Whenever a branch is too big for you to cut with loppers, you need to reach for a saw. This should automatically tell you that you need to do either a 2 or 3 cut technique. If you just cut down from the top of a branch, the odds are good that when you get about 90% through, the weight of the branch will take over and it will drop. In the process, the bark on the lower part of the branch will tear away and rip down the trunk. This damage is a great site for the development of canker disease and is also unsightly.

To prevent this from happening, the first cut with a saw should ALWAYS be from the bottom of the branch upwards until it cuts all the way through the bark. For relatively small branches that you feel you can easily control, a two cut method as shown above will do the trick.

If the branch is large and heavy and could become unwieldy for you to handle, you should use the 3 cut method outlined below.

For very large limbs, take 3 steps for safe removal using a saw. Go out about a foot or two from the main trunk and cut upwards through the bark. Then make the second cut from the top down to intersect with the lower cut. This will remove most of the weight from the end of the branch.

Now that the weight is gone, you can just cut down from the top and remove the short, light weight stump.

Where to Cut

In the past, it was thought that the best way to cut off a major limb was to make the cut "flush" or parallel with the line of the trunk. Flush cuts have been determined to be unhealthy for the tree since it delays or hinders the natural process of the tree forming callus tissue over the wound.

On many species of trees, there is a series of narrow ridges at the point where a major branch joins with the trunk called shoulder rings. When cutting off a major limb, the cuts should be between the center rings of the shoulder. This will result in a cut that leaves a very slight "stub" and does not result in a flush cut. It has been shown in research that this type of cut will form callus tissue faster and more completely than a flush cut.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

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