Pruning equipment

Consider the type of material that requires pruning before selecting the appropriate kit, suggests Sally Drury.

What is best for cutting back young and living stems?

Bypass secateurs, where one blade passes the other like scissors, produce a clean cut and are particularly good for pruning live stems up to 25mm in diameter. If the material has a lot of sap, use secateurs or loppers with a sap groove in the cutting blade as they are less likely to become sticky.

What is best for cutting back old wood or dead stems?

Anvil-type secateurs produce a powerful action in which the blade cuts down onto a cutting block. This action can cause some bruising on young or living stems but the strength of the action makes it excellent for cutting tough old wood and dead material up to 25mm in diameter.

What tools should be used for thicker material?

A third type of action, called compound, is good on thick material up to 35mm. This action is usually found on loppers and involves a mechanism to double the cutting power.

Handsaws are useful when branches are too thick for secateurs or loppers and when there is only a small amount of work to do - not enough to justify firing up a chainsaw. Handsaws should also be the preferred choice for anyone with little or no training and experience of using chainsaws.

What features should be considered when buying secateurs or loppers?

Always look for quality cutting edges, strong construction and handles that provide a safe and comfortable grip. Using secateurs can cause wrist strain, so if long hours of use are anticipated, look for features such as rolling or rotating lower handles that follow the curve of the fingers and move as the cut is made.

It is also a good idea to opt for tools with brightly coloured handles as they will be easier to spot if put down among plants or in long grass.

What features make a saw a good tool?

Pruning saws should be comfortable to use and fit the hand snugly to avoid causing blisters. A butt at the end of the handle will help prevent the hand from slipping but the material covering the handle is also important.

Blade length should be matched to the job. It is also important to recognise that some saws cut only on the pull stroke. This type of blade is much easier to use when working overhead.

For reasons of safety, saws should be of the folding type or have a scabbard.

When is it a good idea to use a pole pruner or pole saw?

The whole point of these tools is that they allow small, low branches to be trimmed off trees while the user keeps both feet on the ground.

Pole pruners usually have blades, like secateurs or loppers, at the end of a long pole and are operated by a rope passing through a series of pulleys.

Pole saws can be powered or non-powered. The powered versions are based on chainsaws, usually with a 10' (25.4cm) bar and chain, and should only be used by those confident in the maintenance and use of chainsaws. Anyone with limited or no chainsaw training and experience would be wiser to use a non-powered pole saw.

What personal protective equipment should be worn?

When working above your head it is important to prevent sawdust and debris getting into the eyes. A helmet with visor and goggles makes sense and, if you are using powered pole saws, you will also need ear defenders and chainsaw gloves.

Steel toe-capped boots should be worn as a precaution against weights landing on your toes.

What's new in pruning tools?

Spear & Jackson has introduced Razorsharp Advance Loppers, where the lopping jaw acts like a guillotine for a faster, more powerful cut. Razorsharps are available with a 32cm or 42cm handle to accommodate branch diameters up to 35mm and 45mm respectively.

Among the new tools from Silky Fox are Natanoko 2000 and Sugoi arborist saws with 330mm and 360mm blades, Okatsune secateurs and hedge shears, plus the Sintug lopper and Hayate 6.1 for cutting branches at a height of over 8m.

Paterlini pneumatic pruning equipment is now available from Lamberhurst Engineering. Made in Italy, these tools are particularly suited to work in orchards and avenues. Most can be used with telescopic poles. An automatic disinfectant dosing spray is also offered.

With a 4-MIX engine, the HT131 is the latest pole saw to join the line-up from Stihl. It has a shaft that extends from 2.7m to 3.9m and is powered by a 36.3cc engine.

A multi-purpose tool from Echo, the PAS-265ES can power one of seven attachments, including a pole saw. The engine is a two-stroke 25.4cc and the pole extends from 3.9m to 5.75m. A hedgetrimmer, cultivator, edger, scarifier, grass trimmer and brush are also available.

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