Pruning Saws

If you plan to do some serious pruning, you’ll need a pruning saw—it’s the third most important item after hand shears and loppers. Pruning saws come in styles that can handle limbs from 2 to 25 inches in diameter.

Because the teeth on the standard curved pruning saw are angled back, the cutting action is on the pull. This makes it easier to do overhead work—the curve in the blade automatically forces the teeth into the kerf (the cut) as you pull.

The blade should be made of tempered steel. Although tempering may not be marked, if you snap the blade with your fingernail it will emit a clear, ringing sound if it is tempered. The blade should be flexible; that way, when it catches and bends in the kerf, it will snap back to its original straight position. When a saw blade gets bent, it must be replaced.

Check the number of teeth per inch. They usually run from four to eight. Four to six teeth per inch is good for green or sap wood; six to eight teeth per inch is a better choice for hard or dry wood. If you have a mixture of woods, consider a double-edged saw with both types.

Look carefully at each individual tooth. On a good saw, each tooth will be beveled to provide the cutting edge. Teeth on cheaper saws have no cutting bevel.

Curved-Blade Saw

This is the workhorse saw for nursery people and home pruners. This spring steel blade is 12 to 16 inches long; six teeth per inch do all-purpose cutting. The handle is made of ash or hickory. It has a comfortable grip for sawing at any angle, including overhead.

Straight Double-Edged Saw

This is a good combination saw for medium and heavy pruning. One side has six or eight teeth per inch with small gullets for cutting hard or dry wood. The other side has four to six larger, raker teeth per inch for quickly cutting green or sap wood. When using these saws, be careful not to inadvertently gash one limb with the saw’s top edge while trying to saw another limb. Wounds like these subject the tree to disease and pests.

Pole Saw

The above saws can also come on the end of a long pole for reaching high or inaccessible branches. See Pole Pruners for a description of handles.

Bow Saw

These saws come in a wide variety of sizes to cut wood anywhere from 10 to 25 inches in diameter. If you plan to use a bow saw for pruning, choose a type with a tapered nose. This enables the front end to slip past other limbs on the tree more easily. A tension clip holds the blades in position. Because of this tension, the metal is much thinner than it is on saws that must support their own rigidity. Therefore, it makes a smaller kerf and cutting is faster and easier than with an ordinary pruning saw. The bow saw is definitely preferred for cutting large limbs or in uncrowded cutting conditions.

Saw Care

After use, remove vegetation from the saw blade and wipe the blade down with an oily rag or spray with a penetrating oil. Since the teeth on most pruning saws are angled back (they are straight on conventional saws), they are difficult to sharpen by machine. This means they must be sharpened by hand. You can pay extra to have this done professionally, or you can do it yourself—probably well enough, too. First place the saw between two boards in a vise to keep the blade from bending while you work on it. Use a web file or a knife file about 6 to 8 inches long. Note that every tooth on the saw is beveled at an angle opposite the one preceding it. Cheap saws may have no bevel but be ground straight across like a crosscut saw.

Start sharpening at one end. Follow the existing bevel, which should be about 65 degrees. If there is no bevel, file straight across. Simultaneously file the leading bevel of one tooth and the trailing bevel of the adjoining tooth. Skip every other gullet and file the beveled edges first on one side, then —reversing the saw—on the other side.