Tools for Cutting Large Shrubs

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This gardener trims a hedge with pruning shears.
This gardener trims a hedge with pruning shears. (Image: John Keatley/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Landscape maintenance professionals use a specialized set of pruning tools to reduce the time and effort required to cut branches and limbs from large shrubs. The tools of the professionals are available to the amateur and include both familiar hand tools and specialized power tools. The scale of your pruning duties greatly determines the right tool for your project; learn about the capabilities of the tools for cutting large shrubs, and you can choose the type that suits your shrubbery.

Pruning Shears

Pruning shears, usually referred to as “pruners,” are the tree trimmer’s scissors. Like scissors, pruning shears consist of sharpened blades hinged at a fulcrum and attached to a straight handle. Unlike scissors, pruning shears’ blades are crescent shaped. When compressed over a large shrub’s branch, pruning shears’ crescent-shaped blades hook around and hold the branch in place. Typically 6 to 8 inches long, pruning shears allow a tree trimmer to reach inside a large shrub and trim interior limbs and branches. However, the increased maneuverability of pruning shears comes at a price; pruning shears are a single-handed tool suitable for cutting small to mid-size branches.

Lopping Shears

Essentially an oversize version of pruning shears, lopping shears have a set of crescent-shaped cutting blades attached to straight handles. However, lopping shears’ handles are typically 18 to 24 inches long. Along with the increased length of lopping shears’ handles comes an increased leverage that allows a tree trimmer to slice through mid-size to thick shrub branches. Lopping shears’ large handles make them difficult to insert into a bushy shrub’s interior, so they are generally used to sever exterior branches.

Pole Pruner

The pole pruner places the crescent-shaped blades of pruning and lopping shears at the end of an extension pole. Unlike the dual-handled design of shears, pole pruners’ blades compress with the pull of a long string. Pole pruners’ strings attach to the blades’ hinge and stretch to the bottom of the pole. To compress the blades and slice through a branch, the tree trimmer positions the blades’ opening over a branch and pulls the pruner’s string. Pole pruning lops branches from the tops of tall shrubs and hedges without the need for a ladder.

Pole Saw

Consisting of two parts, the pole saw has an extension pole and a pruning saw blade. The pruning saw blade mounts to one end of the pole. To use a pole saw, the tree trimmer grips the tool’s pole with both hands and simply saws back and forth against a branch. The pole saw severs elevated branches that are too thick for the pole pruner.

Chainsaw and Pole Chainsaw

Motorized cutting tools enable tree trimmers to quickly and easily trim large shrubs with tree-like trunks and branches. The average chainsaw rotates a sharp-toothed chain around a fixed bar. Rather than sawing back and forth, as with a manual hand saw, the tree trimmer simply runs the chainsaw’s rotating blade through the shrub’s branches. A pole chainsaw places a standard chainsaw at the end of an extension pole, allowing the tree trimmer to extend the power of a chainsaw to elevated shrub limbs.

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