Proper tools are essential for satisfactory pruning. The choice of which tool to use depends largely on the size of branches to be pruned and the amount of pruning to be done. As with most things, higher quality often equates to higher cost. Generally speaking, the smaller a branch is when pruned, the sooner the wound created will seal. Hand pruners are used to prune small branches (under 1" diameter) and many different kinds are available. Hand pruners can be grouped into by-pass or anvil styles based on the blade configuration.
Anvil style pruners have a straight blade that cuts the branch against a small anvil or block as the handles are squeezed.
By-pass pruners use a curved cutting blade that slides past a broader lower blade, much like a scissors. To prevent unnecessary tearing or crushing of tissues, it is best to use a by-pass style pruner. Left- or right-handed types can be purchased.
Slightly larger branches that cannot be cut with a hand pruner may be cut with small pruning saws (up to 3.9") or lopping shears (up to 2.75" diameter) with larger cutting surfaces and greater leverage. Lopping shears are also available in by-pass and anvil styles. For branches too large to be cut with a hand pruner or lopping shears, pruning saws must be used.
Pruning saws differ greatly in handle styles, the length and shape of the blade, and the layout and type of teeth. Most have tempered metal blades that retain their sharpness for many pruning cuts. Unlike most other saws, pruning saws are often designed to cut on the "pull-stroke." (Ours cuts on the push-pull for faster work)
To avoid the need to cut branches greater than 4" diameter, prune when branches are small. Pole pruners must be used to cut branches beyond reach. Generally, pruning heads can cut branches up to 1.75" diameter and are available in the by-pass and some anvil styles. Once again, the by-pass type is preferred. (We use Marvin or Phoenix 1.75" professional grade by-pass lopper.)
For cutting larger branches, saw blades can be fastened directly to the pruning head, or a separate saw head can be purchased. Because of the danger of electrocution, pole pruners should not be used near utility lines. It is always advisable to contact your utility line clearance personnel.
To ensure that satisfactory cuts are made and to reduce fatigue, keep your pruning tools sharp and in good working condition. This effort also enhances the long term life of the tool.
Make Sure Your Tool is clean, sanitized and sharp prior to use. That's right, sanitized! Although sanitizing tools may be inconvenient and is seldom practiced, doing so may prevent the spread of disease from infected to healthy trees on contaminated tools. Tools become contaminated when they come into contact with fungi, bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that cause disease in trees. Most pathogens need some way of entering the tree to cause disease, and fresh wounds are perfect places for infections to begin. Microorganisms on tool surfaces are easily introduced into susceptible trees when subsequent cuts are made. The need for sanitizing tools can be greatly reduced by pruning during the dormant season. Sanitizing is necessary and it should be practiced as follows: Before each use, sanitize pruning tools with either 70% denatured alcohol, or with liquid household bleach diluted 1 to 9 with water (1 part bleach, 9 parts water). We suggest a mixture in a spray bottle, light mist, wait, wipe.
Upon completion of the days effort, redo above and be sure to remove wood particles. Wipe all cutting surfaces. Bleach is corrosive to metal surfaces, so tools should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water after each use. User Must Wear Proper Safety equipment, protective eye wear, and a pair of heavy duty gloves and rags. Before placing the clean blade in your scabbard, apply a light spray of WD40 is recommended then insert into scabbard. Store in a cool dry place when not in use.