Removing tree limbs and branches is not difficult, as long as you have the right tool to suit the size and location of the limb. There are a number of reasons you might want to remove a tree limb. Pruning for aesthetic reasons or to help encourage tree health are two possibilities. In other cases, you may need to remove a limb that is starting to block a driveway or walkway.
Pruning shears are useful for cutting limbs up to 3/4 of an inch in diameter and are likely most useful for removing limbs on seedlings or very young trees. However, they can continue to be useful for twig and small branch pruning on older trees. There are two types of pruning shears. Many less expensive pruning shears are anvil shears. Anvil shears have a single sharp blade that presses down onto a metal plate, or anvil. The second type of shears are bypass pruning shears. Bypass pruning shears have two blades that work like a pair of scissors.
Loping shears are bypass pruners with longer handles. They are designed to cut limbs and branches up to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The long handles of the loping shears allow for more force to be applied to the cutting blades. This additional force is what allows the scissor-like blades to cut through thicker branches.
Pruning saws are saws that are specially designed to cut branches. Although you can use a standard wood saw on a branch, the teeth, shape and design of a pruning saw make cutting through limbs easier. There are two general types of pruning saw. A bow saw has a thinner blade that mounts in a triangular wood or metal frame. The frame gives the blade tension and stiffness. The thinness of the blade reduces friction during the cut. Another type of pruning saw is similar to a woodworker's handsaw. This saw has a single piece blade. The blade, however, is curved to help keep the teeth in contact with the branch.
Designed to cut limbs higher on the tree, a pole pruner has either a pair of pruning shears or a pruning saw mounted on a long pole. How the pruner is activated depends on the type of pruner. Pruning saws mounted on a pole are used in the same way as any other saw. However, a pole pruner with pruning shears at the top may have a mechanical system to cut the limbs. Other types of shears use a chain, rope or cable to actuate the shears.
Chain saws are power-driven saws that use either gasoline or electricity. The saw is a chain with sharpened, chisel-like links. The chain rotates around a bar. As the chain rotates rapidly, it shaves a trough through a tree branch, thus cutting through the branch. Chain saws can range from small saws with 10- to 12-inch bars. Professional saws can have bars 36 inches long or longer. In general, a 10-inch bar can cut through an 8-inch branch. A 24-inch bar can cut through branches up to 22 inches.