A good assortment of pruning tools for the homeowner includes tools for working on small and large limbs as well as at different levels within trees. For trimming hedges, the right choice depends on the amount of work to be done and the height of the hedge. Tools don't need to be costly, but good quality tools cut cleaner with less effort and do less damage to plants.
Pruning saws built in the bow pattern--a light metal frame with a narrow replaceable blade--do very poor quality work. Blade tension isn't enough to make reliably straight cuts and the saws often bind partway through limbs. Curved pruning saws with stiffer blades and teeth that cut on the pull stroke work much better. Gravity and blade design work together to make clean cuts with less effort.
Built for small diameter limbs--usually no more than 3/4 inch across--pruning shears come in both anvil and bypass types. These one-handed cutters work well for small jobs and touch-ups but could be damaged if applied to work too large for the design. Anvil shears close one cutting blade against a second flat jaw. When dull, this type of shear tends to crush as much as cut. Scissor-style bypass jaws shear with two cutting blades but can easily be sprung out of line. Most can be tightened by adjusted the pivot pin.
Limb loppers can usually cut through anything that fits in their jaws. The lower jaw--formed from a curved bar of thick steel--slides alongside the upper cutting jaw as the handles close. More expensive versions ratchet down through the cut for even more power. Even the best loppers can be easily broken by levering the blade sideways--the tempered steel snaps if used improperly. Cheap loppers don't allow much gap for fingers between the handles. Smashing hands between them as a branch is cut is a common mishap.
Pole saws combine limb lopper jaws, curved pruning saw blades, and pole handles which extend as much as 20 feet into the canopies of trees. Pruning high limbs from the ground with a pole saw is much safer than working from a tall ladder. Pole saws reach into small spaces between branches and allow detailed work in difficult levels of the tree. Hook a small limb with the cutting jaw and pull the lopper shut with the attached cord. Work on larger limbs with the fixed blade of the pruning saw.
Manual hedge clippers or shears will do good work but require a lot of energy and patience. Gasoline-powered or electric hedge clippers work much faster and more accurately if properly sharpened. Dull blades create ragged cuts on hedges and leave many bits of partly cut debris behind on the plants. Most powered hedge trimmers use replaceable blades--easier to replace than to sharpen.
Nearly every homeowner will need a chainsaw at some point, whether to trim large limbs from mature trees or to cut up major storm debris. Sawing through limbs four inches in diameter and bigger is more practical with a chainsaw than with manual pruning saws. The maximum safe cut is only half the length of the cutting bar. Gasoline powered chainsaws handle big jobs, but for many home purposes a smaller electric chainsaw works nearly as well.