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Tree Management | Winter 2015 Out Here Magazine

By Noble Sprayberry

When tree trimming goes wrong, the trusty bow saw is a common culprit. The saw’s curved frame often prevents the blade from cutting at the proper angle, says Wes Kocher, a certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture.

“The most common issues homeowners have when trimming trees is that they make cuts too flush, or they leave stubs,” Kocher says. “Where a branch attaches to a tree, there is a branch collar. It’s a raised area between the trunk and the branch itself. When you prune, you want to have the final cut just outside the edge of the little raised area.”

A handsaw is perfect for taking care of small limbs, says Kocher, development manager for the society based in Champaign, Ill. Look for a narrow-bladed saw, usually about a half-inch in height. Many saws offer collapsible blades, which wrap back into the handle for convenience.

A more common option is a saw with a fixed blade. Remember, most handsaws come with a scabbard for a reason. “It keeps the blade sharp,” Kocher says.

For slightly smaller branches, bypass loppers work well.

“A handsaw can rip branch tissue, so these often give a cleaner cut,” Kocher says.

Typically, loppers have handles that are about 18 inches long, and there’s an important distinction. Bypass loppers have two curved blades that slide past each other during a cut. This provides clean cut.

Anvil loppers, however, should be avoided when pruning, Kocher says. The blades meet rather than move past one another, which can crush stems.

Also, anyone planning on managing trees should buy quality hand pruners. Pruners with interchangeable blades allow sharpening or replacement, making them good long-term investments, Kocher says.

“Make sure they’re always sharp before using them,” he says.

Tools To Go Higher

Some branches don’t cooperate. They’re just too far off the ground to reach with a handsaw or pruners. And everyone should follow an important rule: “If you can’t reach a limb from a five-step ladder, call a professional,” Kocher says.

Or, a pole saw can prove handy, reaching as high as 18 feet. A pole is topped with either a saw or a pruner, and some poles allow interchangeable attachments.

The poles are typically made of either wood or fiberglass, which is the less-weighty option and can make a pole easier to manage, Kocher says.

As with many tree trimming tools, investing a little extra money often proves wise.

“Fiberglass is a touch more expensive, but it’s also lighter,” Kocher says. “And when you’re holding a saw over your head and reaching up 12 feet, it gets tiring very quickly. A lighter pole is much easier on the back and neck.”

For folks with many trees or extensive acreage, a good chainsaw often proves indispensable. Some small chainsaw-style tools are even mounted on extender poles. However, a traditional chainsaw can be the most versatile option, particularly those with smaller blades.

“The size of the saw should be equal to the job,” Kocher says. “Don’t overspend if you’re only going to be cutting twice a year. Match your needs to the size of the saw you purchase.”