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Arboriculture at Home: CH.1, Stocking Your Arsenal

If tree trimming was a recipe, then your tools and safety gear would be the ingredients.

Would you dice up a moldy pepper for your pot of chili? Probably not. And neither should you trim trees with malfunctioning, blunt, or rusty tools.

Investing in a good set of the tools suggested below could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run. Oftentimes, homeowners who take the time to make a few proper cuts on their trees here and there throughout the year can wait up to twice as long as those who don’t before needing to hire an arborist again.

Read on to learn about the five items you should keep in your shed and what they're for.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Safety gear isn’t just for the professionals. Even if you think the task you’re setting out to accomplish is low-risk, it’s always worth wearing the proper PPE. As Mike and John always tell our crew, skipping your PPE might save a quick minute now but could cost a lot more down the road.

Safety glasses, hard hats and appropriate footwear are a must. Gloves make working with rough bark and spiny branches a lot easier. And if you insist on using gas-powered equipment (which we do not recommend unless you're trained and/or experienced), we implore you to include ear protection and chainsaw chaps on that list.

Bypass Hand Pruners

These scissor-like pruners can be used on limbs up to 1” in diameter. The term ‘bypass’ is just a fancy word for describing how the two blades overlap when they’re closed. Though they look very much like their cousin, anvil hand pruners, this simple bypass feature will allow for a clean cut on a live limb.

Best for cuts in easy reach, you should never use hand pruners on a limb that requires the full length of your reach. Because if you’re up on your tippy toes to make the cut, where will you be when the limb comes down?

Hint: it’s the opposite of this guy, but it's going to be equally as painful.

Bypass Loppers

If hand pruners are the baby bear, loppers are the papa bear. If your hand cramps when you’re using hand pruners, you should have used loppers. Loppers can cut branches twice the size of hand pruners, but don’t push these bad boys too far. Branches exceeding a 1.5-2” diameter will probably not cut cleanly with a pair of loppers, and then you’ll be doing more harm than good.

Pruning Saw

The main difference between a pruning saw and a lumber saw is the curve of the blade. The fine-toothed blades are best for smaller limbs (2-3” diameter), while you may want to consider one with coarse teeth for anything larger. Pay attention to the level of difficulty it takes to pass this blade through the wood. A high-quality, sharpened saw is a breeze to use.

Disclaimer: Blue Ox does not support the use of saws while up a ladder unless you are properly tied in to the tree for safety. Which brings us to…

Please don't try this at home

Extendable Pruner & Saw

These hand dandy trimmer's friends are essentially just bypass loppers and pruning saws on poles. You can find one tool with both on the end, or a pole with detachable heads, so that you have to swap out as needed. And the same rule that applies to hand pruners and loppers applies here: never stand beneath the thing that you're cutting.

Again, we feel the need to stress that these tools are safest when used on flat, solid ground. If you need a ladder, we would advise calling a professional, because when used incorrectly, ladders can be the most dangerous tool in your arsenal.

Now you've got your shopping list, head to your local home and garden supply store to get started. And tune in next time to learn how to use them!

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