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The right tool for the job
Clark MacCallister

Now is the time of year that many folks are dusting off their pruning tools and starting to trim plants in anticipation of the upcoming spring. When pruning, it is important to make sure you are using the correct tool for the job. Certain tools are designed for different cuts.

When purchasing new tools, it usually pays off to spend a little bit more on the quality brands, such Corona, Felco and Bahco. These brands make their tools from high-quality metals and have replacement parts available. They are used by professionals for good reason. Cheap pruning tools will dull easily and will break more often. Follow the adage “buy once, cry once.”

If you are afflicted with arthritis or carpel tunnel syndrome, these brands also have many options that are easier on your hands. Hand pruners with a ratcheting action allow you to cut thick branches with much less force.

Here is a list of a few tools you will need in your pruning arsenal:

Hand pruners are suitable for cutting branches up to ½ inch in diameter. Using them for branches any thicker than this will cause you to tear the branch tissue, bind up the pruners and fatigue your hands quickly.

When choosing hand pruners, make sure they don’t open up too wide for your hand. Also make sure they have a safety latch to protect you from the blade during transport.

There are two styles of hand pruners: anvil-type and scissor-type. I highly recommend the scissor-type pruners. These make better cuts and do not tear the wood tissues. The hooked part of the pruners also holds the branch as you prune.

Loppers are pruning tools with long handles, normally operated with two hands. The long handles give you enough leverage to cut branches up to 2 inches. The handles also make it easier to reach higher branches.

When choosing loppers look again for the scissor-style over the anvil-type. Loppers with bumpers between the handles will help absorb some of the shock and cut down on arm fatigue. Some heavy duty loppers even have a ratchet and gears to handle large branches.

Pole pruners are used to cut high up branches. They have a hooked blade for grabbing a branch and a cutting blade below. The blade is operated by pulling downward on a rope. Pole pruners are available in several pole materials, but fiberglass is your best option for toughness and weight reduction.

Always use caution when using pole pruners. Cut branches tend to fall quickly and can hit you. Always wear eye and head protection.

Pruning saws are used to cut branches that are too large for loppers. There are many different styles available, both rigid and folding, and in many different lengths. Many modern saws have teeth that cut on the pull stroke and are easier to use.

Hedging shears are used to thin hedge plants that have thin stems. These are available in manual or power-driven models. They shear of growth in a straight line. Hedge trimmers promote growth in the canopy at the expense of leaves towards the inside of the plant.

Quality pruning tools will give you many years of service and will help ensure you make the best cuts possible. With proper care, they can easily last a lifetime. Proper pruning cuts will go a long way towards reducing insect and rot damage to your landscape plants.