How to Use a Pole Saw

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Categories Saws
If you want to cut down tall branches, we've got answers.

If you have trees and shrubs in your backyard, you will know the importance of keeping them pruned. But what do you do to trim those branches you can’t reach? You need a pole saw. Using a pole saw makes the trimming and pruning process a lot easier and much safer.

However, there is a technique to getting it right. We show you how to use a pole saw to help keep your trees and shrubs under control.

DIY Tree Pruning: Using a Pole Saw Safely

  1. Make sure you wear the right safety gear. You need a hard hat, goggles, gloves and ear plugs.
  2. Always clear the area where you intend to cut.
  3. Remove trip hazards.
  4. Never stand below the branch you are about to cut. Hold the saw at an angle of 60 degrees.
  5. Always cut the top of the branch first, using a V-cut.


What Can a Pole Saw Cut?

Pole saws are essentially chainsaws on the end of a long pole. This gives them specific uses.

Pruning

If you have unruly branches that need some attention, a pole saw is the ideal tool to use thanks to it’s cutting abilities.

Trimming

Pole saws are also useful for lighter garden work like trimming bushes and shrubs.

Brush Clearing

Brush grows quickly if left unchecked. A pole saw is mighty enough to chew through the gnarliest branches to make speedy work of clearing it away.

Hard to Reach Branches

The blade sits atop a long, extendable pole, enabling you to increase the span of the saw and cut the branches out of reach. It saves you balancing on top of a step ladder, where the chances of an injury increase massively.

What You Need

As with all DIY tasks, you are going to need specific items to make your life easier and to make the job safer.

Gloves

We are not talking about woolly mittens here. We mean reinforced protective gloves that enable you to pick up prickly branches without worrying about thorns or stings. They also help you grip the pole saw for longer periods.

Goggles

Covering your eyes against falling debris is essential. Most of the branches you chop will be above head height, so you will be looking up for the majority of the task.

Hard Hat

If you are chopping up heavier branches, there is a chance that things might fall on you. A hard hat offers that extra insurance to keep you safe.

Earplugs

Pole saws are noisy, especially the gas-powered varieties. Working with a pole saw for prolonged periods can affect your hearing, so earplugs block out the noise and make it a more comfortable experience.

A Rake

Keep a rake handy to scrape up all the leaves and smaller sticks when you are clearing up. It might also be an idea to have a wheelbarrow nearby to transport the cut logs.

How to Use a Pole Saw Safely

Before you think about firing up the pole saw and hacking away at your trees, there are some basic “good practices” that you should consider. As always, when using power tools, safety is your top priority.

Pole saws are dangerous, and you need the right safety equipment before you start. A hard hat, goggles, gloves and earplugs are essential.

1. Before You Saw

  • Remove any uneven stones or boulders. Trip hazards with a powerful chainsaw on a pole are unwelcome; I’m sure you will agree. Make sure that there is nothing to cause you to lose your footing.
  • Plan which branches you want to cut in advance. Have a strategy to keep you safe. Removing smaller branches first makes it easier to reach thicker and taller limbs. Also, remove longer branches in sections rather than lopping it off and risk it falling on you.
  • Hold the saw so that the weight is balanced, and it feels comfortable. Pole saws can put a lot of strain on your arms and back.
  • Get into a comfortable position where you have spread the balance evenly, so you don’t fall.
  • Only operate the pole saw in dry weather. Rain makes surfaces slippery, which makes handling an electric pole saw harder. Also, electricity and water never mix well.
  • Only operate the pole saw in daylight. Failing light makes it harder for you to see clearly. Would you consider using the saw with your eyes closed? Probably not, so why risk it in poor light?
  • Be aware of where the power cord is. Cords are another classic trip hazard.
  • Never force the saw beyond its capabilities. By exerting too much pressure, you risk losing your balance and causing injury.
  • Never cut trees where there are low hanging power cables.
  • Check for nesting birds in the branches that you want to cut. No one wants to be the person responsible for destroying wildlife habitat.
  • If in doubt, consult the professionals. Never try and adopt a make do and mend attitude. This is a sure-fire way of getting into difficulties and for potential disaster.

2. Put on Your Safety Gear

Put on your goggles, gloves, hard hat and earplugs. Falling objects are common when operating pole saws. It’s also important to make sure you have the right clothing and footwear. Flip-flops are not ideal attire for manual labor jobs in the garden. Likewise, tough work clothes could protect you from further injury.

3. Prepare the Area

Following the steps above, make sure there are no trip hazards or risks that could lead to an injury. Have a designated cordon around the space you intend to work so that it is clearly marked should anyone wander nearby.

Top Tip

Clear away each branch as you cut. Don’t litter the floor with chopped limbs because this will undo the preparation work you did before cutting commenced.

4. Power Up

Plug in your pole saw, ensuring that the power cord is safely away from your legs to avoid a trip hazard.

5. Follow the Plan

With your plan in place, target the branches that are smaller and lower down. Place the pole saw into position and press the trigger. Hold the saw against the wood, pressing firmly down.

Top Tip

Always stand so that the pole saw is at an angle of 60 degrees so that you are clear of any falling branches.

6. Cut the Thicker Branches

Once you have cleared the smaller branches, it’s time to attack the thicker limbs. Don’t try and cut through them in one sweep. Make a groove cut at a 45-degree angle, followed by a straight cut so that the tip of the V joins. Then, take the saw and place it in the point of the groove and slice through the branch, increasing the speed as you go.

Top Tip

It is perfectly natural for your saw to slip and skip along the surface of the branch. Stop, reposition the saw and start again.

7. Power Off

When you have successfully removed all the branches you want, release the trigger and unplug the saw. Make sure the saw head has stopped moving before going near it. Remove the safety gear and start the cleanup.


Tips on How to Use a Pole Saw

Always Cut From the Topside of the Limb

It allows you to exert pressure while avoiding standing directly beneath the branch. It also means that gravity works in your favor. Sometimes you will need to cut from the underside of the branch, but only where absolutely necessary.

Read the Owner’s Manual

You should read the manual before operating any power tool. It’s common sense to get to know the pole saw before firing it up.

Practice

Before jumping in with both feet and elbows, practice using your pole saw on smaller projects first to get a feel for how it handles. That way, you will learn its little quirks and get used to handling the saw, as well as your strengths and weaknesses.

Buy a Safety Harness

Safety harnesses clip onto the saw and attaches to your torso. It takes the strain of the saw and spreads the burden of the weight. It also makes prolonged use more comfortable, which is ideal for larger pruning projects.

Get Steel-Capped Boots

Reinforced work boots are a great way of protecting your feet. They also have a thick grip to prevent slipping. It stops falling debris from crushing your toes and keeps you rooted to the spot while you work.

Pole Saws FAQs

How Thick Can a Pole Saw Cut?

It depends on the size of the saw head. They range in size from 8 inches to 12 inches. The longer the head, the thicker the branch you can cut. Also, gas-powered pole saws are more powerful and can handle heavy-duty tasks. It’s the reason why professionals prefer gas-powered pole saws.

The maximum thickness you can safely cut with a pole saw is between 7 and 9 inches.

Can You Use a Pole Saw to Cut Down a Tree?

As with all of these questions, there are variables that dictate the answer. Firstly, it depends on the tree. If it is a small tree, with a thin trunk, then yes, a pole saw will be effective, just as it would if you were tackling a thicker branch on a bigger tree.

However, small trees are not the norm, and you are likely investing in a pole saw because you have tree limbs that are difficult to reach. If this is the case, then a pole saw is not going to be suitable. Invest in a sharp axe or a chainsaw.

Can You Use a Pole Saw on a Ladder?

You can, but you shouldn’t. The whole point of a pole saw is that it eliminates the need to balance on the top of a set of steps or a ladder. Also, a pole saw should only be operated when you are planted firmly on the ground with a good sense of balance. If the branch you want to cut is that high that you need a ladder, as well as a pole saw, it might be a wise idea to consult with a professional.

How High Can a Pole Saw Reach?

It varies depending on the model. Most professional pole saws extend to a reach of around 8 to 12 feet. However, manual pole saws are capable of stretching well beyond this, with some reaching 16, 18 or even 20 feet.

Manual pole saws are lighter and so have less weight on the end of the pole. For this reason, they have a longer reach.


Cut to the Chase

If you have trees and shrubs that are unruly and need trimming back, a pole saw is the best tool to use. They are affordable, relatively easy to master, and save you a fortune on hiring a professional.

Pole saws are specialist tools, so they don’t have too many other uses, but that aside, when you need one, a pole saw is effective and a lot of fun to use.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.
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