Pruning is one of the most important tasks in the garden, not just in summer when trees and shrubs grow rapidly, but all year round. While smaller trees and shrubs can be easily pruned with pruning shears, larger trees require more heavy-duty tools. Pruning large trees is important, not only to shape them and prevent overgrowth, but for safety. We often need to remove branches above property that could fall and cause damage during a storm, and branches that grow too close to power lines.
There are many types of pruning saws, and many types of blades, handles, and configurations. Each saw has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to choose the right saw for your use case.
Read further to learn about seven different types of pruning saws, what they’re good for, and how to use them.
When it comes to pruning saw blades, there are really two main types. Although each manufacturer has its own proprietary technology, its own steel, its own tooth configuration etc. we typically only separate pruning saw blades into two categories: straight and curved. Each blade has scenarios where it performs very well, and scenarios where it performs poorly.
For people who prune trees for work, or manage a grove of trees or a large property, it’s best to have both straight and curved pruning saws at arm’s reach. But if you’re pruning irregularly, or only in certain situations, you need to know which saw is best for your needs.
Curved Blade Saws
Curved blade pruning saws are ideal for when you just want those branches gone, and you want them gone now. A good quality curved blade pruning saw will rip right through a thick branch with speed and aggression that can only be beaten by a chainsaw. If you’re cutting a lot of volume, you need a curved blade saw.
In addition, they make it easy to cut branches above your shoulders or below your waist. Because the blade is curved, it cuts at various angles. Even when you’re reaching up, or reaching down, the blade will grip the target branch without you having to contort your arm into a strange angle to get to it.
Curved blade pruning saws are the best saws for anyone who wants to prune branches fast and efficiently in locations higher than their shoulders or lower than their waist. If you use a curved saw to cut something right in front of you, it will be awkward and uncomfortable, and you will naturally swing the blade up and down to match its curve, which is inefficient and wastes energy.
Straight Blade Pruning Saws
Straight blade pruning saws are very precise. You can be sure that you’ll cut through the branch straight and true, as they always give neat, clean cuts. Straight blade pruning saws are perfect for pruning decorative trees, and trees that you want to look nice even after pruning.
They’re ideal for cutting branches between your shoulders and waist, as in this location our body wants to saw directly back-and-forth, and a straight blade suits that style perfectly. If you use a straight blade pruning saw to cut things above your shoulders, it’s very unlikely that the entire length of the blade will be making contact with the branch, and you won’t be able to put full force into the entire motion of the cut.
Straight blade pruning saws can often also be used to cut lumber for woodworking, as their cuts are almost as clean as the cuts that rip saws produce. They’re very popular with survivalists and bushcrafters, who use them to cut wood for building shelters and animal traps. Having neat cuts is essential for these situations.
This point is less strict than the blade type, and more comes down to personal preference. Although there are certainly cases where one handle type is clearly preferable to the other. Pruning saws come in two standard configurations: folding and fixed blade. For this trait, it’s totally fine to simply choose which one you prefer, so let’s take a look at some of the good points and bad points for each.
Folding Pruning Saws
Folding pruning saws allow you to fold the saw at the joint between the handle and blade, and store the sharp side of the blade safely within its handle. The benefits of this are apparent just by looking at it. First, folding pruning saws are very compact. They become nearly half of their full size when stored, which will save a lot of space in your toolbox or bag.
In addition, when the blade folds into its handle, the handle acts as a built-in scabbard. If the sharp side of the blade is exposed, you typically need a scabbard to store it in, to prevent it from causing accidental cuts to people or property.
Folding pruning saws don’t need a scabbard at all, so you can easily fold it and throw it in your backpack, tool bag, or even onto the back seat of your car, without worrying about the saw’s jagged teeth catching on anything and causing damage.
Fixed Blade Pruning Saws
When it comes to hand tools, more often than not, simpler is stronger. Fewer moving parts means more stability, and when you’re working under tension or torsion, there’s an awful lot of strength in stability.
Because there are no moving parts in a fixed blade saw - it’s simply a blade and a handle - there are fewer places to bend, twist, and loosen. Which means fixed blade pruning saws are significantly more durable than folding saws. In addition, because the blade isn’t folded into a gap in the handle, it can be a lot thicker. Thicker blades dull, crack, bend and break far less frequently than thinner ones.
And finally, fixed blade pruning saws are typically lighter than folding saws. You wouldn’t expect this, as they tend to have thicker blades. But the hinge mechanism that allows folding saws to fold is quite heavy. The weight reduction means that you can use fixed blade saws for longer without fatigue.
Other Types of Pruning Saws
Pole Pruning Saws
Pole pruning saws feature a fixed, curved pruning saw blade atop a long pole. These saws were designed for pruning branches high up in trees from the safety of the ground. If you have multiple trees to prune, or multiple branches on a large tree, it can be a pain (and a little dangerous) to move, set up, and climb a ladder for each one. With a pole pruning saw, you can simply prune each tree and branch from the ground as you walk around.
Pole pruners typically range from 75 cm to 2.5m, which means they’re versatile enough to prune even the highest trees. Their curved blades allow you to easily cut far above your head and also allow you to prune some distance from where the branch is set to fall. They can be a little difficult to use at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be pruning high branches in no time at all.
Electric Pruning Saws (Mini Chainsaws)
Electric pruning saws are mini chainsaws. They feature a grip and battery much like a power drill, with a chainsaw bar on the end.
They can be operated safely with one hand, and often have more safety features than full-sized chainsaws (such as a guard above the chain). They’re great for trimming and pruning anything from small twigs to large branches, and are even capable of logging and cutting lumber.
These will never cut as cleanly as a typical pruning saw, but they will cut much faster with much less physical effort. If you’re not too concerned about the neatness of your cuts, the only real downside you’ll need to consider is the battery life, which, depending on the model, ranges from 30 to 60 minutes.
Pole Saws (Extended Chainsaws)
Chainsaws are great tools with various use cases, but they can be quite dangerous if misused. One of the most dangerous times to use a chainsaw is when you’re standing atop a ladder. So how do you cut those branches way up high, while keeping your feet firm on the ground? You put a chainsaw on a stick.
That’s exactly what a pole saw is. It’s a small, light chainsaw that is attached to a long pole, with the trigger system extended to the handle at the bottom of the pole. These are fantastic for quickly cutting branches high in the treetops. They fill the same role as a pole pruning saw, but they cut quicker and with less effort.
Like with most power tools, you can get these in a few different configurations. Corded pole saws can cut for as long as they’re plugged in, but the length of their cord limits their reach. Gas-powered cordless pruning saws run out of power after about 30 minutes, but if you have a gas tank nearby, you can have it refilled in just a few seconds. Battery-powered rechargeable pruning saws last longer, about 60 minutes, but once their battery depletes, you need to wait about an hour or more for it to recharge. If you’re in the market for a pole saw, you need to carefully consider where and how you’re going to use it, and what resources you will have at your disposal when you do.Now that you know all about the many types of pruning saw on the market, you’ll have no trouble picking the right tool for your needs. Browse through our range of Japanese pruning saws and pruning shears to find the perfect tool for you. Or click here to read our ranking of the Top 5 Pruning Saws and the Top 7 Pruning Shears available right now.