Choosing the right tool when pruning a tree or shrub is very important. Not only is it safer to use the right tool, but it's healthier for the tree or shrub. Incorrect pruning cuts allow diseases and insects to enter damaged areas of a plant. Also, the healing process is slower than if the cut was clean and smooth. There is a proper pruning tool available for every pruning job, no matter how big or small.
There are two types of hand pruners: anvil and bypass. Bypass pruners have blades attached to the ends of two handles and work like scissors, as the blades slide past or "bypass" each other. They are most effective when cutting live wood up to 1 inch in diameter. Hand pruners are designed to be held in one hand. An anvil pruner has a flat section or "anvil" attached to one handle end instead of a blade. The other blade, or top blade, forces the plant material into the anvil, which acts as a stop. The top blade then slices throught the plant material. Anvil hand pruners work best for dead wood, because the crushing action that occurs does not leave a clean cut.
Loppers are hand-held cutters with long handles used to cut plant material that is 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter. A lopper can be bypass or anvil in function. Each one of the two long handles is held in a different hand. Once the plant material is positioned between the blades, the handles are squeezed together. This creates an immense amount of leverage for maximum cutting action. Anvil-style loppers are most often used for dead wood, and the bypass style works better for live wood.
Pole pruners are for cutting limbs 3/4 of an inch in diameter or larger. They consist of a saw, bypass pruner or one of each positioned on the end of a long pole. The pole can be 6 feet long or longer. If the pole pruner has a bypass pruner attached to it, there is a spring to keep the pruner blades open and a long rope is attached to the handle of the bypass pruner to allow the operator to pull the rope and close the blades. When using the pole pruner's saw, the saw is positioned at the plant material and the pole is moved up and down, sawing the wood until the branch falls.
Pruning saws are for cutting limbs 1 inch or larger in diameter. There are several different styles, but the main difference between a pruning saw and the type of saw a carpenter would use is the teeth, or cutting blade. The teeth are wider and have larger spaces between them. This prevents green wood from getting caught between the teeth and interfering with the cutting process.
Hedge shears are for cutting the live ends of branches up to 1/2 inch thick. They work best for shaping plants, especially shrubs. Hedge shears are not used for cutting larger limbs. They are always in the bypass style and have long blades with shorter handles. The two handles are held in different hands while operating. This extra leverage allows the shears to slice easily through the green ends of many small branches.