Pruning Chainsaws: How To Choose Them

Pruning chainsaws are used for pruning! Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it?

Pruning a tree with a chainsaw

It is, of course, but you don't always make that choice even when you would need to.

Let me tell you a story.

Ten years ago, more or less, I worked for a cooperative that dealt with green maintenance and forest cutting.

Well, among us members, the small pruning chainsaw was amicably referred to as "the mosquito", both because of its light weight and because it made a much less deafening noise than the much more powerful chainsaws we normally used.

Among us, almost nobody wanted to use the poor "mosquito" because power tools are a bit like cars: they are often an extension of male virility.

Who doesn't prefer a big, powerful car to a small runabout?

This is what happened with "the mosquito": we all avoided it, preferring the heavy and powerful chainsaws with cutting bars of over 40 centimeters.

"The mosquito" was an outcast.


Until we had to do substantial pruning work that required us to operate at height (or from the ground with our arms up).

On such occasions we would all, after a few tries, send the big chainsaws to rest and call the mosquito back into service.

I know what you're thinking: "with a big chainsaw I can cut small branches, but with a small one I certainly can't cut big trees".

Well, I can't say I blame you, but I invite you to consider one thing: either you have the arms of the Incredible Hulk or after a few minutes it becomes really tiring to hold a heavy chainsaw with your arms up.

As I have said on other occasions, there are jobs where fatigue leads us to make mistakes, and there are jobs where making a mistake can be very, very dangerous.

It's true, then, that you can do it faster with a big chainsaw, but if they have invented special pruning chainsaws there is obviously a reason.

I can agree, however, that with a low-powered, low-end pruning chainsaw, it becomes difficult to do a good pruning job.

The reason?

Low power means slowing down the cutting of the branch and this gives time for the branch to bend and maybe debark part of the trunk.

In that case we need to make another cut in order to detach the branch permanently, without considering that each cut is still a "wound" that we are making to the tree, and for obvious reasons the wound must be as clean as possible to prevent the tree from suffering.

A poorly made cut also encourages the establishment of pathogens and even puts the tree's life at risk.

That's why you need professional pruning chainsaws that are also handy to perform a perfect pruning.

Okay, but what factors to consider when choosing?

How to choose the right pruning chainsaw

Pruning trees is no less dangerous than cutting at the base of a large tree.

Of course, the weight of the wood that will fall will be very different, but even a branch, if it falls on our heads, can have important consequences.

The first thing, therefore, is to always equip yourself with all the necessary personal protective equipment, the second thing is to choose a chainsaw that is best suited to the work you are going to do.

Power Supply

In order to work, a chainsaw needs something to power it, usually gasoline but nowadays there are professional electric and even battery powered pruning chainsaws that do the job they were designed for.

The electric pruning saws are those that provide the best value for money but have the major limitation of being tied to a wire.

If we have to prune trees in the garden of the house we can also assume to use a very long extension cord that, from the house, brings electricity to our chainsaw, but in many other circumstances this is not feasible.

In these cases we resort to petrol-powered chainsaws, which normally reach even higher powers, in other cases we can rely on battery-powered mini chainsaws for pruning.


As I wrote at the beginning of this article, it's not just a matter of size, otherwise we would all buy the biggest and most powerful chainsaw to be on the safe side.

Size isn't everything, but that doesn't mean that size doesn't matter.

The guide bar on the pruning chainsaw must also be properly sized for the type of work we're going to be doing.

Typically, the cutter guide bar should be at least a couple of inches longer than the diameter of the branch we're going to cut.

This ensures that the cut is made in one go and that the chainsaw motor is not overworked.

That said, we can choose between small, traditional chainsaws, pole saws and battery-powered mini chainsaws.

The latter are great for those who work at height because they allow you to cut branches by holding the power tool with one hand, as if it were a gun.

This allows the free hand to anchor itself and avoid falls.

Safety harnesses should always be worn to anchor yourself, even more so if you are working professionally.

Operator position

If you need to prune a tree you must first decide from what position to do it.

Yes, because it is very different to operate from the ground, with a pruning chainsaw equipped with a telescopic arm, or to operate from above, with all the risks that work at height entails.

If you're working from the ground, you're bound to use a pole saw, which makes it very similar to a brushcutter.

With this type of pole saw you can comfortably work from the ground, but there are limits to the distance of branches you can reach.

For high branches you will still need to resort to a ladder or scaffolding.

The telescopic arm is also both an advantage and a disadvantage.

It is a disadvantage in the sense that in the case of tangled branches it can be difficult to find the correct position from the ground.

To cut a branch you should always cut from the top down because if you cut from the bottom up, the branch, due to gravity, tends to bend, jamming and blocking the chainsaw blade.

A jammed chainsaw is one of the most obnoxious things you can do when cutting a branch or tree because there is often no way to unjam it except to make a second cut with another chainsaw.

For those who don't have a spare chainsaw, the work is blocked until you find a way to open the cut in the wood to disengage the blade.
In short, when we have to prune trees, let's try to use pruning chainsaws, better if professional, more comfortable and handy for this kind of work, let's re-evaluate the "mosquitoes" and use the cutting "bison" for when it is really necessary.

DIY Editor
Do-it-yourself enthusiast. I started with the renovation of my flat and then I changhed this passion into my job.