The difference between a professional branch removal and a poor pruning job is often a result of poor technique. Before we discuss how to make a professional pruning cut we should discuss when its appropriate to make your own cuts and when you should call in a professional.
I don't perform surgery on my dog, I will do first aid to dress a small wound or remove a sliver. I don't have the necessary veterinary expertise. You should keep this in mind when you work on your trees. Prune your tree with a specific goal in mind. A small branch removal can be performed by most home owners with the right knowledge. If you have to leave the ground, or are unsure of the results of your pruning call a certifed arborist. Any amount of pruning on a tree causes injury. With this in mind I will out line a technique to remove most small branches up to 2 inches in diameter.
When removing small branches back to another branch make sure the remaining branch is at least 1/3 the size of the large branch that was removed. This will ensure the remaining branch is of adequate size to take over the role of terminal bud. If you left a ¼ inch twig at the end of a 1 inch branch that you removed the 1 inch branch would sprout at the cut and the twig may just die off.
The three cut method is the standard for removing larger branches.
Make your first shallow cut on the bottom of the branch 3 inches from the swelling where the branch attaches .
This swelling, the branch bark collar and it separates the branch tissue from the main trunk tissue. Never cut into the branch collar
Make your second cut on the top of the branch a few hand widths away from your first cut . This second cut will follow right through the branch. You will note haw as you approach the bottom of the branch the wood tears away and rips the bark back to the first cut on the bottom of the branch. The first cut is to stop the bark from ripping all the way down the trunk of the tree. Hasty pruning will result in these ugly tears.
The third cut starts below and just outside the branch bark collar and cuts strait through to the top of the branch. Once the weight of the branch is removed the bark will not tear. You will have a nice clean cut and no left over stub.
Again if you are thinning a tree out make sure the branch you leave behind is at least 1/3 of the size of the branch removed to allow it to take over with our excess sprouting. A good rule of thumb is to never prune more than ¼ of the live branches at anytime to allow the shrub to recover from the injury. You can always come back next year and do a bit more.