My son and I were pruning our macadamia nut tree when his loppers couldn’t cut through a branch. I saw that they were undersized for the branch.

“Don’t force it,” I said. “If it feels like you have to use a lot of strength, it means you need a different tool.”

I gave him a saw. He easily cut through the branch.

I try to follow that advice myself. It really is good advice. And you don’t need a hundred different tools in order to follow it. I find that I do almost all pruning on all of my fruit trees using only three tools. I’ll show you those three, and then I’ll briefly mention some others that I use only in particular situations.

First I’ll show you the tool that I use to cut big stuff because that’s how I prune: cut the big stuff first, and lastly cut any small stuff that’s left.

This is a Corona folding saw with a ten-inch blade. I like that it folds so I can easily and safely carry it around. I use it for branches of about six inches thick down to only two inches thick.

Then for branches smaller than that I switch to my loppers.

They are Corona 16-inch loppers. I have bigger loppers, but I find that these small ones are easier to maneuver within a tree canopy and they are also lightweight.

For branches thinner than my pinky finger I use my pruners, especially if the branches are located inside a dense canopy where the loppers can’t be fully opened.

They are Felco 2 pruners (or, “pruning shears”). I’ve owned many other pruners over the years, and some of them also work well, but this pair has shown itself to be built intelligently for effective use and strongly for a long life.

Supplemental tools

Occasionally, I use the following other tools for pruning certain fruit trees.

Anything with a pole I only use on my avocados because they are the only fruit trees in my yard that I allow to get taller than my reach (except for one big orange tree). Nevertheless, I use the pole saws infrequently because I usually find it easier to just climb part way up a tree and use my folding saw to remove a high branch.

I use the hedge shears (white handles, far right in photo) for trimming most of my citrus trees, which I keep short like bushes.

And then the chainsaw only comes out when removing an old fruit tree or a large limb that my folding saw can’t handle.

Tool care

To make a pruning cut easy you should use the right tool and also use a clean and sharp tool. I clean my tools after every use with a rag and a wire brush. Every now and again, I spray them down with a lubricant and give them a deep cleaning. About as often, I sharpen them.

Lubricant, wire brush, sharpener, rag.

It’s a hassle to maintain your tools, but my oh my is it a joy to use a pruning tool that is not sticky and that is sharp.

The other day, when I put the saw into my son’s hand, he fell in love. That was his favorite tool. He could’ve sawed branches all day. But he also enjoyed feeding the branches into our little chipper.

There’s something about pruning work that is perfectly suited for boys. Dismembering and pulverizing stuff — all with dad’s permission.

Even though I don’t think I’ll ever get the thrill out of pruning and chipping that my son does, using the right tools that have been maintained makes the work pretty fun.

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