Pole saws are a great benefit for both professional arborialists and home owners with a lot of trees to care for. Anything that keeps you off a ladder in the backyard will save your back and legs. It will also keep you safer as you work.
There is also the big plus of being able to see what you are doing more easily. If you prune froma a ladder it is hard to know if you have got the shape you want without coming down and stepping back to see your progress. It can be disheartening to discover you have cut too much and left a tree or shrub in a strange shape!
So having decided that you will benefit from a pole saw how do choose? Do you need gas powered or electric? You might even be OK with neither. Small pruning jobs can always be done with a hand operated pole saw or pruner.
How Power Pole Saws Work
Powered pole saws are like mini chainsaws on an extension pole. The piece of steel that the chain with its many blades speeds around is called the bar. A typical, powered pole saw has a bar of about ten inches, whareas a chainsaw can have a bar of up to three feet.
Whether you choose a gas or electric model you need to look after the chain. Usually this means oiling the chain before use (or filling an oil reservoir). You will also need to tighten the chain if it is loose. This is a simple adjustment with the tool a manufacturer supplies.
Some people will sharpen the blades on the chain but this is quite a skilled kob and, often, it is better to buy a new chain.
Most DIY pole saws will work at a height of around twelve feet. Professional pole saws can be much longer.
The more powerful the saw and the longer the extension pole the more dificult they are to handle. For pruning at high levels (up to twenty feet) a hand operated pole pruner can be a good option. It might be slower but it can get the job done safely!
Where Electric Pole Saws are Best.
Electric pole saws have plenty going for them. There should never be a problem starting one. Most have automatic cut offs to prevent motor burn outs if they jam in a tree. They tend to be lighter than gas pole saws- this can be a big issue when you are waving around a sharp, mini chain saw on the end of a pole! They are also very quiet in use which means for most people the job is much more enjoyable.
This page looks at the different model available, in detail : Best Electric Pole Saws
Most pole saws can only be used as pole saws. Some, like the one pictured below, can be removed completely from the pole and used as a small chain saw. This is useful for general work like cutting up fallen branches or even making a rustic table!
Where Gas Pole Saws are Best
Most professional arborialists will use a gas pole saw. There are a number of reasons for this. One is you don't need to worry about being near a power supply and running a power cable. Another is that gas pole saws are usually more powerful. If you are in a hurry or need to cut big branch- over five or six inches thick, say, a gas device gives you what you need.
The problems of starting a gas saw are less of an issue for pros too. A gas pole saw used everyday is much easier to start than a gas saw that has been stored in a shed for several months by a home owner who only prunes a couple of times a year.
The biggest disadvantage for homeowners can be the weight. If you are super fit and strong you will have no problems using one but for many of us a fifteen pound tool on the end of a fifteen foot pole is hard work!
Having said that, Poulan offer some lightwieght, easy to handle, models like the one pictured below. This has the engine mounted in the handle which makes it much easier to handle.
Poulan Pro PP338PT Gas Pole Saw
So Who Should Choose What?
I reckon if you have a smallish back yard say and a long extension lead that will get you anywhere you need to be, the best option is an electric pole saw. They are safer, lighter and quieter than gas. They are powerful enough to get most jobs done.
For anyone with a lot of trees to prune and a big area to get around, a gas saw is a worthwhile investment. If you look after the machine it will start OK and it will usually give you more power- as long as you are able to handle that power!