What Is the Best Tool for Cutting Tree Branches?

Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

A homeowner or landscaper may choose to remove tree or shrub branches for a number of reasons. Branches may be cut to shape the tree or encourage growth, remove diseased or damaged limbs, remove shade or to obtain wood for fuel or building purposes. No universal "best tool" exists for cutting all tree branches.

The proper tool for the task depends almost entirely upon the size of the branch, distance from the ground and user skill. Proper tool maintenance and use are also important.

Pruning Shears

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Pruning shears, also known as hand pruners, can be classified as scissor-action or straight-anvil pruners. Anvil pruners feature a sharp blade that meets a broad, flattened blade and can make large cuts more smoothly than scissors-action pruning sheers. Scissor-action shears, also known as bypass pruners, have a sharpened blade that glides against a thicker, sharp blade to perform the cut. This type of pruner can make smoother cuts than an anvil pruner but is typically more expensive. Pruning shears can cut branches up to 1/2 inch in diameter.

Lopping Shears

One of the best tools to remove branches up to 1.5 inches in diameter is lopping shears, or loppers. Loppers resemble pruning shears with longer handles to increase leverage. When pruning with lopping shears, which operate like a large scissors, use one smooth cut to sever the branch cleanly from the tree.

Hand Saw

Hand saws exist in many forms and perhaps incorporate the most diverse group of branch-cutting tools. This type of cutting tool is best for cutting branches over 1.5 inches across. Some handsaws can cut through branches of several inches quite easily. Handsaws may be collapsible and extremely portable, may have detachable and changeable blades and can feature a variety of teeth patterns. Saws meant for pruning have narrower blades and coarser teeth than carpentry saws.

Pole Saw

Essentially saws attached to an extended pole, pole saws allows a longer reach. However, pole saws may be more difficult to control, and cuts can be far from precise and unclean. Pole saws generally contain both a cutting tool and a saw, can be made of plastic, fibreglass or aluminium and may fit together in sections or be telescoping.


Chainsaws may be used to remove branches quickly. Only able and trained operators should use a chainsaw, and protective equipment and clothing should be worn. Chainsaws should not be used while the operator is on a ladder or to reach branches above the operator. Chainsaws are available that are attached to an extension pole. Operators may choose to use this variation of a pole saw to remove higher branches.