Portland Landscape Design and Tree Care Service

Pruning tools: selecting pruners & pruning saws

Video below may auto-start, pause if needed. We also have a pruning advice page

Copyright 2007 - 2009 by Mario D. Vaden

High quality pruning tools should make work easier and save time. Odds are good that I've done more hand pruning work than 99% of people whom you have met: even professionally. So maybe you will be interested to know what my hand equipment choices have been over the years and why. Don't waste money on cheap pruning equipment. Spend the extra $100 for your primary 3 pruning tools.

pruning equipment and saws

High quality pruning tools:

1. Make work easier. The equipment is sharp and designed with ergonomic features.

2. Promote plant health - Sharp pruning tools make a clean, smooth cut..

3. Save time. Sharp blades cut better and save time during pruning.

My pruning tool choices for work:

1. Felco 2 Hand Pruners – mine are from 1984, stamped Felco and Corona with a model #82. This is the equivalent of Felco #2 bypass hand pruners. Also called secaturs. These are strong, lightweight and have a replaceable blade and spring as well as other parts. That pair of hand pruners has been used regularly since 1984, and according to a rough estimate, performed roughly 500,000 to 700,000 pruning cuts.

2. Short Felco 20 bypass loppers - model 20 pruning tools were in use for years. By now, you might find other models. These are what I call “mini-loppers”. Some with wood handles and some with metal. I prefer the strong aluminum handles. These short pruning tools are maneuverable and serve the purpose of a lopper and substitute for hand pruners. When hundreds of cuts need to be made by hand, I use the miniature loppers. This divides the work and strain of one hand to two hands instead.

Launch in external player

3. Full size bypass loppers – about 30 inches long, made by ARS. Like my hand pruners and short handled loppers, these are a bypass pruning tool. This means they have a sharp blade that passes by a flat sided hook and cuts branches with a scissor action. Long handled bypass loppers are convenient if a branch is too large to cut with a hand pruner, but the handsaw will do the job as well. Usually, my bypass loppers are reserved for basal suckers and cutting up brush in a pile. Corona and Felco may have fine models too.

4. Long-reach pruner – This type of pruning tool can vary from about 4 feet to 8 feet long. Basically, these are a like hand pruner with extension handles to squeeze at one end and small cutters at the other end. Mine have a tiny bypass lopper with a small gripper. When the cut is made, the pruning tool grips and retains the twig. These are ideal for trimming small twigs from 1/8” to about 3/8” like ends of grape vines on an arbor and other out of reach twigs.

5. Professional quality handsaw – The handsaws I use include ARS and Silky. The Silky Zubat being one of the best I ever used. There are plenty of models. A good pruning saw should have teeth with tips that appear faceted on the ends. Faceted tips is about the best way to describe it.. Consider a handsaw with teeth running uninterrupted across the length of the entire blade with no intermittent big notches. I prefer handsaws with curved blades and a handle with a slight nub at the back end of the handle against the pinky finger, preventing hands from slipping off. Buy the saw with a laminated wood handle, the ones that look layered. Or a high grade synthetic. Solid wood handles break along the wood grain..

To the right in the photo next to the Silky handsaw, is a Silky telescopic pole pruning saw. Silky makes several styles of pole saws. This model has a folding blade, ideal for transporting or storing. Silky USA provides handsaws, pole saws, craft saws and outdoors saws.

silky pruning saw saws Silky Store, SilkyStore reference

6. A cheap folding saw – why use a cheap saw? To preserve my expensive pruning blade and keep it sanitary. Occasionally, branches or stems too large for loppers must be cut so low that the saw blade will get into the soil or grit.

7. Spray can of lubricant – My preference is a spray can of lubricant used for motorcycle chains. This is for my bypass loppers, hand pruners and scissor action hedge shears..

8. Chainsaw – I like at least 3 chainsaws – Husqvarna, Stihl and Echo. Good success with each. I usually avoid big name home supply stores and purchase my chainsaws from a commercial tool supply. That can affect the speed at which a saw is repaired. My Echo chainsaw in the photo, is has a center handle that is very balanced and comfortable to hold. Stihl makes a very good one if you want to pay the price. Also check out the Husqvarna for a center handle chainsaw.

Most pruning can be done with 3 tools, which are handsaw, hand pruner and loppers. 80% of my work is done with these. And when needed, the chainsaw is used, but not that often. Some people took my advice and learned to do most pruning with just 2 tools, the handsaw and the hand pruner. If you master using the 2 pieces of pruning equipment, you can prune faster than someone relying on 3 tools (add lopper). My loppers come out of the toolbox for pruning rarely.

Hand pruners easily cut branches to about 5/8” thick. And if you learn to apply slight downward pressure to the limb, the blade cuts more easily. Just enough pressure to cause a faster cut, but not so much as to break the limb or bark. Then if you acquire a razor sharp pruning saw, it can cut any branch over 5/8” thick. In fact, the handsaw can cut limbs as small as 1/4” thick. By relying on just these two tools, you can cover a lot of ground while pruning in the landscape.

One pole pruner I use has either a saw or lopper attachment on the end of fiberglass poles. Whichever part I choose to attach. The parts are detachable, and pole sections can be added to one another. The poles are lightweight and made from fiberglassI had my poles custom made 6' long – three of them. That's 18' of reach. Most useful pruning on a tree will be done with the saw – not the rope and lopper. The biggest headache for me were the typical garden store pole pruners that have the saw mounted along with the rope and lopper style attachements together. If I had to down-grade to that equipment again, I'd buy two of them, take the saw off one, and take the lopper gadget off the other. Otherwise one part of another gets in the way. One nifty telescoping pole saw was my Silky Longboy where the blade folded for storage.

Orchard ladders. These are basically 3 leg ladders - 2 rear legs with rungs and a third pole leg in front. Many people have no idea where to buy one. When you get a chance, search for Tallman ladders and ask for a dealer. I think that those are among the best orchard ladders. I have little use for any taller than 10' even though they can be 16' tall. Never forget to read the directions for an orchard ladder. Those should be found attached to the inside of the side rails. There should be important information about the angles for the front leg placement. If the leg is too far out, the ladder can be unstable. If the leg is too close, the ladder can be unstable. These are excellent ladders for pruning, but I can tell you from experience, you want the legs set right. And stand behind the ladder to make sure the front leg is centered. Eyeball it. When you first step on an orchard ladder, thrust your weight forward and downward on each side of the first rung to really plant the legs in the ground.