5 Questions To Consider When Buying A Pole Saw

Are you thinking of adding a pole saw to your tool shed? Keep these five questions in mind, and you’ll soon find the perfect pole saw for your needs.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Are you thinking of adding a pole saw to your tool shed? If you regularly find yourself pruning trees, then don’t hesitate to make the investment.

From selectively pruning fruit trees to removing dead lower branches from tall coniferous trees, a pole saw allows you to trim otherwise out-of-reach branches without using a ladder.

Here are five questions to ask when shopping for a pole saw.

1. Powered or Manual?

The biggest decision to make is whether to opt for a power saw or a manual saw.

A manual saw is simply a saw blade at the end of the pole. You’ll slice through branches by pulling and pushing the pole back and forth in a sawing motion. In contrast, a powered saw uses a gasoline engine or battery to power a chainsaw that does the cutting for you.

The simplicity of a power saw is appealing—you don’t need chain oil, and there isn’t an engine to maintain or a battery to charge. I use a manual pole saw, and it’s pleasantly lightweight. But a manual pole saw (like any manual saw) can be tiring to operate, so users who have a lot of branches to trim may want to opt for a powered model.

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2. Gas or Electric?

If you’re looking to buy a powered pole saw, you’ll have to decide whether you want a gas or electric model. Gasoline engines offer lots of power and can be quickly refueled if your engine runs dry on the job, but like any small engine they require maintenance, put out exhaust fumes, and are noisy to use.

An electric pole saw gets away from those negatives, but you may sacrifice some power, especially on smaller models. And if the battery runs out, you’ll have to interrupt your project while the battery recharges. You may want to invest in multiple batteries to alleviate that concern.

3. How Long Is the Pole?

The whole point of a pole saw is to be able to trim high branches while standing securely on the ground. So how high are the branches you need to trim? Measure the height before buying a pole saw to ensure the model you purchase is long enough.

The length of the pole will likely be adjustable, but the maximum length is the number you’re mainly interested in. If you’ll be cutting branches 16 feet above the ground, an 8-foot pole saw is going to be too short, but a 13-foot model should suffice (since you’ll be holding the saw several feet above the ground).

4. Can I Trade the Saw for Other Attachments?

Some power pole saws are more versatile than first meets the eye. You can remove the chainsaw from the end and attach other tools instead—for example, a string trimmer or hedge trimmer. This way, a single gasoline engine or electric motor can be used to power multiple tools, saving you money and maintenance.

5. Does It Come with a Built-in Pruner?

My manual pole saw has a bonus feature: a bypass pruning lopper triggered by pulling a rope from ground level. It’s a quick and easy way to trim small branches—all I have to do is hook the pruner over the branch and pull the rope. It’s less tiring to use than the saw, and it works great when reaching high to trim flexible branches that won’t saw easily, as you might when pruning the top of a fruit tree.

Keep these five questions in mind, and you’ll soon find the perfect saw for your tree-pruning needs.

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