While long-handled loppers will handle many pruning chores, plant limbs larger than an inch in diameter are best pruned with a saw. Hand pruning saws come in a variety of shapes. One of the easiest to use is shaped like a curved knife; often the blade folds into a handle or comes with a protective wood or leather scabbard. The curved blade ensures good contact with a branch being pruned. Strategies for hand-pruning generally apply to pruning with a power saw, as well, although additional safety measures should be used, as with any power tools.
Consult a pruning guide to determine the best way to trim your plant, shrub or tree. In general, pruning is best done in fall, winter or early spring, when plants are dormant or in slow growth. Pruning is intended to remove overgrowth, back to a juncture of branches where new growth can be encouraged. Some plants have fairly specific pruning needs and times. Dead branches can--and should--be removed at any time, for safety and general plant health.
Clean your saw blade both before and after pruning, using a little machine-care oil and a rag. This ensures that you do not inadvertently infect a plant with disease when cutting off branches.
Put on safety glasses and gloves to protect yourself while sawing.
Position your saw blade on the branch so that you can make a single straight cut. With your hand, firmly grasp the branch that you plan to cut above the site of the cut. That will control its fall and prevent possible tearing along the site of the cut. For a branch larger than 1 inch in diameter or longer than 4 feet, you may want a helper to hold the branch while you cut. A very long branch may be more safely cut into sections.
Pull the saw blade toward you to start your cut. Unlike ordinary wood-saws, most pruning saws are designed to cut on a pulling back-stroke rather than a pushing front-stroke. Push the blade forward and continue cutting. Support the loose end of the branch to prevent its weight from tearing at the cut site.
Keep your stroke steady and straight. Some pruning guides suggest that cuts on large branches be slanted toward the ground, to prevent rainwater from pooling on cuts and encouraging disease. If tearing has occurred during pruning, use your saw to repair damage, leaving a clean cut.
Cover large cuts with grafting wax or wound paint to discourage disease invasion.