Pruning saws are used to cut tree and shrub branches 1½ to 10 inches in diameter. Pruning saws can be used to shape trees and shrubs, remove dead or diseased wood, or remove the plant entirely. Use pruning saws for branches that are too thick for loppers or pruning shears. Pruning saws are also called tree saws and gardener’s saws.
There are manual or hand pruning saws, electric pruning saws, battery-powered pruning saws, pole pruning saws, and reciprocating pruning saws. Electric, battery-powered, and reciprocated pruning saws are often sold as mini-chainsaws.
The most common manual or hand pruning saw has a curved steel blade about 14 inches long with amazingly large, sometimes razor-sharp triangular teeth and a straight pistol-grip or D-Grip handle. Some steel blades are Teflon coated. But there are pruning saws in all shapes and sizes, from small 6” folding saws that will fit in your pocket to a single blade mounted on a long pole.
One type of manual pruning saw is the folding saw. As the name suggests, folding saws feature a blade that can be folded into the handle, making it convenient to carry and store. Folding saws are lightweight and compact, making them suitable for pruning in tight spaces.
Another type of manual pruning saw is a straight pruning saw. This saw features a straight blade, usually with a curved tip for more precise cutting. The straight-blade pruning saw is often used for cutting branches at difficult angles, reaching higher branches, and making clean and precise cuts. This type of saw is commonly used by professional tree surgeons and arborists.
Types of pruning saws
There’s a pruning saw for every type of pruning. Selecting the right pruning saw depends on how you plan to use it. Some pruning saws are for cutting branches close to the ground, others are for pruning high out-of-reach branches. Some pruning saws are designed for tight spaces, others are for open, uncrowded spaces. Some pruning saws have fixed, non-folding blades, sometimes called rigid, blades others have folding blades.
Pruning saws can have long blades for thick tree branches, while others have small blades for trimming delicate bonsai plants.
Here is a list of the most common types of pruning saws:
Non-folding hand pruning saw
One of the most common manual hand pruning saws has a rigid, non-folding blade. Non-folding pruning saws are also called hand saws. The blade can be either straight or curved. The blades can vary in length from six inches to 14 inches long or more. These steel-blade saws usually have razor-sharp triangular teeth and either a pistol or D-Grip handle. Some steel blades are Teflon coated. A curved blade allows for easier cutting on larger branches the curved design helps keep the blade from getting stuck in the wood. Commonly available hand saws have blades 8 to 10 inches long for small shrubs or 12 or more inches long for tree branches.
A second type of non-folding pruning saw has a straight blade, usually with a curved tip for more precise cutting. The straight-blade pruning saw is used for cutting branches at difficult angles, reaching higher branches, and making clean and precise cuts. This type of saw is commonly used by professional tree surgeons and arborists.
A third type of hand pruning saw is the duplex saw, which has a straight, tapered blade 18 inches long with teeth on both sides: one side is for coarse cutting, and the other is for fine cutting. The teeth are usually angled so that you cut on the “pull” stroke, enabling them to be designed with more aggressive teeth than if they cut on the “push” stroke. Duplex saws can be used to cut both green and dry wood. Four to 8 teeth per inch are standard, with the lower number better for green woods and the higher number better for hard or dry woods.
Folding manual pruning saw
Folding pruning saws allow the blade to fold back into the handle like a big pocketknife; folding saws are sometimes called collapsible saws. Folding saws lock into a straight position; they can be folded for safe storage. Folding pruning saws feature a folding blade design, allowing for easy storage and transportation. As the name suggests, folding saws feature a blade that can be folded into the handle, making it convenient to carry and store. Folding saws are lightweight and compact, making them suitable for pruning in tight spaces. They usually have teeth with aggressive cutting power, allowing for quick and efficient cuts. The blade of a folding pruning saw is typically curved and toothed, ensuring precise and efficient cutting of branches and limbs. The folding mechanism not only protects the blade when not in use but also allows for a convenient and safe opening and closing action. The folding feature also adds an extra layer of safety, as the blade can be securely locked in place when not in use, preventing accidental cuts or injuries in storage. With its compact and lightweight design, the folding pruning saw is ideal for those who need a portable tool for small to medium pruning tasks.
Folding pruning saws are useful for gardeners who need to do quick and impromptu pruning work–trimming back overgrown branches or clearing away deadwood. The folding saw offers excellent control and maneuverability, allowing for precise cuts even in tight spaces.
Electric pruning saws
Electric pruning saws are equipped with electric motors that provide the power needed to cut through branches and thick shrubs effortlessly. One of the main advantages of electric pruning saws is their ease of use, as they eliminate the need for manual labor and reduce fatigue. Additionally, they offer consistent cutting performance, ensuring clean and precise cuts every time. There are different types of electric pruning saws, each with its own unique features and benefits. One common type is the corded electric pruning saw. These saws are powered by electricity, requiring a power outlet or extension cord for operation. Corded electric pruning saws are known for their reliable power supply, allowing for uninterrupted cutting sessions. They are ideal for small and medium-sized jobs in gardens or yards, where a power source is readily available.
Some electric pruning saws come with additional features such as adjustable cutting angles and multi-purpose blades. These features allow users to customize their cutting experience based on the type and size of branches they are dealing with. Adjustable cutting angles enable convenient access to hard-to-reach areas, while the multi-purpose blades ensure versatility in cutting different types of materials. This versatility makes them an excellent choice for both professional gardeners and DIY enthusiasts.
Battery-powered pruning saws
Battery-powered pruning saws offer the freedom and flexibility to tackle tree limbs and branches with minimal fatigue during extended use. With their rechargeable batteries, they are a practical choice for both small-scale and larger pruning projects. One of the main advantages of battery-powered pruning saws is their portability. Without the limitations of a cord, these saws can easily maneuver around trees and shrubs without any tangling or hindrance. This makes them an excellent choice for pruning hard-to-reach branches or working in tight spaces. Whether you are a professional or a homeowner looking to maintain your garden, the lightweight and compact design of battery-powered saws allows for easy handling and minimal fatigue during extended use.
A key feature of battery-powered pruning saws is their quiet operation. Unlike gas-powered saws, which produce loud noises and can disturb the environment, battery-powered saws run almost silently. This makes them an ideal choice for anyone working in noise-sensitive areas such as residential neighborhoods or public parks. Additionally, the lack of fumes from gasoline engines ensures cleaner air and a healthier working environment.
Pole pruning saws
A pole saw is basically a blade attached to either a fixed length or telescoping pole. Pole pruning saws offer an extended reach allowing the gardener to prune branches and limbs without having to climb up the tree or use a ladder. They are particularly useful for trees with tall or hard-to-reach branches. Pole pruning saws come in various types to suit different needs and preferences.
One common type of pole pruning saw is the manual pole saw. These tools rely on human power to cut through branches. They usually have a long pole with a handle at one end and a curved saw blade at the other. Manual pole saws are lightweight and easy to use, making them ideal for small pruning tasks or occasional maintenance work.
Pole pruning saws can have folding or non-folding blades. They come in various lengths and designs depending on the application. Almost all manual pole saws have curved blades; some have a hook on the end for pulling cut branches that get stuck in the tree.
Other types of pole pruning saws are electric, battery-powered, and gas-powered. These saws are more powerful and efficient than manual pole saws, making them ideal for professional arborists or individuals with extensive pruning needs. Gas-powered pole saws typically have an engine attached to the pole, providing the necessary power to cut through thick branches. They often come with additional features such as extendable poles, adjustable angles, and automatic oilers for smooth operation. A more eco-friendly option is the electric pole pruning saw. These saws are powered by electricity and often come corded or cordless (battery-powered). Corded electric pole saws provide continuous power but require proximity to a power outlet, while cordless models offer greater portability but have limited battery life. Electric pole pruning saws are quieter, emit fewer emissions, and require less maintenance compared to gas-powered saws.
When choosing a pole pruning saw, it’s essential to consider the length of the pole and the blade size. Longer poles are suitable for reaching higher branches, while shorter ones offer more maneuverability. Additionally, the blade size should be chosen based on the thickness of the branches you plan to cut. A larger blade will be able to handle thicker branches, whereas a smaller one is more suitable for lighter foliage.
Pruning saw blades
A very important consideration when choosing a pruning saw is the type of blade. Pruning saws typically come with either a curved or straight blade. A straight blade is best suited to making cuts in the vicinity of the user’s torso–between the waist and the shoulders. That’s where the user can generate the most power. Curved blades are better suited to making overhead or low cuts; the curve of the blade will hold the saw in place.
A curved blade is perfect for cutting through thicker branches, as it allows for a more powerful and controlled cut. On the other hand, a straight blade offers precision and is ideal for more delicate pruning tasks. Taking into account the specific needs of your garden and the type of branches you’ll be working with will help you determine the best blade type for you.
Most pruning saw blades are made from either steel or high-carbon steel. The more carbon in the steel, the harder the blade will be. However, high-carbon steel is susceptible to rusting over time. Blades that are coated or plated are less prone to rusting.
The best pruning saw blades are made of high-carbon steel. Carbon is used to make steel hard. The more carbon in the steel, the harder it is. Blades made of high-carbon steel stay sharp for a long time. (Saw blades can be hardened by one of two methods–quench hardening and impulse hardening. Tests show that blades hardened by the impulse method are harder, more resilient, and stay sharper longer.) It is important to note that high-carbon steel is prone to rust when exposed to moisture, so some sort of coating or plating is a must.
Another important blade factor is the tooth pattern. The tooth configuration determines if the saw cuts with a pulling action or with a pushing action—or both. When the teeth slope forward, the blade cuts on the pull stroke. When the teeth slope backward, the blade cuts on the push stroke. If the teeth extend straight out, the blade will cut on either the push or pull stroke.
The number of teeth per inch (TPI) can affect blade performance. Pruning saws commonly have between 3 and 24 TPI. The fewer the teeth per inch the quicker the blade will cut, but fewer teeth can also level an uneven, jagged, or rough cut. The higher the TPI, the longer it will take to make a cut, but the cut will be smoother.
Pruning saws can have either impulse-hardened, straight, or triple-ground teeth. Impulse-hardened teeth are great for cutting through dense wood, as they stay sharp for a longer period of time. Straight teeth, however, provide a cleaner cut and are perfect for trimming softer branches. Triple-ground teeth combine the best of both worlds, with sharpness and precision. Understanding the type of teeth that will best suit your pruning needs will ensure an efficient and effective pruning session.
Pruning saw handles
A pruning saw’s handle design is crucial for comfortable and safe use. Look for a handle that provides a firm grip and reduces hand fatigue, as pruning can often be a tedious and physically demanding task. Ergonomic handles with non-slip features are highly recommended, as they offer better control and reduce the risk of accidents.
Pruning saw handles can have a straight pistol grip or D-Grip. Try the two types of grips before you buy. Pistol-grip handles are almost always curved and have a hook at the end of the handle to keep the hand from slipping off. With a pistol grip, the user’s hand wraps over the handle with the fingers beneath. A D-grip (the traditional saw grip) allows the user to pull with more force.
Pruning saw handles often feature pistol grips, whereby the user’s hand wraps over the handle with the fingers beneath. This is suitable for most pruning tasks, but a traditional saw grip allows the user to use push or pull force for bigger cutting tasks.
Handle grips should prevent your hand from slipping and give you better control over the saw. Grips are made from a variety of materials, including a rubber-like compound, silicon-based material, or plastic usually molded with grooves to keep the hand from slipping.
Pruning saw buying tips
Consider the following when purchasing a pruning saw:
Type of pruning you will be doing
Consider the type of pruning tasks you typically undertake. Are you dealing with thick branches or small twigs? If you mainly work with thinner branches, a folding saw with a compact size might be more suitable. On the other hand, if you frequently encounter larger branches, a fixed-blade pruning saw with a longer blade and sturdy construction would be a better option. Another important consideration is the type of tree or plant you will be pruning. Different species have varying degrees of hardness, and some may even have unique growth patterns. Ensure that the pruning saw you choose has the appropriate teeth and blade material.
Your physical capabilities
Evaluate your physical capabilities as well. Some pruning saws have ergonomic designs and lightweight materials, which can help reduce fatigue during extended use. If you have any specific limitations or preferences, such as needing a saw with a non-slip grip or one that is easily adjustable, keep these factors in mind while selecting.
Straight blade or curved blade
Straight blades are ideal for making cuts somewhere between your shoulders and your waist. Curved blades are best for sawing over your head or below your waist.
Body mechanics determine that a straight blade is easiest to use when the arms are between the shoulders and the waist. Using a curved blade at that height would require the arm to make an unnatural up-and-down motion as the blade rides up one side of the branch and down the other. It is difficult to keep all of the curved saw’s teeth in contact with the wood when using it at torso height; as you pull the blade toward you or push it away from you, the arched part of the blade will tend to lift off the branch. A straight saw will stay in contact with the branch while sawing at a height between your shoulders and your waist. Conversely, a curved blade will hook or dis-in to the wood. It is easier for your body to pull a curved blade than a straight blade when sawing at these angles.
Size of the blade
Consider the size of the pruning saw blade. The blade should be long enough to cut through branches of various sizes easily, but not too long that it becomes difficult to control. A general rule of thumb is to choose a saw with a blade length that is approximately two-thirds the diameter of the branches you plan to prune. This will provide enough leverage and cutting power without being too cumbersome.
Evaluate the teeth of the saw blade to ensure they are sharp, evenly spaced, and properly angled. Teeth geometry is critical if you want a fast and clean cut and a non-binding blade. Ideally, the teeth should be designed for aggressive and efficient cutting, so you can make clean and precise cuts through branches and stems. Additionally, a well-balanced and ergonomic handle will provide comfort and control while pruning, reducing fatigue and improving overall efficiency.
Most pruning saws have what is known as a triple ground tooth. This makes them not only extremely sharp but reduces the cutting time by one-half, as compared to saws that have a double ground tooth.
A double-sided blade may be a good investment because you may need both fine and coarse cuts (more teeth per inch yields a finer cut; fewer teeth, a coarser cut. the curved blade saws however are easier to use as the curve allows for a smoother sawing thrythm. A medium tooth gauge for around 8 to 10 teeth per inch does most of the work required in home gardens. toot edges should be beveled for sharpness.
The geometry of the cutting teeth determines if the saw cuts only the pull stroke, only the push stroke, or in both directions. You can generate more power by pulling than pushing. Keep this in mind when selecting a saw for your different pruning tasks.
Weight of the saw
Pay attention to the weight of the pruning saw. Pruning saws can vary in weight from a few ounces to 3 pounds or more. The heavier the saw, the more stable it will be when cutting. But increased weight can fatigue your arms. Since pruning often requires reaching overhead and holding the saw at various angles, a lightweight saw will reduce fatigue and strain on your arms and shoulders, but you will likely need to exert more downward pressure when cutting a branch. Look for pruning saws made from lightweight materials such as aluminum or fiberglass, as they will make the task more enjoyable and less tiring. Select a saw that is comfortable to handle and maneuver.
Quality and durability
Consider the overall quality and durability of the pruning saw. Invest in a well-made and sturdy tool that will last years. Look for saws made from strong and durable materials, such as high-carbon steel blades and sturdy handles made from materials like hardwood or fiberglass. These components will determine the overall strength and reliability of the saw, ensuring that it can withstand tough pruning jobs without losing its cutting-edge. Look for signs of a strong and sturdy build, such as reinforced blade attachment points and solid handle connections. A reliable pruning saw should be able to handle frequent use and withstand the rigors of outdoor conditions without losing its effectiveness or breaking down easily.
Check the saw for balance and the feel of the grip before purchasing. Select a saw with a comfortable grip, preferably with an ergonomic handle that offers a secure and non-slip grip. This will allow for better control and precision while pruning.
When purchasing a saw that folds or has a removable blade, be sure to get a saw with a safety lock. Be sure the blade will lock in both the open and closed position. Do not risk a cut with a blade that does not lock securely in place. Two kinds of locking mechanisms are the thumb lever and the swing lock.
- Look for a saw with a small hang-up hole near the tips.
- Check if the saw comes with a protective sheath or cover, as this will not only extend the lifespan of the blade but also ensure safe storage and transportation.
Reading customer reviews and seeking recommendations from experienced gardeners can provide valuable insights into the long-term performance and reliability of different pruning saw brands. Reading customer reviews can also provide insights into long-term durability and performance.
Questions to consider when buying a pruning saw
- What can you afford?
- Will use the saw weekly, monthly, or only once or twice a year?
- What features do you need or want? Is brand a factor?
- What blade length will you need for most jobs?
- Will you be cutting live wood or dead wood?
- Will you be pruning at waist or shoulder level or above your head?
- Do you need more than one saw?
Pruning saw use tips
How to make a cut
Cut branches from the top down; let gravity help you make the cut.
Cut with brisk strokes so that the blade does not catch or become stuck.
When pruning large branches it is a good idea to make an initial cut 1 to 2 inches deep into the bottom side of the branch closer to the trunk than where the final cut will be. This prevents the branch from ripping the bark behind this point, should it fall before the final cut is completed.
A “clean” cut is one that doesn’t leave any ragged edges or torn bark when pruning a live tree or shrub. A clean cut will “callus” over better than a ragged one; a clean cut is better for the health and vigor of a plant as it heals. The quality of the cutting teeth can affect the cleanness of a cut.
Avoid ladders when pruning
As a rule, it is best to stay off of ladders when pruning or cutting tree branches. If a branch is high, use a pole saw, do not risk falling off a ladder. If pruning over your head, use a pole saw with a fixed or telescope handle. For pruning over your head, a curved blade will be easier to use. If you are pruning at mid-torso level, a straight blade will be easier to use as you hold the branch with your other hand.
Use the folding type if you are working on ladders so you can put the folded saw in your pocket or holster when not in use. Folding saws are a bit safer and more likely to hold their extreme sharpness because the blade is protected when folded up.
Pruning saw safety
Pruning saw blades are extremely sharp. It is best to wear sturdy gloves (leather is best) when using a pruning saw.
If you are pruning above your head, wear a pair of safety glasses. This will prevent sawdust or debris from falling into your eyes.
If you are using the pruning saw over your head it is important to wear a hard hat.
Pruning saws may come with a scabbard or a sheath that allows the user to store the pruning saw safely when not in use. Scabbards often fit in a belt loop allowing you to have the saw at your side when not in use.
Pruning saw maintenance
Lastly, take a moment to understand the maintenance requirements of the pruning saws you are considering. Some models may require regular sharpening or blade replacement, while others can be easily cleaned and maintained. By understanding these factors, you can choose a saw that is both efficient and easy to care for.
- Clean the blade and handle after each use.
- Protect the blade from damage.
- Store the saw in a dry place.
Pruning saws made of high-carbon steel without chrome plating will rust if exposed to moisture. If a saw blade begins to lose the chrome plating, a light coating of a lubricant along the blade and teeth is the best way to keep it free from rust.
It is all but impossible for a home gardener to sharpen a pruning saw. With the complex angles of cutting teeth, the chances of properly sharpening a blade are slim. Improperly sharpening a blade will ruin the blade. Impulse-hardened blades are so hard, that only a professional can sharpen them.
Some hardware stores may offer blade sharpening. It may be less expensive to buy a new saw.
Some but not all pruning saw manufacturers offer replacement blades. In some cases, the replacement blade can be as expensive as the saw. If you plan to use your saw frequently, check the price of a saw with replaceable blades and check the price of replacement blades.
Commonly pole saw blades are replaceable and readily available.
Other replacement parts
Replacement parts (nuts, bolts, screws, pins) can be hard to find. Few manufacturers or retailers offer replacement parts; consider this when selecting a pruning saw.
Pruning saws we like
Hand pruning saws – straight blade
Corona Tools 13-Inch RazorTOOTH Pruning Saw | Tree Saw Designed for Single-Hand Use | Curved Blade Hand Saw | Cuts Branches up to 7″ in Diameter. About $29.
EZ Kut Kamikaze Max Saw Straight Blade – 19.7 Inches – Heavy Duty Pruning Saw – Carbon Hardened Steel Japanese Technology. About $49.
Folding pruning saw
Folding Saw, 8 Inch Rugged Blade Hand Saw, Best for Camping, Gardening, Hunting | Cutting Wood, PVC, Bone, Pruning Saw with Ergonomic Non-Slip Handle Design. About $16.
Electric cording pruning saws
Scotts Outdoor Power Tools PS45010S 10-Inch 8-Amp Corded Electric Pole Saw, Adjustable Head & Oregon Bar and Chain. About $90.
Battery-powered pruning saw
Cordless Power Chainsaw, for DeWALT 20V Max Lithium Battery 6-Inch Hand-held Mini Pruning Saw with Brushless Motor. About $58.
Cordless Mini Chainsaw,6-inch Electric Portable Mini Chainsaw, Small Chain Saw with Powerful Batteries Pruning Shears Chainsaw for Cutting Trimming Courtyard Garden(2 Chainsaws + 2 Batteries). About $54.
Pole pruning saws
HOSKO 10FT Pole Saw for Tree Trimming, Long Extension Pruning Saw, Blade Tree Trimmer Pole, Manual Pole Cutter for, Yard Garden and patio Trees Branches Cutting. About $34.
GARCARE Pole Chain saw Cordless ChainSaw 20V 8 Inch Electric Saw for Tree Trimming Battery chainsaw Multi-Angle Electric Chainsaw for Branch Cutting with 2.0Ah Battery & Charger. About $150.
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