When you have a thick vine or a branch that you need to cut and you just can’t seem to reach it from the ground, then you have three choices here: you can call in a professional, use a ladder, or use a pole saw. When it’s something that I can do myself, I’m not too keen on calling in a professional and I’m not too happy with having to stand on a ladder with a pair of cutters or a chainsaw. Therefore, my choice would be the pole saw …
Don’t worry, if you’re not familiar with a pole saw, this guide I have written for you will teach you everything you need to know in order to get started …
Before You Start
Before you take out those tools, it would be a good idea to do some research (Google is your best friend when it comes to research online) and look up how to prune the specific tree you’re trying to prune. You need to make sure the tree doesn’t require any type of special pruning technique. For example, there are some trees, like flowering trees and even fruit trees that should be pruned after they’re done blooming. On the same note, most evergreen trees don’t require any special pruning, unless you’re needing to remove dead growth.
Reasons to Prune Trees
There are numerous reasons as to why someone would want to prune a tree. It’s a good idea that you make tree maintenance in your yard a regular habit so that they can continue to grow and stay healthy.
Many people only think about trimming their trees after a big storm has damaged the branches or if the lower branches are hanging down and getting in the way. Some additional reasons to trim trees would be to encourage fruit and flower production, to prevent a disease by giving the tree better airflow, to encourage the tree to grow bigger, or to shape the tree to your desired shape.
The Best Time to Prune Trees
The best time to prune trees would be when the tree has gone dormant. This means the best time to trim branches on the tree would be during the winter months. By cutting the tree while it is still dormant, this will lower the risk of pests getting in the open cut wounds and it will also lower the risk of the tree getting a disease. Pruning before spring will help promote new growth. If you live in an area where climates are harsh, then it would be a good idea to wait until the coldest weather is done before you prune the trees, which would be early spring or late winter. In milder climates though, you can trim a tree anytime during the cold months.
Don’t worry, if you want to trim tree branches during the spring and summer months, you can still do it. Damaged or dead branches can also be removed during this time. Just try to avoid cutting on rainy days or when it’s really humid outside.
The second you start to think about trimming branches and vines that are 14+ feet in the air, that’s when you start walking on potentially dangerous grounds. When professionals drop a limb, they normally use ropes on a pulley system so that they can get it safely down to the ground. However, when you’re cutting branches with pruners and pole saws, you can’t do that, so you’re dealing with an “uncontrolled drop.” Heavy and high wood can hurt, damage and kill when it falls to the ground, so it is important that you take caution.
Heavy – Pole saws can be heavy to work with, especially those that have extensions that go above 8 feet.
Power Lines – Don’t ever work around power lines, this is when you would call in the professionals for help.
Familiarize Yourself with Techniques – If the branch is big, familiarize yourself with techniques that can be used in order to reduce weight before you start cutting.
Pole Saw Parts
Before you move any further on learning how to use a pole saw, I suggest learning about the parts on the pole saw. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the pole saw, this way it won’t be such a foreign object to you.
- Chain Oil Bulb – While you’re cutting, I suggest pressing the chain oil bulb every 30 seconds. By doing this, you will be releasing oil to the chain, which will help it run smoother.
- Front Hand Guard – This is a little piece located on top of the pole saw and it is responsible for protecting your left hand.
- Oil Level Window – This shows you how much oil you have left for the chain. When you’re operating the pole saw, the oil shouldn’t get below half-way. If it does, stop and put oil in it.
- Guide Bar Tip and Guide Bar – This is responsible for guiding and supporting the saw chain.
- Chain Oil Cap –This is where you put chain and bar oil so that the chain can be lubricated when you’re operating it.
- Saw Chain – This is the one doing the cutting.
- Bucking Spike – As you’re cutting limbs, this will help you maintain stability.
- Extension Boom – If you need more reach, then the extension boom will help you – it attaches to the chainsaw.
- Rear Handle – This will allow you to keep a nice grip on the saw.
- Throttle Lockout – This is a safety feature on the pole saw that will prevent it from starting when it isn’t being used.
How to Use a Pole Saw – Step by Step
Step One: Clearing the Work Area
Before you start cutting, safety first! If there are people around, have them get away from the area because you know, falling trees and people just don’t mix. Also, make sure the area is clear of any hazards you could trip over, like holes, fallen branches, exposed roots, and so on. In case something were to go wrong, you will need to be able to move quickly and safely out of harms way.
Step Two: Planning
In the next step, you will be planning where you need to cut. If you’re removing a single long branch, it will normally require jump and preliminary cuts before you make the final cut. By doing this, you will be reducing the weight of the limb. When you’re cutting, try to make horizontal cuts.
Special Note: With most cuts, I recommend starting out from the top part of the branch.
Step Three: Positioning the Saw
Make sure you have a nice firm grip on the pole saw with both hands. Raise the saw up to a vertical position and take a brief pause in order to control the weight. Once you’re sure you can control the weight, move forward and reposition the saw to the spot you plan on cutting, let the weight of the saw rest on the branch (unless you plan on making a jump cut).
Step Four: Positioning Yourself
As you’re holding the tool, position yourself so that you’re able to hold the end at chest level while you’re standing to the side of the limb you will be cutting. Don’t ever stand below the limb, always stand to the side. When you’re standing to the side, you’re pole will be at a nice angle for you to cut, not up and down. If you have a pole saw that can be adjusted (those are the best), you may be able to add length to make it possible.
Step Five: Cutting
When you first start cutting, go slow and cut perpendicular to the limb. This way, those first strokes will bite in as much as they can, even if you plan on the rest of the cut going in a different direction. You will want to make a good groove in the wood, which will be used to guide those faster strokes later. For these early strokes, though, if the branch is sloped, them the saw will try to slip to the side. When you find the saw slipping, stop what you’re doing, take a short rest and then reposition the saw.
Step Six: Move Forward and Finish
Once the saw is securely positioned in the groove, you will be able to increase the speed of your stroke. Just like pruning saws, pole saws use gravity to help them. As you’re cutting, make sure you watch the branch, so that you can be ready to move back if you need to.
Step Seven: Cleaning
Once the limb is down, it’s time to clean up your area. If another cut is required, before you make the next cut, remove the fallen limb from your work area so that you won’t trip over it.
Pole Saw Safety
I’ve written a fairly in-depth guide to safety in the Best Pole Saws Guide so if you want some more tips then take a look at that post. But for now this video from Remington is a good introduction.
Additional Operating and Pruning Tips
Start Small – If you’re new to trimming trees with a pole saw, it would be a good idea to start off small, then work your way into it.
Removing Large Limbs – When you’re removing large limbs from a tree, it is important that you take extra caution. When you remove large limbs, it can be risky to the trees health. It would be best that you leave them be, unless you have a good reason to cut them, like if they’re damaged, or dead.
Take a Step Back – As you’re working on the tree, take a step back and look at the tree from different angles. When trimming branches, it’s easy to get carried away.
Trimming – Don’t trim more than ¼ of the living tree branches. If you have to trim any more than that, do it next year.
Using a pole saw isn’t that complicated, just take the directions and tips I just gave you and keep them in mind.