The tools needed to prune large trees are a pruning pole, hand shears, a pruning saw and a ladder. A safety harness is not necessary, but it is a useful tool to have when working atop ladders.
Tripod ladders are the recommended ladder to use when pruning tall trees. Tripod ladders provide more stability when pruning, as compared to straight ladders. If used, a safety harness is worn around a person's waist and hips while the other end is secured around the tree being pruned. In case the person or ladder falls, the harness keeps the person from injury.
Pruning saws are used to saw through the thickest branches of large trees. Hand shears are designed to cut through branches less than 1 inch in diameter. These shears, also called pruning clippers, make cleaner cuts than pruning saws. They come in two varieties: scissor and anvil clippers. Scissor clippers have two blades, while anvil clippers have one blade and one dull "catching edge."
Pruning poles are saws mounted on long poles in order to grant extended reach. These saws are used to cut branches that would be dangerous to reach by ladder. Both electric and hand-powered pruning poles are available on the market.