How to Use a Pole Saw

Last Updated on June 25, 2021 by Grow with Bovees

When you need to cut or trim branches or vines that are hard to reach in your yard, you have three choices; prune by climbing a ladder, use a pole saw (whether gas, electric, cordless, manual/hand-operated) or call in a professional.

Undoubtedly, the most affordable way to prune a high level vine or tree branches, is to do it yourself.

In the case of high level pruning; wielding a pair of loppers or a saw, while at the same time balancing up a ladder presents all sorts of potential hazards.

A far safer way, therefore, is to use a pole pruner. However, using pole pruners can be a safety hazard in itself.

They have a very sharp blade and are, most of the time, used overhead, so you do need to know how to use a pole saw properly if you want to avoid accidents.

To save you time searching the internet looking for tips; The Bovees Arborist Team have pooled their expert opinions and put together a guide on using a pole saw, to help you minimize potential injury to yourself, or anyone else in the vicinity for that matter.

What is a Pole Pruner?

Essentially a Pole Pruner is some kind of cutting device or a combination of cutting devices on the end of a long pole.

As I’m sure you are now visualizing, this is not a tool to mess around with.

The Pole

The most common construction consists of several different sections made of a lightweight material, so that you can join them together to match the height of the shrubs or tree branches you want to cut.

Each section features a locking mechanism to secure it to the next and prevent them from coming apart during use.

There are also models that come with a telescopic shaft that can be extended to your desired length and then locked into position.

Others are simply a one-size reasonably long shaft.

The Cutting Mechanism(s)

The cutting mechanism of each saw can also vary.

Where some models of pole saw come with either a pruner or a saw, others come with both mechanisms.

The pole pruner is used to cut small easy branches, and the saw blade to cut thicker, denser branches.

Sometimes the saw blade and pruner are permanently attached to one of the sections, or sometimes they are removable & interchangeable.

Different Types of Pole Saws

Before looking at exactly how to use one, let’s briefly go through the different types available.

Manual Pole Saws

Manual pole saws are exactly that, they are operated by hand using a sawing motion or a rope/string operated chopping motion.

Gas-Powered Pole Saws

Gas-powered saws obviously take away certain aspects of the labour involved with using a hand-operated model.

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The engine section is located at the base, the cutting head on the opposite end, and a shaft in between.

However, they have their own set of disadvantages.

Gas-powered models can be noisy tools, because of their integral engine, and do require a degree of maintenance.

They are also heavier due to the engine, the gas tank, and the fuel contained in it.

On the plus side, some gas models come with the advantage of having several attachments, so you can use a single tool to perform various tasks such as; sawing, blowing, brush cutting, hedge trimming, etc.

They generally come with one extension piece, which you can connect to the main shaft to increase your reach.

Electric Pole Saws

Electric pole saws are similar in design to hand-operated saws, except that they come with a power cord attached. This means that all you have to do is plug it in for immediate access to extra power and pruning force, enabling you to cut quickly through limbs of trees that would take a whole lot longer with a hand-operated saw.

They are mostly available with telescopic poles, and some of the best electric pole saws can even be converted into a handheld chainsaw to cut logs into smaller pieces.

Considerably lighter than gas models (or indeed cordless models) electric saws do however have the disadvantage of a trailing power line that can cause trip hazards as well as the potential to get caught on a tree branch or tangled in the limbs of shrubs which is very irritating!

Cordless Pole Saws

Cordless pole saws are battery powered tools, where the battery is typically located right below the cutting head.

They can be had with either telescopic or one size poles, and some top rated cordless pole saw models also come with a center extension to increase the usable length.

They are obviously more powerful than a hand-operated saw so speed up the cutting process considerably while at the same time being more user-friendly than an electric pole saw as there is no trailing lead to contend with.

The disadvantage is that you need to make sure your battery is charged!

They are also a bit heavier than electric saws due to the weight of the battery itself.

How to Use a Pole Saw?

Things to Keep in Mind Before Getting Started.

Instruction Manual

Always read the instructions on how to use a pole saw first. No matter how practically-minded you think you are, each model has it’s own idiosyncrasies. so it is worth checking the pole saw safety tips that the manufacturer offers and donning the appropriate safety gear before starting the job.

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Assembly

Most pole saws don’t come fully assembled right out of the box, so you will have to put them together, to varying degrees, before use.

Putting them together correctly is an important start, so make sure you follow the manufacturers instructions step by step and heed the advice & cautions therein.

Whether you’re using a gas, electric, cordless or hand-operated saw, ensure that the poles are tight in place, and the blade is aligned with the shaft.

Working Area

Next, you should clear the area of any dirt, debris, stones, etc., because your focus will be towards the top, so you don’t want to trip over anything when working with your pole saw.

Make sure that people in the vicinity know what you are up to and that any children or pets are under supervision from another adult, so that there is no danger of them running out under falling limbs. Apart from the person using the pole saw, there should ideally be no one in the area where you’re cutting branches.

Planning The Order of The Cuts

Before using a pole saw, study the tree carefully and take note of what branches you’re going to cut, and most importantly where the wood is likely to fall.

Something else to consider is the type of wood in terms of density and thickness of each branch so that you can brace yourself accordingly before embarking on each cut.

If you’re cutting a lot of branches from a tree, it’s a good idea to cut the smaller branches first, so that you can better target the bigger branches. You can also clear the smaller branches easily off the ground to make room for the bigger branches when you cut them.

Tips For Cutting Tree Branches

You will have seen professional pole saw users using a rope and pulley system to lower larger branches. However, you don’t have to take this route if you know how to prune proficiently and/or are pruning branches that aren’t located directly above your head.

Before you start cutting branches with your pole saw, and especially if this is your first time using the tool, it’s a good idea to make a small groove first in the wood of the branch using a slow stroke, to ensure the saw doesn’t slip when you start speeding up the strokes.

This will also ensure that you achieve a precise cut.

After you have made the groove in the branch, you can apply a bit more pressure on the tool and blade of the pole saw, and cut the tree branch just as you would with a regular saw, gradually increasing your stroke speed.

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Jump Cuts

A jump cut is where you make a cut in such a way that encourages the branch to fall away from the tree and your body, preventing potential damage or injury to both.

You will have to put in a bit more effort, because you’re cutting against gravity, but they are much safer than just hacking away haphazardly.

A jump cut is the safest way to carry out the removal of a branch that you can’t hold onto.

For jump cuts, place the blade of the pole saw on the underside of the branch you want to cut, and make a cut about a quarter of the thickness of the branch, in an upward direction and a little further away from the trunk than you intend the final cut to be. Then make your final cut from the top. These cuts generally should not be treated with any kind of tree limb paint after you’ve finished pruning.

Cutting Large Branches

When it comes to cutting large branches of a tree, it is advisable to remove the branch in three or four separate pieces.

Your Position

When making any of the above cuts, you should position yourself properly by holding the pole saw at chest level, and standing on the side of the branch you’re cutting, never below it.

This means that the pole of your saw will be at an angle when you’re making cuts.

Always clean up your work area after every few cuts, to prevent tripping over the cut branches, and causing injury to yourself.

Final Thoughts

Safety First

With a pole saw, you can cut branches with ease, but at the same time you should always use the proper techniques for efficient and safe pruning.

Pole saws can be challenging to use if you haven’t used one before, but like everything else, “practice makes perfect”.

Regardless of which type of pole saw you use, you should refrain from cutting branches near power lines, and always wear protective gear such as glasses, gloves and a helmet.

Further, and most importantly, stand with the pole blade at an angle to the limb, not directly underneath it, so that the branches fall away from you, and not over your head.

Maintenance

Ensure your pole saw blade is sharpened before each use, which allows you to make crisp cuts without putting in a lot of effort as opposed to using a tool with a dull blade. If your pole saw didn’t come with a blade sharpener, you can buy one separately at an affordable price.

A Worthwhile Task!

Pruning trees & shrubs not only keeps your yard looking healthy, neat and well-tended, it also encourages regrowth!