How to Use a Pole Saw or Pole Pruner + Essential Safety Tips

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Do you have a limb or branch that’s just out of your reach? I’ve been there, bothered by those unruly branches either hindering the tree’s growth or simply looking out of place. That’s when I turn to pole pruners.

In this guide, I’ll show how to use a pole saw or pruner so you can use this tool effectively and efficiently.

Using a Pole Saw in 10 Steps

Step #1: Prepare and Clear the Space

Make sure there are no people or valuable property in the area where you will be standing to cut down tree limbs. Also, check for potential trip hazards, like exposed roots, to ensure safe and easy movement across the workspace.

Roping off the area will prevent passers-by from being too near to your job in a public area.

Step #2: Determine the Parts You’ll Cut

Remember that making several smaller jump cuts is uncommon before making the final cut on a single huge branch.

cutting with pole saw

If you can choose where to make your cuts on the twig or vine, do it on horizontal or nearly horizontal surfaces.

Step #3: Start Cutting the Lower Branches

Consider how you will get to the topmost limb or twig that needs to be cut down. In most cases, this entails amputating the lower extremities first.
Safely and easily cut branches from higher up in the tree by clearing the way by removing the ones on the lower part.
To begin, devise a strategy for removing the tree’s lower limbs. Get started with the lower planks of wood and work your way up.

Step #4: Position Yourself

When using a pole saw, always make sure to stand to the side and not directly underneath the branch you’re cutting. This positioning ensures you’re at a safer distance when the branch eventually falls. Safety first!

trimming an old tree with a Stihl Pole Saw

Make sure the pole saw’s end is at chest height. Get a good grip on the pole saw at an angle to get the best results from your cuts. 

Step #5: Set the Pole Saw’s Length

Once you get into a proper position, set the height of your pole saw before you begin cutting.

How you do this will vary with each saw, therefore, it’s best to check the handbook.

The next step is to hold the pole saw at chest level and extend it so the blade can reach the lowest branch.

Step #6: Adjust its Blade

You’ll need both hands to get a heavy-duty pole saw to where you’ll be cutting. Put the saw down for a second and ensure you can handle it.

Sun Joe SWJ803E 10 Inch 8.0 Amp Electric Multi-Angle Pole Chain Saw

Once you’ve gained confidence in your ability to maintain balance, you can shift the saw’s blade to support the branch’s weight. But do not begin cutting yet.

Step #7: Cut Away

First, cut perpendicularly to make your first strokes sink in as much as possible. Cut even though the rest of the cut will need to go in a different direction. Making a groove can help direct your subsequent, faster strokes.
If the branch is slanted, your saw may try to slip sideways during these preliminary strokes. If the saw slips, pause what you’re doing, rebalance your position, and then try again.

Step #8: Finish the Cut

Hand pruners make their cuts with the gravity of the pull stroke. Watch the branch closely, especially as it gets closer to the point of dropping, and be prepared to leave if necessary.

Step #9: Clear the Space Again

Once the limb is on the ground, it’s essential to move it aside. This will provide a clear workspace for further cutting. As you navigate around to address other branches, always be mindful of your footing to avoid any mishaps.

Greenworks PRO 80V 10 Inch Brushless Cordless Polesaw

Step #10: Move on to the Next Section to Cut

After you’ve chopped off one branch, you can move to make subsequent cuts in a correct and safe position.

First, you should trim the lower limbs, then move on to the upper ones. Again, ensure you’re standing well away from the limb you’ll be cutting.

You should raise your pruner so the cutting edge is leveled with your chest and the branch is within reach.  

When the groove is finished, you can quickly raise your stroke speed to work off the rest of the wood. You’ll want to move the fallen branch out of the way after it lands.

Repeat this process until all of the unwanted twigs have been cut away.

cutting the next part

Hold the saw blade vertically against the branch for a clean cut. Once positioned correctly, you can begin making the groove.

Cautions to Know During Tree Cutting

Pruning branches from the ground can be risky, I know. Like most seasoned arborist, I often use a pulley system with ropes to lower heavy logs safely. But when working with pole saws and pruners, the wood tends to fall without much control.

I can’t stress enough how careful one needs to be. A falling branch or tall piece of wood can cause severe injuries or worse. So, always steer clear of trees near or overhead power lines. 

You should not use your pruning tools to fall overhead boughs until you have mastered the procedures of making preliminary and jump-cuts [1]. These techniques will reduce the tree’s weight before making the final cut.

Pole Saw Cutting Tips and Basics

pole saw

Safety Tips: What to Wear, Which Branches to Cut, and Where to Stand

cutting tree


I hope this guide has given you a solid understanding of how to use a pole saw both effectively and safely. I’ve always found the pole saw to be an invaluable tool for tree-cutting tasks, but it’s vital to be aware of the potential risks involved.

If you’re feeling uncertain about where to begin, I’d recommend consulting with a fellow expert to ensure the job is within your safe capabilities.

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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