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The 5 Best Manual Pole Pruners

Updated on September 14, 2016
Will Apse profile image

The author is a biologist who worked in conservation, aquatic biology, and woodland management over many years.

Fully extended telescopic pruning stick.
Fully extended telescopic pruning stick.

Manual pole pruners are often the best choice for pruning smaller or higher branches. They are lightweight, easy to handle, and won’t leave you with a sore back (if you are careful). Also, you don't need to run cables or struggle to start a gas engine that doesn't want to start!

They can also be found in much longer lengths than powered pole saws. Professional pole pruners can reach up to 21 feet, and you don't need to be Hercules to use one.

How to Choose

I can tell you straight away that the things that you don't want:

  • Blades on pruners that separate when you try to cut a tough branch.
  • Poles that bend too much.
  • Telescopic poles that start to twist around each other as the friction lock wears out.
  • Also, ropes on the outside of the pole are more likely to get tangled in small branches than chains. Chains inside the pole are better; they will never get tangled up.

Fiskars Telescopic Pruning Stik

Fiskars makes a very versatileTelescopic Pruning Stik (pictured above). It can be used simply as a pruner or, with the saw attachment provided, it can tackle thick branches.

  • The telescopic pole gives you a reach of about 16 feet when fully extended.
  • It has an aluminum inner pole and a fiberglass outer sleeve for rigidity and lightness.
  • The head can be rotated to provide the best angle for cutting.
  • The pruner will cut branches up to one-and-a-quarter inches in diameter.
  • The bypass pruner design means a clean cut, the kind professionals recommend. Anvil pruners bruise wood and can leave the tree open to infection.
  • Sturdy construction prevents the blade from separating.
  • The 15-inch saw blade can tackle big branches of five or six inches across.
  • One of the best features is the internal chain that operates the pruner. There is no rope to wave around in the wind or get tangled up in foliage!
  • There is also a smaller, 62-inch version that is perfect for shrubs and smaller trees.

You can find it at Amazon, here: Pruning Stik


Compound Pruners

Corona Clipper

Corona compound head pruner.
Corona compound head pruner.

The advantage of a compound pruner head is that the tool easily switches into a saw. If the branches you're trimming are bigger than the pruner can handle, this is great feature. The disadvantage is that the saw can get in the way if all you are using is the pruner. It can also be damaged if you are using it in a dense tangle of branches. On the plus side, the saw blade comes off, after a bit of a wrestling bout, with a wrench.

  • This particular model has a fourteen-foot pole. The blade is operated by an easy glide chain-pull, not a rope. This makes it smoother to use and that you use less effort to cut.
  • This is a popular model with pros as well as homeowners.

The Gilmour pruning saw's rigid pole has great reach. A pruning head can be purchased for extra.
The Gilmour pruning saw's rigid pole has great reach. A pruning head can be purchased for extra.

Gilmour make products for tree professionals. The pole comes in three, six-foot sections. If you use all three, your reach will be about twenty feet (unless you have very short arms!).

  • The whole assembly is very rigid. The hexagonal poles will never twist in use.
  • One disadvantage with any kind of telescopic pole—including the Fiskar model above—is that they can flex when you apply pressure to saw. That is not an issue with the Gilmour.
  • The blade is 16 inches long and can tackle branches up to eight inches across. It is easily replaceable so you can have a sharp tool at all times. It is curved, so it cuts easily on the pull stroke.
  • You can buy a pruning head to go on the same pole. It will cut branches up to one inch across. In this sense, it is more a multi-use pruner/saw than a straight compound pruner.

Best Pro Grade Pole Saw

The Silky pole and saw.
The Silky pole and saw.

The Silky 179-39 is a professional quality model with a 25-foot reach. This is the most expensive model I recommend. It is aimed at professionals or homeowners with a lot of trees to care for.

Some people worry about a pole that offers such a large reach. Will it be too heavy? Will it be too awkward? This pole saw can cut as easily at full-reach as a cheaper model does at half the height.

  • The pole is a rigid aluminum with high-quality construction. It weights around eight pounds. This is lighter than the average gas or electric pole saw with a far shorter reach.
  • The pole has two separate locking mechanisms to keep from twisting in use: a friction lock of the kind most pruners use, and pins which ensure no movement is possible.
  • The saw blade is unique. It has four rows of teeth that clear wood quickly, making it difficult to jam in the wood. There are also two cutting areas: The lower sickle undercuts a branch to prevent bark tearing back during pruning and injuring a branch. The upper sickle cuts the branch. Hooks at the ends of the saw prevent the blade from slipping off the branch that it is cutting.
  • This is the model for people who have big trees and want to take the best care of them.

Best Economy Pole Pruner

The Fishers 9301 offers good value and a long reach.
The Fishers 9301 offers good value and a long reach.

This tool is fine for light pruning, and, with careful use, should last for many years. The pruner is operated by a cable outside the pole, which can get tangled in branches but this is a small drawback if you are only looking after a few trees. The pruner shears will tackle one-and-one-eighth-inch-thick branches.

A saw blade is included to tackle bigger branches.

Best Handle Operated Pruners

Most handle-operated pruners are shorter than true pole pruners but are useful for shrubs. An exception is the very long reach pruner from ARS (see below).

Bypass pruner from Corona.
Bypass pruner from Corona.

This device from Corona does not have the longest reach. It's around four feet long. On the other hand, it is very easy to use and will cope with branches up to a half-inch thick. People like to use this tool to dead-head flowers on shrubs like butterfly bushes, as well as for pruning smaller fruit trees.

  • It has a rotating head to get to awkward branches.
  • There is no external chain to get caught up in brush.
  • You will need some strength in your hands to squeeze the trigger.

Zenport 24-inch pruner.
Zenport 24-inch pruner.

The Zenport pruner is an inexpensive alternative to the Corona pruner. It is not telescopic and is only two feet long, but this will suit many people who only have shorter shrubs to tend. It is lightweight and useful when a shorter pruner is just the tool for the job.

Long Reach Handle-Operated Pruner

The ARS telescopic pruner.
The ARS telescopic pruner.

The ARS long-reach pruner can be extended from 4 to 7 feet, and is more suited to working on sizable trees than the Corona. The chromed head resists corrosion and the clever engineering makes it surprisingly light for its size.

It is an expensive investment at around $100, but the robust construction and great utility repay the outlay. It is one of the most popular long reach pruners around, and if you are mainly thinking of dead heading shrubs, it is a great alternative to the bigger, heavier pole saws on this page.

Long-Handled Loppers

For some pruning jobs, a lopper is the best choice. These tools will tackle thick branches. Some are long enough to compete with pole pruners for reach.

Lopper from Fiskars showing gear mechanism
Lopper from Fiskars showing gear mechanism

Loppers are slower than handle-operated pruners, but have a lot more power. This lopper from Fiskars has a special gear mechanism that boosts the cutting power, making it far less work to use when cutting thicker branches than comparable tools require.

  • It has lightweight aluminum handles and will not rust.
  • Best of all, it easily cuts through two-inch branches.

Power Drive 28-Inch lopper.
Power Drive 28-Inch lopper.

Power Drive makes a similar, if slightly shorter, lopper. Instead of gears, the Power Drive uses a lever system to boost cutting power. It is not as smooth to use as the Fiskars geared tool above, but it delivers five times the power a conventional lopper.


What Sort of Pruner is Most Important to You?

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    • profile image

      Threading the cord in a Pole tree lopper 3 months ago

      Can some one send me a diagram on how to thread a new cord on a pole tree lopper. Same as clipper lopper in brochure.Thx. a_payne@optusnet.com.au

    • profile image

      KimBaker 10 months ago

      Wouldn't buy Fiskar under any circumstances had a Fiskar long handled secateur type

      unit and it simply broke at the gearing. Sent an email to fiskar and never even got an acknowledgement. have bought a dozen different units since but never Fiskar.

    • profile image

      ChrisJ 13 months ago

      I had a Fiskars pruner which had internal rope/line mechanism.

      It JAMMED UP. And since it was all internal there was no way to free it.

      Returned to retailer as it was useless. Fiskars customer service also very poor.