventually cutting through the branch. Never use chain saws above your shoulders when pruning, and always wear protective clothing and eyewear.