There are several basic tree pruning tools to have in the shed that will allow you to handle basic small tree and shrub pruning:
The Hand Saw, Hand Pruners, a Pole Saw, and a Pole Pruner.
Consider buying professional quality tools to help you get the job done correctly because proper cuts help the tree heal quickly.
You'll want to have sharp blades and a tool that performs expertly. The hope is that you will learn a bit more about pruning and gain some skills. Using a well made tree pruning tool is similar to playing music; a fine quality instrument will bring you a great deal more satisfaction in playing and listening, Luckily for us, pruning tools are much less expensive!
The hand saw that I use has a razor-tooth curved saw blade with a wooden pistol grip. I like the 12.5" blade so that I can make a full stroke and maximize the cutting action. The teeth are designed to cut on the pull and the curve accentuates the motion of the pull by digging deeper into the cut. Of course, you can see, I've had this original wood Fanno handle forever. Here's a close-up of the razor-tooth blade:
The razor-tooth blade makes a really smooth cut and finish which promotes wound wood around the cuts. I can usually cut a live one-inch branch in a few strokes. If you are laboring with a cut, realize that the blade is dull. Having an extra blade in the shed will make your day go much better! You'll also want to keep your blades dry in between use to prevent rusting & dulling of the edges.
The Fanno above retails for about $30 from better tool stores online. Replacement blades are about $20. While you are shopping, a leather scabbard is a must to protect you and your saw. Attach to your belt or belt-loop with a carribeaner to prevent tears to your clothing or your skin.
ARS, another blade company which pioneered the razor-tooth tri-edge pull saw blade has revolutionized pruning industries. Many reputable tree pruning tool companies including Fanno have adopted this style of blade and you will find them made by companies such Silky, Bahco (previously Sandvik), Corona and others.
Another hand saw that we use is the straight razor-tooth blade, this one shown below is made by Felco. It's about the same length as the curved blade, and it's just a matter of preference. This one affords my wife a little extra height when pruning small trees or bottom limbs from the ground.
You may also want to consider a small folding hand saw. Again, recommended is the razor-tooth blade, as it get the work done faster and cleaner. The shorter blade is great for portability or in super tight areas such as overgrown shrubs or when you have small branches.
Remember that a shorter blade means you'll have to make more strokes than if you were drawing a longer blade across the branch. When you are at the tree pruning tool website or at the hardware store, buy the replacement blade, or two!
Bottom line, look for quality tree pruning tools from retailers who service the professional pruning industries. When shopping at your local hardware stores, look for the razor-edge style blade and look for materials that have been made in Japan or in Europe. These will be your best materials in the industry and they are worth having at home to get the job done correctly.