Pruning tools

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Various kinds of cutting pruning tools are necessary for a would-be pruner. The simplest is a pruning knife. It is still the best tool for cutting with the least amount of injury to the plant. The one pictured is an old friend which I acquired almost sixty years ago. Its defects are: it is a dangerous tool in the hands of the unskilled or careless worker and it is slow.

Pruning shears

Pruning shear

One-hand pruning shears (secateurs) usually are fitted with a spring so that they open automatically and with a safety catch to keep them closed when not in use. The catch is often put at the end of the handles. This is just the right place to give the operator a blood blister, so I prefer shears with the catch near the pivot or cutting end. Two types are commonly in use, one which cuts down on an "anvil" made of comparatively soft metal or polyethylene, another in which the cutting blade passes a heavy, curved hook.

Next in line are lopping shears. These are two-handled with the handles 2 to 2 1/2 feet long. They can cut soft green wood up to 1 inch in diameter. Lopping shears of this kind are also available with a compound lever attachment which greatly magnifies the power, so that they are capable of cutting branches up to 1 1/2 or even 2 inches.

Lopping shears are useful especially when cutting out old wood from spiny subjects, such as Rosa hugonis and other rose species, and for pruning Blackberries, Raspberries, and Gooseberries, because they enable the operator to outwit their sometimes vicious thorns. They also are useful because the operator is given an extra 2 feet or so, which is especially valuable when cutting out overhanging tree branches.

Hedge shears are not pruning tools per se. Ordinarily they are to be used only for cutting hedges. Usually the over-all length of these shears is about 2 feet, but it is possible to get them with longer handles so that the over-all length is 38 inches. Anyone with 100 feet or more of hedge to be clipped should look into the possibility of using electrically operated shears. These can do the job in about one fourth the time required for manually operated hedge shears.

  1. Shears with passing-type blade with catch at the end of the handles.
  2. Shears with passing-type blade with catch near the pivot.
  3. Anvil-type hand pruner with catch near the pivot.

Then there is the pole pruner, which is operated by a rope and pulley or by a metal rod. These usually are about 8 feet long with an extension pole of about 4 feet that can be added if necessary.

In the rope-and-pulley kinds the jaws are opened by a coil spring which has to be powerful enough to do the job, and when cutting a branch the operator has to pull against the spring as well as overcome the resistance of the branch that is being cut off. There is no spring in the case of those that are operated by a metal rod. These demand a little more care on the part of the operator to avoid buckling in case the blade gets jammed, which might happen if the tool is used on extraordinarily tough wood.

Pruning saws

The pole pruning saw is limited in use to the cutting off of rigid branches; some branches are so wobbly that it is impossible to keep the saw in the original cuts. It is a valuable tool for removing water sprouts. The teeth are wide-set and usually are pointed toward the operator. The blade is curved and can be attached to the pole at various angles, or the saw may be removed from the pole and used as a handsaw.

Pruning saw

The ordinary carpenter's saw is not too good for cutting off living limbs because the teeth become so gummed up with the soft moist sawdust that they bind, whereas the pruning saws have "wide-set" teeth which make the cut wider than the thickness of the blade and so there is no danger of their becoming jammed.

Pruning saws vary in shape and size. You probably will decide that you need at least two—one with a narrow blade and one with a broad one. If you have a pole saw of the socket type, it can be detached from the pole and serve as a substitute for the saws which look like the small compass or keyhole saws used by carpenters.

For cutting large limbs you can get a saw with a blade 24 or 28 inches long or you may prefer the bracket-type saw. This has the advantage of a detachable blade which can be removed for sharpening and a spare one may be put in its place. The kind illustrated can be set at any angle by loosening a thumbscrew. For larger work the one shown, which has a 30-inch blade, and which looks like a conventional carpenter's saw except for the teeth, can be used.

The tree expert's saw has the teeth pointing away from the operator. Many of the saws designed for pruning living wood have the teeth pointing in the opposite direction, toward the operator, so that they work on the downstroke. This is a big advantage, especially in the pole saws, because there is one strike against you—the pull of gravity, which is considerable—that must be overcome.

  1. A good type of saw for cutting large limbs
  2. Bracket-tijpe saw
  3. Double-edgedsaw
  4. Mattock. For chopping off suckers

It is a good plan to see and handle these tools before making a purchase. It is essential, in the case of saws, that the opening in the handle be large enough to fit your hand, especially if you wear gloves when you are working.
Tools that are of occasional use include mattock, spade, and axe.