Help to select a tool to trim and cut braches and stems

coodyMay 23, 2011

I need a tool to trim and cut tree branches and stems up to 1 inch diameter. I am not considering a gas power tool but electric and manual one only. Do you think what type of pruner, pole saw or other type of tool is better, electric, manual pruner or what else? Can you recommend one?

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I am not a professional pruner but I do quite a bit, both for my own purposes and for clients. IMO, you need at least three tools - hand pruners (aka, secateurs) for fine pruning or smaller diameter cuts, loppers (for longer reach and upto 2" diameter cuts, depending on brand) and a pruning saw. These are ALL hand tools! Unless you are a professional arborist or logger, power pruning tools should be avoided - it is dangerous if you don't know what you're doing, both to yourself and the tree in question (only exception is possibly hedge trimmers, if applicable to your garden).

If you have taller trees that need pruning attention beyond what a basic pole pruner/pruning saw or 8' ladder cannot address, hire a professional!

The only other tool that I feel is absolutely essential for pruning is a detailed, thorough guide to pruning a wide range of landscape plants and/or pruning classes. IME, far too many homeowners get out there with their tools but not a clue how to use them properly and the results are seriously unfortunate. Pruning tools should come with a license for use, much like driving a car :-)

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 12:04PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

link below to felcos ... if you have any volume .. the price is worthwhile ... the best tool you will ever have ... any good local nursery should have them ... try them out.. before you invest ...

this link for saw:

this type of saw ... can go thru a 2 inch branch in less than 5 swipes with any user hand power ...

the hand pruner.. i would invest in felcos... the saw.. any generic knockoff will work .... its the double row of surgically sharp teeth that is the good part ...

and as gal said.. learning how to do it all ...

why are you contemplating a pole saw??? i found a good ladder much easier to work with ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 12:13PM
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Dan Staley

Speaking of pole saw, AM Leonard has a good price on Corona pole saws, still contemplating whether to consume one. Second Felco pruners, and the only thing I'd add is you want a bypass pruner and not an anvil.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 1:56PM
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Hi! The is not very high. Because some branches grow against the wall, I need to cut them. The others are shrubs. I hope a tool can trim and cut trees and shrubs. I am not sure I should go for the electric or hand pruner, trimmer or what else. Is the electric better than hand tool, for example, this Fiskars from the HD. Can you explain it? Thank you.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 3:17PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

before you buy a pole pruner ..

go out.. under a tree.. with an 8 foot 2 x 4 ....

crook your neck upwards.. lift your arms over your head.. and lift that thing 100 times ... soon you will find out that it involves muscles that you never knew you had.. nor are used for any other function .... and.. when you are done.. if you can bring your head back to level.. so be it ...write us back the next day .. when you cant turn your head.. nor lift it upwards.. and you cant raise your arms above your shoulders.. lol ...

i am a rather healthy male [except for the drinking, smoking and cussin']. ... and i would rather poke my eyes out than use a pole pruner... one of the biggest wastes of whatever it cost in my collection of garden tools ... it is used MAYBE once or twice per year.. in extreme circumstances ...

do you really have that many branches at 10+ feet that need pruning????


    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 3:35PM
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I would agree Ken, the best tool I've bought was a Corona razor tooth folding saw.
This made cutting through larger branches and roots like cutting through butter.
I couldn't believe how easy this tool made it, great tool for women.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 4:52PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I agree with the above recommendations. My only addition can be seen in the attached link. I strongly advise that you take it with you whenever you go out to do some pruning.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 4:52PM
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terrene(5b MA)

What Gardengal said. A pruning guide is a good idea. You don't need a power tool to do basic pruning of your small tree. I do a ton of pruning and removal of invasive plants and as a general rule don't use power tools.

I love my Corona folding saw, Corona loppers (cuts up to 2 inches), and Felco #2 pruners (which are 24 years old). Also, I have an excellent bow saw that will cut larger branches.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 7:00PM
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I went to the HD again and checked the electric cutting tools. I saw a electric chainsaw. How do you think about the chainsaw? I just want to trim the tree and shrubs and cut the branches and stems up to 1 inch diameter.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 8:59PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Electric chainsaws are for.....oops, I forgot, we're in mixed company here. Let's just say I can't think of ANYTHING I'd ever use an electric chainsaw for. Maybe a gag gift...

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 10:09PM
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Dan Staley

How do you think about the chainsaw? I just want to trim the tree and shrubs and cut the branches and stems up to 1 inch diameter.


Its similar to using a fire hose to put out a match.

I love my bow saw as well. But not on something 1/4" in diameter. Basics. Right tool for the job.



    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 11:29PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

The big electric chainsaws are a few years from being reliable enough. They are more of a seasonal replacement wear item. I LOVE using them when on man lifts cutting trees. Light as can be. No starting while 40 foot up! BUT the motors fry after cutting down and cutting up a silver maple or two.

One tool I have owned for awhile is this small electric pole saw. That guy with its five inch cut is manageable and quick. I use it when the 2" loppers just don't cut it. Down at the far bottom of the red-twigs, eliminating honeysuckle, that type of thing.

On my brave days (& on my surgically repaired knee!) I have been up on the roof with that electric saw on its pole cutting the white ash away from the house. Using it on the pole at ground level is easy. Even get decent pruning cuts ten feet above ground.

Coody, if you are only doing 1" thick branches the loppers are your best bet. I have a large older plot and get a bit brave some time. Plus the thin branches vibrate too much.

Oh! Sawzalls! wait, that's another topic.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 11:33PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the electric is a waste .. way back when i tried one the issue was the plastic gearing which burned out before the chain got dull ..

the neighbors elec saw sounds like a dental drill on steroids.. and is so under-powered as to be nearly useless ... plus dragging all the cord around ... what.. cord and saw $100 ...

and many of us recommend a $15 folding tree saw.. why bother asking if you dont read the responses ... or was electric saw research done before you saw the responses .. if so.. forgive me ....

go spend $15 on the hand saw ... then decide if you need to go with the tim taylor.. more power method ...

me thinks the bigger issue is that you are having an avoidance issue .... just buy the hand saw and get to work ..

the best advice i can give.. if you need to remove a 6 foot branch.. start by cutting off the furthest 4 feet .... then go in and do the surgical cut.. taking into account the branch collar .... removing the cantilevered weight of the whole branch.. makes making the precision cut all that much easier ..

good luck


    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 8:25AM
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Let me go back to my first post. You do NOT need electric or gas powered pruning tools for your purposes - manual will work just fine and give a much more accurate and precise cut. And without accidentally cutting off your foot or other body parts :-)

Hate to sound sexist but it seems like a typical guy thing with a love of power tools/toys despite how inappropriate they may be for the job required. Invest the money you'd spend on them for a good pruning book or couple of classes.......I'm guessing from the content of your posts you're gonna need them!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 11:26AM
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I do notice recommendations for a folding tree saw. But, I also need to trim the trees and shrubs besides of cutting branches and stems. So, I expect a tool not only can cut a branch and stem but also trim the trees and shrubs. I talked about a electric tool because of consideration of trimming. Do I have to buy two different tools for cutting branches and trimming shrubs?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 12:05PM
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Dan Staley

Do I have to buy two different tools for cutting branches and trimming shrubs?

Several such recommendations above, from nearly every reply prior to detailing of specific tools.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 1:05PM
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What exactly do you mean by "trimming"? Pruning is pruning - the selective removal of branches or stems that have improper or unwanted growth or are dead, damaged or diseased. And the various tools necessary to accomplish this efficiently have been previously listed. Unless you are shearing/hedging appropriate shrubs or trees - very different from routine or necessary pruning - 'trimming' a tree is terminology only appropriate to Christmas trees :-)

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 2:05PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Ken, I use a pole pruner several times a week and have for years. Of course living in a temperate rainforest with a garden full of trees, the need for one becomes apparent right away. One mistake most people make is reaching up, holding the pole above their head. No, when sawing, try to keep your hands at chest height. Extend the pole to achieve this. You will last a lot longer. Getting up on a ladder and cutting is what you see on America's Funniest Videos. I prefer to use a pole pruner on cloudy days. Not hard to do here. :-) Looking up in the sun, trying to make a cut, is not fun.
I have gone through a lot of pole pruners over the years. Fiskars is the one I'm most happy with.
As far as a chainsaw on a stick......naw. I don't see the need for it. Don't get me wrong, I have two chainsaws and use them regularly, but not for pruning.
Here's a Red Alder I just cut down. The wood turns orange for a few days after it's cut. Notice the Western Red Cedar, Thuja plicata, have been 'skirted'. I did it with a pole pruner.

I do have one electric hedge trimmer. (Whoops! Shearer) I use it to shear my "Croc" several times during the summer. It's the only job I do with it.

Sumpthin' bit off a few toes. I don't know what it was, but I know it musta been big.

Pruning and shearing are two different methods. They require different tools. Depending on the type of pruning, you need the appropriate tool as outlined above. I'll take a hand tool over a gas or electric powered tool in the garden anytime.

As a side note, A friend of mine was kidding me about shearing my Crocagtor with an electric 'trimmer'. He wanted to use his gas powered one. I let him do it. He screwed up the Croc so bad I can't show a recent picture. Again, the proper tool for the job is most important.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 12:56PM
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I know the guy who invented this brand new telescopic tree trimmer and you can also attach other tools and more attachments are on the way! The ratchet system is awesome because it takes the pressure off your hands and does the cutting for you instead of hurting your hands. It's sold on Amazon. Check out the link below if your interested.

Here is a link that might be useful: Buy Best Tree Puner Here!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 12:00PM
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Clearly and obviously, OP needs hand tools only. Even for shearing-type pruning, as for say, alligators and such, there are high quality hand hedge shears that will make the work pleasant.

Even us pros use hand-powered equipment every day. The "Turbo-Cut" style pole saw blades, which as Ken points out are now available from a wide array of makers, and which are also featured in most decent handsaws these days, will easily do the largest cuts OP is likely to encounter.

If one does need a power saw, for gawd's sake, get a gas-powered saw! Stihl makes several decent small versions as does Husqvarna. Pros also use these little chainsaws every day, when up in the bucket or climbing, until larger branches are encountered. Then, a larger saw can be roped up to the trimmer. But 80% of the work can be done with the little guy.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 1:33PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Has anyone used Stihl PP30 pruners? They say on the package that they are for smaller hands. I have medium to large hands, but the PP30's fit my hand well (very well). They are not the "pro-grade" pruners with replaceable blades and such, but they are my single favorite handheld pruners for pruning twigs and smaller branches. I have had one pair for quite a few years and try to limit when I use them. They've worked along side, and outlasted, many other pruners. Sometimes I abuse them a little, but I still love them!

The local Stihl dealer stopped selling them after I bought mine. I was at another dealer the other day and found they were still being made. I ordered 5 more pairs.

I've used the PP10's (pure worthless trash) and the PP40's (OK, but not my favs). I haven't tried the 60's, 70's, or 80's.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 2:05PM
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