Recently, the pole pruner has become popular, probably because it largely eliminates the need for a ladder. You may prefer a ladder, however—it will keep you from getting a crick in your neck and will let you reach every branch, even those on top.
The pruning head of the pole pruner has a bypass-action blade (which sometimes has a ratchet action) and a pronounced hook. The head works either by a lever and metal rod or by a rope with single or double pulleys. Pruning heads should be made of steel or heavy aluminum alloy. Because pole pruners are subjected to great stress, the cheaper heads will not hold up.
The handle is made of wood, fiberglass, or metal. The fiberglass or metal types are available in handy telescoping models. The two telescoping fiberglass sections are each 6 feet long. They will adjust to any length between 6 and 11 feet. There are two ways to lock poles into position: by a wing nut or by twisting one pole within the other (this is quick, easy, and very secure).
Metal poles are not recommended where electric lines run through trees, since they present a danger of shock.
To use the pole pruner, slip the hook over the branch where you want to make the cut. Put tension on this hook and then make the cut by pulling down the lever or rope. After each cut, use the hook to pull the branch out of the tree to keep the tree clear as you work. You don’t want to leave unsightly branches or risk having them fall on someone later. Pulling out the cut branches also makes it easier to see what you’ve been doing.
You can also buy a pole pruner that has a saw attachment. The 12 to 16-inch saw blade is curved, and the teeth are angled back to make the cutting action occur on the pull stroke rather than on the push stroke. This attachment is used for pruning bigger branches. It can easily be detached when not needed.
Keep the cutting heads and saw blades on all pole pruners clean, sharp, and lightly oiled. The teeth on a saw blade are very long, and the set or spread of the teeth is much greater than on a regular saw. Use a slim, tapered, triangular file to sharpen these teeth.