If you need to cut branches or limbs that you can’t reach from the ground, you’ll want to use a pole saw. Although learning how to safely use a pole saw is quite simple, the caution required is still serious.Pole saws are powerful tools that can cut wood that’s up very high; but cutting high wood can be extremely dangerous. Before you even attempt your first cut, take a few moments to review how to safely use a pole saw.
Pole Saws: The Basics
What do you use a pole saw for?
Simply put, a pole saw is a saw mounted at the end of a pole (sometimes also called a rod saw, pole chainsaw, or pole pruner), and is primarily used for two tasks:
- Trimming branches that are too high to reach without a ladder.
- Reaching across to prune an otherwise unreachable tree or shrub.
How far can a pole saw reach?
The length of the tool varies by brand and model, but most pole saws can extend between 8 and 15 feet. Add that pole extension length to your own height plus arm length, and you’ve got your potential cutting reach.
How thick can a pole saw cut?
The general rule of thumb for safely cutting with a chainsaw is to use a blade that is at least two inches longer than the diameter of the thickest branch you need to cut. This also applies when using a pole saw. Most pole saw blades are 8 to 12 inches long, but if you’re eyeing a limb thicker than 8 inches, we recommend getting the help of a pro.
Types of Pole Saws
- Gas-Powered Pole Saws. The most powerful and most versatile option and offer the longest cutting blades. They are also the loudest, heaviest, and most expensive option (for good reason).
- Electric Pole Saws. Have the potential to run for the longest amount of time, as long as they’re plugged in. They’re not as powerful as gas, but they’re quieter than gas-powered and are still more powerful than battery-operated. Electric pole saws typically offer up to 10” cutting blades.
- Battery-Operated Pole Saws. are overall the most convenient and absolutely the quietest option. They are also the least powerful, comparatively, and offer shorter blade lengths, making them best suited for thinner branches or shrubs.
How to Safely Use a Pole Saw: Step by Step
- Read the owner’s manual. Like it or not, you can’t learn how to safely use a pole saw without reading the owner’s manual. This is the only way to be sure you’re familiar with the safety features and specifications of your specific brand and model.
- Wear the proper gear. Using a pole saw requires the same protective equipment as when using a standard chainsaw: eye protection, hearing protection, work gloves, sturdy boots, long pants and sleeves (snug-fitting), and a hard hat.
- Inspect and clear the area. Ensure your work area is well lit and dry. Do not operate a pole saw in wet conditions, and always work during the day when there is plenty of light to see what you’re doing. Also, maintain a safe perimeter around your work area, free of people, pets, and property that could be damaged. Consider the entire area where branches may land, and rope it off if you’re in a public area where bystanders may wander too close. Check for trip hazards as well, so you can move around safely.
- Plan your cut. Before you make even your first cut, visually evaluate the job at hand, and make a plan. Examine the big picture; consider all of the branches you want to remove, and then figure out how you will need to safely access those highest up. Most likely, you will need to remove the lower branches first in order to open up room to make clear cuts on the higher branches.
- Position yourself. It needs to be said: do not stand directly below your cut. The proper position to safely use a pole saw is off to the side of the branch, so when it falls out of the tree, it doesn’t land on you. You want to hold the pole saw at chest height and at a slight angle to the branch. When you establish your position is the best time to adjust the length of the pole. Refer to your owner’s manual for specific instructions, and then adjust the pole so the blade reaches the target branch when you hold the pole saw at chest height.
- Position the blade. Holding the pole saw in both hands, position the saw against the branch you plan to cut. Confirm that you are comfortable and have control over the weight of the equipment. With both feet securely planted, move the blade so its weight is resting on the branch.
- Begin the cut. Begin with slow, controlled strokes. Rather than starting off at full speed (which can result in slippage, making the job more difficult - and dangerous), when cutting a thicker branch, start by making a groove in the wood by tapping or lightly pressing the throttle. This groove can then serve as the guide for the rest of the cut. While making the initial groove, be mindful that the blade can slip (and often does, if the branch is sloped). If that happens, stop cutting, and reposition the blade before continuing.
- Complete the cut. When you’ve created a groove and your saw is secure in that as a guide, you can increase your speed to complete the cut. As the cut deepens, be mindful of the branch and how it’s responding to the saw. Even though you’re off to the side, branches can snap and fall in unpredictable ways, especially if the wood is under tension. Thin, spindly limbs do not require the slow-cut groove, but do require the same awareness.
- Re-clear the area. After the branch or limb has fallen, it’s wise to clear it from the area so it doesn’t present a trip hazard as you continue working. This is also a good time to check again for any people or pets.
- Repeat steps 4-9.
Additional Safety Tips
- Do not operate a pole saw in wet conditions.
- Be sure the chain has been properly oiled before each cut.
- Always cut just one branch at a time. Never try to cut multiple branches in one pass.
- Never try to remove branches that are above or near power lines.
- Never use a pole saw to cut up firewood or branches on the ground. Use a standard chainsaw for this job.
- Be ready for kickback. (If the tip of the pole saw blade comes into contact with just about anything, the change in cutting momentum will force the saw up and back with tremendous power and speed. Kickback is difficult enough to manage when you’re using a standard chainsaw on the ground; even more so when your saw is on a pole up in the air. To guard against kickback, you must be aware of the chainsaw tip at all times.)
Having the right tools makes all the difference in tackling a job you can be proud of.
Be sure to check out our Senix selection, and find a powerful, affordable pole saw that will get the job done right.