A pole saw or a pole pruner is a garden tool that comprises a chainsaw with a bar and chain on a pole. You can use this tool for limbing and trimming small branches about 20 cm in diameter. A pole saw is useful in applications where it would be far too dangerous or impossible to use a standard chain saw. Chain saws and ladders do not mix – it is far too dangerous!
A pole saw, with its long pole (about 8-foot-tall and extendable up to 16 feet) easily helps you reach branches from a large shrub or a small tree so one can saw them off safely. In any case, all garden tools are hazardous and risky especially if there is an inexperienced user or careless operator using them.
So, it is imperative to follow safety steps when using them. In this guide, we will cover basic steps on how to use a pole saw safely. The same steps will also help you know how to use an electric pole saw. Before we move on to the steps of using a pole saw, let us understand the types. Knowing the different types of pole saws can help you assess which the right tool is for your specific needs.
Types of Pole Saws
It is important to know which type of pole saw to use for specific garden applications. There are three basic types of pole saws:
Fixed Length Pole Saw
As the name suggests, this type of pole saw has a fixed length pole. High-quality models consist of a zinc-coated steel shaft attached to a cutting head which offers a powerful cutting action.
Combination Type Pole Saw
Combination pole saws have interconnecting or fixed extensions between the power head and the cutting attachment. Alternatively, they can be a manual handsaw or a battery-operated chainsaw to which you can attach an extension.
Telescopic Pole Saw
In telescopic pole saws, the shaft or the pole of the tool can be lengthened or shortened according to need. They can be shortened more quickly and easily than the combination style. Telescopic pole saws are relatively easy to use when extended.
Saws of this style come in handy while pruning branches over 6 feet. One drawback of these models is that they tend to be heavy and can cause operator fatigue after a while. Pole saws can also be distinguished based on the type of fuel used.
As the name suggests, these pole saws require a manual back and forth sawing action to enable the long blade of the saw to cut out the branch. Some manual pole saws use a pulley system to cut overhead branches. Choose this type of saw if you only need to occasionally trim branches.
Electric Pole Saws
Electric pole saws have a small, lightweight chain with bars measuring 8-12 inches. Some electric pole saws have telescoping handles that reach up to 15 feet. Many modern electric pole saws can be converted to be used as string trimmers and lawn edgers.
Cordless Pole Saws
These use a rechargeable battery as the power source. They offer the portability of a gas pole cutter and the convenience of an electric branch trimmer.
Gas powered pole saws need gas and oil and while they are useful in heavy-duty applications, they can be heavy. These days, you can get smaller-size gas-powered saws but many are still quite heavy in weight. Many models can also be converted into edgers, string trimmers, leaf blowers, etc.
How to Use a Pole Chain Saw
- A pole chain saw is a one-person tool but it helps to have a work companion. Keep pets, kids, and other bystanders away when using this tool. Maintain a distance of at least 50 feet or about 15 meters from other operators. Do not make sudden turns or movements while holding the saw to prevent injuries to another operator.
- Wear protective apparel as detailed in the instruction manual accompanying your pole saw. Helmets, gloves, stable boots, ear protection, sturdy clothing are some basic attire to choose. Some models of saws also need the operators to wear a harness to secure the saw to their person for better stability.
- Put up plenty of signages to warn people when you are felling trees, especially in areas with heavy footfall. Additionally, avoid working near power lines.
Before You Start
- Never start the pole saw indoors: it can be very dangerous – especially in case of gas-powered tools – if you inhale the motor’s exhaust fumes.
- Before you start, lubricate the chain.
- Never operate your saw without chain lubrication and always check the chain lubrication and the oil level in the tank.
Starting the Saw
When starting the pole saw, ensure that the cutting head is kept clear of the ground away from loose debris and stones. It is imperative to secure the pole saw properly- one means of doing this is holding the control handle with the left hand or drive shaft with the left knee.
Ensure Sharpness of Blade
- Never operate a pole saw having dull blades. You will come to know if the blades are dull if they do not cut sharply and quickly.
- If that happens, replace the blade right away. Using dull pole chain saws can be very tiring, dangerous, and can even take twice the amount of time it would normally take.
Make Sure the Task is Right for the Pole Saw
Only use the pole saw if:
- The branch you wish to remove is stable and not moving around much
- If the branch is unstable, you may need to use a combination of pole saw and loppers. This way; you can put the branch into the loppers and then pull on the rope attached to the saw. You can pull the rope to operate (open and close) the loppers.
Stand on Firm Ground
Make sure that your feet are firmly planted on the ground. Do not stand on sloping ground or ground having many rocks and debris which could cause slips, falls, or loss of balance. Do ensure that you are looking up into the area you want to prune.
This will reduce the possibility of debris getting inside of your eyes. Of course, you must wear a helmet and protective goggles at all times. Never try to reach a branch too far away.
Follow the Correct Angle – Always
Make the cut with the blade towards the tree and rest the support bar on the portion being removed. This will avoid bruising the cambium around the cut. Control the pole saw at an angle of no more than 60 degrees from the horizontal. Dismantle and saw the branches into smaller chunks. Grasp the pole saw with both hands.
Ensure Smooth Cut
Avoid making jagged or ragged cuts through the branches. This can lead to diseased trees and prevent the tree from healing properly. There are other types of cuts to make with the pole saw. These include:
- Cross-cut – To avoid pinching the bar in the cut, position the cutting attachment with the hook against the branch and then perform the cross-cut from top downwards.
- Relieving cuts – these cuts help prevent damage to the branch. Position the saw and pull it across the underside of the branch in an arc as far as the nose. Next, position the bar on top of the branch and make a regular smooth cut. Be careful while making relieving cuts as kickbacks can occur.
When Cutting Large Limbs
Use a 2-step process to cut larger limbs with a pole saw. In the first step, leave a 4-to-6-inch stub by making an undercut and then cut from the top of the limb. This will prevent stripping the bark from the tree. In the second step, remove the stub flush with the trunk.
Deal With Kickbacks Safely
Kickbacks are no laughing matter. They can result in serious injuries, even death. Kickbacks occur when a running saw hits an object that throws back the saw in the operator’s direction with disastrous results. Kickback can also occur when the wood being cut closes in and pinches the saw chain in the cut or when it hits a hard portion or object in the wood being cut.
To prevent kickbacks, never let the saw blade touch any object while it is running. Never hold the pole saw with one hand – grasp it firmly with both. You can hold its forward handle with the left hand and the rear handle firmly with the right.
After Use Maintenance
After using the saw, let it cool down. Lubricate the chain between uses. Ensure removing the sprocket cover when the saw is not in use. You must perform chain maintenance as well.
A pole saw is an efficient garden tool which comes in handy when you cannot use pruners, chainsaws, or loppers with ease. A pole saw has many uses such as cutting overhanging limbs and branches that cannot be accessed with other short-reaching tools. We hope this brief guide helps you learn how to use a pole saw easily and safely.