Pole Saws – Do They Work For Large Trees?

Cutting large trees can be difficult, even impossible using a regular chainsaw. Sure, they are good at cutting the tree down entirely, but what about the tree limbs and branches on a tree you want to keep? If you want to keep your tree, but need some help with those hard-to-reach branches, then a pole saw might be the right choice for you.

Chainsaw On A Pole

What Is A Chainsaw On A Pole Called?

A chainsaw on a pole, or tree pole saw, or just pole saw is a unique cutting tool. It is a chainsaw attached to a long hand held pole with a lever for throttle. The machine is driven by a small gasoline motor at the bottom of the pole.

The machine has a chain on a bar that spins around and moves up and down to cut through any size tree, bush or branch with a diameter as large as 12+ inches. Pole saws are made for cutting hard to reach tree branches that block power lines, roadways, and threaten rooftops.

Arborist Pole Saw

Arborists are familiar with pole saws, as they often use them to cut hard to reach limbs. They usually have a safety leash attached to the saw so it does not fall and cause damage to anyone if it falls. A safety leash will allow for plenty of movement while also providing extra safety. This is attached to the base of the saw next to the engine.

Arborists will often choose a professional pole saw to include in their tool kit.

Professional Pole Saw

Professional tree trimmers and arborists use pole saws designed for the work they do. These pole saws can be significantly different from those models designed for home use. Knowing the difference is very important so you know what to look for when shopping around before making your purchase.

Certain things separate a professional tree trimmers’ pole saw from one you’ll find at your local hardware store. These features often include:

  • Automatic bar and chain oiler
  • Side-access chain tensioner
  • Anti-vibration system
  • Button pressed purge pump primer
  • Mult-function control handle
  • Fiberglass, aluminum, plastic, and brass construction

Longest Pole Chainsaw

What is the longest pole saw? Well, the answer is not straightforwards. Pole saws often have adjustable poles that reach varying lengths. Professional pole saws can reach from 30 inches to 15 feet.

Most Powerful Pole Saw

Poweful pole saws will have a larger engine cc (cubic centimeters) displacement. However, they will not be as powerful as a handheld regular gas chainsaw.

The most powerful pole saws will have engine displacement ranging between 20-27 cc.

Chainsaw Pole Saw

Extendable Pole Saw

Pole saws are typically designed to be extendable. That way, you can use it at various different lengths according to your needs. However, the longer the pole saw, the harder it is to balance and the more strength and coordination the user needs.

This is why professionals are usually the ones who use long extended pole saws.

Pole saws can be extended by loosening up the tightener at the end of the pole, so the extender can slide out. This can nearly double the length of the reach of the saw. Extendable pole saws have internal drive shafts up the inside of the pole that allow for extension.

Are Pole Chainsaws Any Good?

Yes, pole saws work well, for certain cutting tasks that require them. They are best for reaching tree limbs that are high off the ground and too far for a person to reach safely. Because power tools can become extremely dangerous in the wrong hands, it’s important to buy only high-quality equipment and use it correctly for its intended purpose.

Highly Rated Pole Chainsaws

Greenworks 40V 8-Inch Cordless Pole Saw, 2Ah Battery and Charger Included

WORX WG309 8 Amp 10″ Electric Pole Saw

PROYAMA 90-180 Degree 42.7cc Head Adjustable Gas Pole Chainsaw for Tree Trimming

How Far Does A Pole Saw Extend?

Pole saws can extend a good distance overhead. This typically ranges from 7-20 feet.

Pole saw blades usually range from 8″- 10″, depending on the type of blade. The Pole, which can be either telescoping or expandable.

How Thick Of A Branch Can A Pole Saw Cut?

Many people would be surprised to know that pole saws can cut thick branches. But how big and how thick?

Pole saws can cut through 10-inches limbs farily quickly. Powerful pole saws can cut limbs 12-15 inches in diameter. These are the sorts of limbs attached to a small to medium sized tree.

Professional grade pole saws can larger limbs than those available to homeowners (up to 20-25 inches in diameter). However, the limbs will be so big that they will put your safety at risk.

Gas Vs. Electric Pole Saw

Gas and electric pole saws have their own strenghts and weaknesses. The main difference between an electric and a gas pole saw is the power source. The inner workings of both machines are basically the same, with a telescoping poles to extend their reach and a cutting mechanism that uses a long blade or chain. The only significant difference lies in how they generate this power.

Gas powered pole saws operate just like their chainsaw cousins. They use a gas and oil mixture for fuel, and require bar and chain oil in a separate reservoir.

Electric pole saws are often less powerful than gas versions, but only need a power cord connected to a generator or outlet, or a rechargeable lithium ion battery.

Which Is Better Gas Or Electric Pole Saw?

Both gas and electric pole saws are good at what they do. However, which one is preferrable depends on certain factors, including:

  • Cost
  • Available fuel / power (gas, electricity)
  • Operator’s lifestyle and storage requirements
  • Noise output
  • Tree branch diameter
  • How often the pole saw is used.

Both gas and electric pole saws can cut through 5-10 inch diameter limbs in a matter of seconds.

Electric pole saws are not just safer, but they are cheaper to use than gas powered ones. If you don’t need something heavy duty for commercial work, an electric pole saw is a good choice. However, in most cases where you’ll be using a pole saw for hours on end or in places where electricity isn’t available it’s necessary to have a gas pole saw.

Are Pole Saws Safe?

Yes, if they are used in a safe way. Pole saws can be safely used if the operator knows how to use it and the risks involved.

What are some risks involved with using a pole saw? The main risk for injuries from ordinary chainsaws is from kickback – which occurs when the blade binds up, then comes back into the operator. However, pole saws have a chain seperated from the user by a good distance. Kickback on a pole saw could result in it cutting a power line or the operator losing control and dropping it on someone or something nearby.

Pole saws are safe when operated by a trained professional or ameteur with good spacial awareness. Long tree branches will fall to the ground, some from great heights. This means that a pole saw will leave a mess in a wide area. Make sure to have an area marked off with orange cones or ground stakes so any cars or anyone passing by will avoid it.

Pole saws actually pose as much a risk to people or animals nearby as they do to the person using them.

Gas Pole Saw

Gas pole saws have some advantages over their electric cousins. They’re light and poweful, and you can take them just about anywhere.

The downsides? Gas pole saws produce fumes and loud noise when they run. They also must be refilled with fuel, meaning a mixture needs to be made every time it runs out of gas.

Also, keep in mind that a gas pole saw is heavy enough to be dangerous if it falls from several feet up.

Battery Powered Pole Saw

Battery powered pole saws do not have power cords that limit their range. However, battery powered pole saws have a limited run time. The exact amount of run time will vary from tool to tool depending on the battery type and size, as well as other factors.

Cordless Pole Saw

For example, the more cutting you do with your cordless pole saw, the less run time you can expect out of each charge. A fully charged cordless pole saw, using a 40-volt lithium battery will last between 10 -30 minutes. This equates to hundreds of tree cuts between charges.

Battery powered pole saws can reach a good height. Professional models can extend between 5-10 feet beyond their base position. Just like gas pole saws, their engine is at the bottom and a driveshaft runs up the length of the pole to the chain at the top. A hand trigger will control the speed of the blade.

Pole Saw Vs. Pole Pruner

Pole saws and pole pruners are similar, but differ in one key way: one is a chainsaw and one is just a saw.

Pole saws sound like chainsaws, because they are! They make a loud buzzing sound from the gas motor and the chain rotating around the bar.

The pole saw cutting head is about 10 inches long that resembles a typical chainsaw blade.

Pole saws have fairly long bars allowing for flexible cutting of thick branches. The chain oil reservoir is located at the end of the saw next to the cutting chain.

Pole pruner blades are similar in length. A variety of blades may be available depending on the manufacturer, but they usually range in size from 9 to 14 inches or more.

Pole pruners use either a saw-like blade that extends at the tip as well as a pruning shear attached to a rope that the user pulls to cut small branches. This gives then flexibility to get the tree trimming job done. However, using pole pruners requires significant hand strength to both hold the tool and cut the tree branch.

If you need to cut many tree branches, it is probably best to get an electric or gas powered pole saw.

Both pole saws and pole pruners are great for anyone who owns property with many trees, or works as an arborist or groundsman.

Pole Saw Fuel – What Does It Require?

Gas powered pole saws require fuel mixtures, just like regular chainsaws to operate. The fuel can be either premixed, mixed on the spot with the appropriate mixing tool, or just brought in already mixed. The best choice is premixed gas, because you do not have to mix anything and are guaranteed consistent performance every time you use your chainsaw.

Mixing Gas Saw Fuel yourself can be very dangerous if done improperly. Make sure to keep it away from any sparks or open flames and always store the fuel in a cool, shaded location.

In Closing

Pole saws are a very versatile tool. They can allow a person cut hard to reach tree limbs to prevent them from potentially falling and hurting someone or damaging property. If you choose to use a pole saw, remember that normal chainsaw safety practices still apply.

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Nick Klamecki, Author
About Nick Klamecki, Author

Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use. Learn more about Nick here or connect with him on LinkedIn | Medium