What is a pole saw?
Well, the clue is in the name. It’s a saw on a pole. Yep, it’s that simple. A pole saw is typically used for pruning tree branches higher up that you can reach unaided. It’s a better (read safer!) alternative to using a chainsaw whilst stood on a ladder.
Choosing a Pole Saw
Similar to a chain saw, you want to think safety first. These things are dangerous; even though you’ve got more distance between yourself and the saw you can still get hurt if you don’t think it through and pay attention. You could probably (accidentally) engineer a way to cut yourself even with the distance between you and the blade but your main danger may not be from that. You will typically be using a pole saw to cut/prune branches that are high overhead, and guess where they’re going to fall when they get cut off (if you don’t think it through)? That’s right, straight onto your head.
Weight (and weight distribution) is extremely important when it comes to choosing your pole saw. You’re going to be holding this heavy thing on a stick way over your head, probably for several minutes at least. You need to make sure you can cope with the weight.
The same as a chainsaw you’ve got three options when it comes to powering your new pole saw. Electric and gas powered, with electric coming in corded or cordless options.
An electric polesaw is typically lower powered than a gas powered pole saw, but has the added benefit that the only maintenance you’ll need to perform is sharpening the blades and oiling it. With a gas pole saw you’ll also need to take care of the engine too by checking spark plugs and cleaning air filters (amongst other things). Another benefit of electric over gas powered is that electric pole saws won’t kick out a bunch of fumes whilst in use and are usually a lot less noisy.
If you choose a corded electric polesaw you’ll obviously be limited as to where you can work by the length of your extension cord and location of plug sockets. If you’re just pruning in your back garden this is unlikely to be an issue but if you’re a professional on a worksite you won’t want a cord hampering your movements; not to mention the risk of cutting the cord.
A cordless pole saw doesn’t have the drawback of a cord in that you don’t have a maximum range, but you will have a maximum working time. Most rechargeable batteries will give you about an hour. Again, this may not be an issue for you depending on the amount of pruning you typically need to do. You also have the option of buying additional batteries and then swapping them mid-job but they can be expensive.
A gas powered pole saw has the benefits of unlimited range, unlimited work time (actually limited by the amount of gas you have available, but you can carry jerry cans) and are typically more powerful than their electric cousins. However they have the drawback of additional maintenance as mentioned above.
Pruning saw A manual pole saw, a.k.a pruning saw should mention here that there is actually a fourth power option, which is a manual pole saw, also called a pruning saw. These are literally just a stick with a blade on the end. Some of them have a string pull which activates a clamp between two blades, so you position the saw around the branch and pull the cord to cut it. Others just have a serrated blade and you move the pole up and down to cut through. You’ll only want one of these if your job (or budget) is extremely small.
Don’t forget to be safe with your new pole saw, you’ll need much of the same safety equipment as when using a chainsaw so checkout my chainsaw article which includes a section about safety here.
In summary, have a think about what you’re going to do with your pole saw. If you’re just pruning in your back garden and it’s reasonably small then go for an electric corded pole saw. If you’ve got a bigger garden and you don’t think your cord will reach then get a cordless version and maybe treat yourself to an additional battery if needed. And, if you regularly work on large projects or for extended periods of time and you’re ok with the additional maintenance then get a gas powered pole saw. Finally, remember that you won’t be cutting through logs with a pole saw, so if you think this will be needed then consider getting a chainsaw instead.Remember to stay safe!!