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Buyer’s Guide: Pole Saws

- May 25, 2018 -

Prune the trees on your property safely and efficiently with the power tool that best suits your needs.

In order to stay healthy and look their best, trees need occasional pruning to remove broken branches and thin out dense limbs. Perhaps the best way to tackle this project is with a pole saw—basically a chainsaw attached to a long pole that lets you reach up to cut branches while remaining safely on the ground. That sure beats more dangerous methods, which involve either climbing the tree or teetering on a ladder while lopping off limbs with a handheld chainsaw.

While pole saws can make pruning a whole lot easier, they’re not right for every situation. If removing thin twigs, dense vines, or foliage, you’re better off using shears or a manual pole pruner (operated by pulling a lever or with a sawing motion). If you aim to cut branches between two and eight inches in diameter, however, a pole saw is just the ticket. Ahead, we’ll discuss the important features of these power tools, and share our top three picks for the best pole saw, based on buyer reviews and ratings. 


Like all power tools, pole saws are designed to suit various needs; some are geared toward the do-it-yourselfer, while others are better suited for professionals. Consider the following features when shopping:

• Working Height: The saw’s “working height” often appears on the packaging but doesn’t indicate the actual length of the pole—it refers to the length of the pole plus your arm length. Manufacturers typically estimate two to three feet for arm length, so if the pole saw claims to have a 10-foot working height, the pole saw itself, from tip to tip, will be seven to eight feet long. Most pole saws max out at 10- to 12-foot working height, because at greater heights, the business end of the saw can become difficult to safely control, especially in windy conditions. Many models include telescoping poles that allow you to adjust the length.

Cutting Bar Length: The cutting bar determines the maximum diameter of the branches you can cut. Bar lengths run from six to 12 inches, with eight inches being the most common. The standard rule of thumb is that the cutting bar should be a minimum of two inches longer than the diameter of the branch youre cutting. For example, youd need an eight-inch bar to cut a branch six inches in diameter.

Weight: The heaviest pole saws weigh in at about 20 pounds but even lighter models, at seven to 15 pounds, can start to feel heavy when youre working overhead. Electric and cordless saws typically weigh less than gas-powered models (see the Power Particulars section below).

Removable Saw: Some pole saws feature a cutting head that can be detached from the end of the pole for use as a handheld chainsaw. This can be helpful if you wish to cut a branch into smaller pieces after youve felled itfor firewood, say.

Additional Features: Manufacturers are constantly striving to make pole saws more durable and easier to operate. On some saws, youll find anti-vibration features and non-slip grips, and many of todays pole saws come with a self-oiling chain. If its not self-oiling, youll have to oil the chain by hand (detailed in the owners manual).


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