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Which Tree Saw is Best?

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.

Some tree saws
Some tree saws

Trees are one the great joys of any backyard or garden. The problem is they don't know when to stop growing!

The kind of job you need to do determines what saw is best. You might be cutting down trees or clearing fallen branches. You might be cutting logs as fuel. You might want to do some light pruning or thin out a big tree. The saws on this page should cover all of those jobs.

On this page

For Pruning:

  • d-handle saws
  • pole saws (for higher branches)

For cutting trees:

  • Bow saws
  • Chain saws

Pruning Saws

Pruning Saw that folds. Useful in any gardener's pocket.
Pruning Saw that folds. Useful in any gardener's pocket.

Hand Pruning Saws

A folding pruning saw is the kind of saw you might take camping. It is even more useful for gardening.They are cheap to buy and fold up to slip in any kind of tool bag or tote. Small branches in the wrong place can soon be got rid of!

A top quality ten inch model will cut branches up to four or five inches thick. If you are happy working from a ladder, this might be all you need for tree pruning, Replacement blades will ensure the saw is always sharp.

A d-handle pruning saw is a bigger tool that will handle branches up to eight or nine inches in diameter.

A d-handle pruning saw
A d-handle pruning saw

Pole Saws

Manual pruning saw on an extension pole
Manual pruning saw on an extension pole

Pole saws are simply saws on an extension pole. There are electric pole saws, gas pole saws, cordless pole saws and manual pole saws.

They make pruning trees from ground level much easier. A hand pruning saw and a pair of shears will prune most trees but you will often need to work from a ladder. Repositioning a ladder over and over again can be hard work! For some people it is also downright dangerous- anyone with balance problems should avoid them.

A pole saw gets you round the ladder problem, makes light work of pruning and lets you see what you are doing better-- important if you want your tree to look good afterwards.

A cordless pole saw in action.
A cordless pole saw in action.


Chainsaws can be monsters of power that will fell a hundred foot pine tree in a few minutes. Or they can be lightweight electric models which will make pruning or clearing small fallen branches quick and easy.

Chainsaws can be gas, electric or cordless and each kind has advantages and disadvantages.

  • Gas chainsaws have the most power but need regular maintenance. Leave one for any length of time and it might be hard to start.
  • Electric chainsaws need to be near a power outlet,
  • Cordless are convenient and can often be powerful enough to do the job, but only as long as the battery lasts.

The size of you backyard is important in making a choice. Smaller backyards can be easily managed with an electric model. Big backyards that are trying to turn into a forest may need gas!

Cutting down Trees is a serious business- take a look at what is involved.


Jawsaws, like the Black and Decker model pictured above, are not as fast as conventional chainsaws but they are safer to use. Kickback is less of problem and you are well shielded from the (much smaller) chain-driven, cutting teeth.

Jawsaws can be used to slice up fallen timber, prune thick branches and cut live trees, up to a few inches across.

There are corded-electric and cordless versions. Worx are one company that offer a jawsaw on an extension pole for longer reach.

Rope Saw (with cutting chain)

A high limb rope saw
A high limb rope saw

A useful kind of saw for pruning back bigger branches is a kind of chain saw you use by pulling back and forth on a rope. They can be very short for use from a ladder or very long to be used from the ground.

One advantage of these saws is that can cut a branch back close to the trunk easily and at the right angle. This looks neat and also helps prevent infection.

The one pictured above has a throwing weight. You choose your target branch, throw the rope over and, with a little work, remove it.

Bow Saws

A bow saw won't jam in wet wood.
A bow saw won't jam in wet wood.

A full-sized, quality bow saw will cut any tree or branch up to about a foot in thickness. The teeth are big and splay out wide. They clear plenty of wood as they cut so the blade will never stick. Don't expect to cut too straight though!

A sharp bow saw and a strong arm will cut up medium-sized, fallen branches quicker than many power saws. There is no gas to find, no engine to start or cable to run.

These are ideal if you only have a few trees to care for and like to keep fit!

Reciprocating Saws

This is one of those tools a gardener may never need but it is useful in some situations. Reciprocating saws work just like ordinary hand saws with a back and forth motion of the blade but the power is supplied by an electric motor. They are useful in hard to reach places.

One of the hardest jobs in any garden is removing a tree stump. Roots are tough and hard to cut underground. Simply digging holes for fence posts or new planting can be difficult if there are a lot of tree roots in the way.

A reciprocating saw is long, thin and easier to use in a hole than most saws. It will slice through tough roots without giving you a backache!

Safety Issues When Working on Trees

Gloves are always a good idea when working with trees. Power tools almost always spit out chips or dust and eye protection is essential.

The full kit pictured below is important if you plan to use a chainsaw.

Helmet, wrap chap with suspenders, protective gloves and glasses.
Helmet, wrap chap with suspenders, protective gloves and glasses.


The first tip is to look out for overhead power and utility lines!

Working on Trees

If you are pruning or cutting trees there is always a danger of something falling on you. A safety helmet and sturdy work boots (with reinforced toe cap is best) are important.

If you are felling trees you need to always to be aware of the safest exit from the area- you don't want a tree landing on you so you will need to move quickly when one starts to fall! Read a full guide here: fell_tree.htm

Power Saws

  • If you are using any kind of power saw you should use safety glasses or a face guard- the wood chips fly everywhere.
  • Some machines are very noisy and ear muffs might be needed.
  • Blades are sharp and splinters can hurt so a good pair of gloves is recommended.
  • Chainsaws are more dangerous than most tools- kickback is the single biggest problem. If the blade jams the saw can buck like crazy in your hand and you might lose control of it. It is important to read a full safety guide. http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ageng/safety/

Heavy Lifting

If the work you are doing involves heavy lifting, a back belt of the kind that weight lifters use can give a lot of protection to spine and muscles. A lot of tree professionals use these --especially as they get older.


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    • profile image

      time raymound 2 weeks ago

      The Huber High Limb Cutter is the best by far. Made to not get stuck and is not made cheaply, but is still low cost.

    • Glenn Basham profile image

      Glenn Basham 2 years ago

      Really useful, thank you!

    • eugbug profile image

      Eugene Brennan 2 years ago from Ireland

      I wasn't aware of a wire saw for cutting branches, might try to make one with an old chainsaw chain.

      Again voted up and useful!

    • eugbug profile image

      Eugene Brennan 3 years ago from Ireland

      After having worn out two bargain basement chainsaws, I'm back to using my trustworthy bow saw to cut logs around the garden! As you say, you can cut logs of one foot diameter or more (but it takes some time and effort!). I once cut up a 30 foot sycamore tree into firewood with a bow saw and if the teeth are razor sharp, it doesn't require a huge amount of effort. The blades on a bow saw lasts for years if you are prepared to undergo the tedious process of re-sharpening.

      Voted up and useful!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the overview! A 10-inch hand pruning saw sounds like what I need for our rosebushes.