Rene Schmit is a County Agent for the LSU AgCenter.
The storm season is here and for home owners with trees, some light pruning may be necessary in preparation for heavy winds.
A homeowner’s first and most basic tool for pruning is a good pair of pruning shears.
But for heavy-duty pruning jobs, you have several choices. A chain saw can be useful for large pruning jobs, but several heavy-duty hand tools will help you with intermediate jobs and allow you to avoid the cost and hassle of a chain saw.
Consider a bow saw, a much-underrated hand tool that’s available in two styles and sizes and generally is inexpensive. Unlike carpenter saws you might have in your workshop, bow saws have very large, very aggressive teeth.
For limbs and branches up to about 3 inches in diameter, a bow saw is nearly as fast as a chain saw and much less trouble to use. Along with bow saws, saws with curved blades are available for pruning trees. They fit into tighter places – such as tree crotches – than bow saws but don’t cut as rapidly. If you don’t want to use a saw, you can try lopping shears – heavy-duty pruning shears with long handles to increase your leverage. They allow you to cut heavier branches typically up to about an inch in diameter.
Most lopping shears have a bypass type of cutting head, but some are the anvil type. Traditionally, handles are made of wood, but models are now available with fiberglass and metal handles. Quality level varies considerably among brands and models. If you need to prune limbs that are beyond your reach, consider an extended-handle pruning tool. The head on this tool includes a pruning shear that you operate by pulling on a rope and a curved tree saw blade. In some cases, the saw blade can be removed when you use the shear.
The head is mounted on a long handle that usually can be extended, typically by sliding out an inner section, to double your reach. A typical tool is 6 feet long, extendable to about 11 feet.
When added to your height, you can thus reach limbs as high as 15-18 feet. These pruners can be awkward to use, but do jobs that are almost impossible with other tools. Long-handled power pruners with chain saw heads are also available.