Portland Landscape Design and Arborist Tree Service

Pruning Technique: spacing cuts to hold limbs

Space the pruning cuts to keep branches from falling right away

Copyright M. D. Vaden: 2010

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This short video demonstrates how spacing pruning cuts farther apart can keep branches from falling immediately afterward.

This pruning demo shows a chainsaw, but this same technique works with a pruning handsaw just as well. Whether the limb is 6" in diameter or 1" diameter, it can hold if you make the cuts far enough apart.

FYI - I'm wearing earplugs in this, and the small Japanese maple limb was angled outward, not overhead: was recorded to show pruning, not hardhats and deluxe hearing protectors.

The vertically angled limb was about 16 feet long or tall. So there is about 11 feet up out of view when I'm carrying it away. That's what the 11' caption in the video refers to toward the end.

Had the first two cuts in this example been just 1/2 inch apart or 1 inch apart, the long limb would have snapped off immediately.

This technique is something I have used for decades on a daily or weekly basis. There are many instances when a branch needs to be pruned and something fragile is beneath, like flowers, a weeping Japanese maple or maybe outdoor lighting. And damage can be avoided by spacing pruning cuts enough so that the branch stays in place until the saw can be set down and both hands are free to grab and snap the piece loose. Then the final 3rd cut can be made.

This is basically a traditional 3-cut limb removal, except that the first two cuts are spaced farther apart than usual. Experience is the best teacher to refine this technique. But you can learn to do this in a few months, practicing on branches where nothing fragile is beneath. The learning curve would be shorter, except that different species break apart differently due to the variations in wood strength and grain.

The less vertical the limb, the farther apart the cuts need to be. With horizontal limbs, it may require 5 cuts or 7 cuts. Two spaced cuts for every section removed, and do the removal by multiple sections.