Tanoak, or Lithocarpus densiflorus, is an evergreen tree that grows up to 80 feet in the wild. In gardens, however, the conical tree tends to stay under a height of 30 feet. The tree has a central trunk and crown. It can either be narrow and cone-like or rounded and broad, like a shrub. The acorns look like those of true oaks but the flowers resemble those of chestnuts and chinkapins. Pruning the tanoak trees when they are young will help produce a strong structure. As they mature, the purpose of pruning is to maintain the tree structure, health, form and appearance.
Decide whether to prune the tanoak in its natural pyramidal form or in an ornamental fashion. If you make the tree into an unnatural form, you'll have to do continual maintenance.
Use a hand pruner to cut small, thin branches. Use lopping shears or small pruning saws for branches up to 3 inches in diameter. Opt for a pruning saw if you're dealing with branches that are larger, up to 4 inches in diameter. Chain saws will work on branches and limbs larger than 4 inches thick.
Identify the nodes, which is the point where one twig or branch meets another. This is where you will cut the branch. Each spring, growth will start with buds and twigs until there is a new node.
Keep all branches that are attached with strong U-shaped joints. Remove those branches with narrow, V-shaped connections because they are weaker and are likely already cracked.
Remove dead or diseased limbs by cutting just outside of the ring of woundwood tissue that has formed. Support large dead branches with one hand or make three cuts to remove small sections at a time. Don't cause unnecessary injury to the tanoak.
Raise the tanoak's crown by removing the branches that are at the base of the tree. This will create a neater appearance and provide space between the bottom of the tree and the ground.