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 Tools for pruning radiata pine

Chris Meads – Levin Sawmakers, New Zealand Tree Grower August 2005.

If you have decided to prune, then use the right pruning equipment. The two most common methods of pruning are with manual loppers and saws, or a petrol-driven top-handled chainsaw. Most plantation forestry pruning is still done using loppers. However, there has been an increase in the use of top-handled chainsaws in recent years.

There are pros and cons for both methods, but generally pruning loppers produce a better job. A branch that is pruned with a clean cut will heal over faster and cleaner. Other advantages of using loppers and handsaws is the low cost of buying and maintaining the equipment compared to a chainsaw.

On the other hand, using a top-handled chainsaw usually means increased productivity and less physical effort from the operator for each pruning lift. Chainsaws can be expensive to buy, as can the necessary safety gear, as well as the maintenance. Chainsaws are also noisy, and the risk of branch collar damage is generally more of a problem. Finally, there is a higher risk of injury associated with the use of a chainsaw while perched on the top of a ladder up a tree. Extreme care needs to be taken. It is important that you check the safety requirements from information supplied by OSH.

Minimum equipment

The choice of equipment is a personal decision. If you decide to prune using manual equipment, then the bare minimum in equipment that is needed is –

  • Forestry pruning lopper
  • Forestry pruning saw
  • Epicormic knife
  • Holster to carry the above tools
  • Ladders, generally a 2.4 metre ladder for your second prune and a 4.2 metre ladder for further prunes

For chainsaw pruning, as a bare minimum you will need –

  • Top-handled chainsaw with a 250 mm to 300 mm bar
  • Earmuffs grade 4 or 5
  • Mesh goggles or a visor
  • Chainsaw chaps
  • Chain safety guard
  • Belt hook to secure the chainsaw while manoeuvring up and down the ladder and between trees
  • Fuel and oil containers
  • Ladder

Other equipment includes safety boots, harnesses, safety lanyards and hydration packs whether manual or chainsaw pruning.

It is strongly recommended that you learn the techniques of safe and efficient pruning from an experienced pruner. This will markedly improve your productivity.

Finally, make sure you contact or visit a specialist forestry equipment supplier before you start pruning. Having the correct equipment for the job will save a lot of time and anguish in the long run.

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