We use pruning saws to cut through wood, usually the branches of trees and large bushes. But pruning isn’t only about trimming trees to improve their form and make them look more attractive. We also prune to remove dead wood and diseased branches and to encourage the development of fruit and flowers.
There are many different types of pruning saws, some of which are straight and others that are curved. The type you choose will depend on your more specific needs. One of the primary differences is that they are designed to be used at different heights. Another is that they have different sawing capabilities.
What Are Pruning Saws?
We use pruning saws for cutting branches of trees and bushes when they are too thick to cut with garden shears or longer-handled loppers. There are different types, including those that fold for storage and pole pruning saws that are designed to reach the upper branches of trees.
The blade length of saws used for hand pruning trees varies in length up to 10, 15, and even 36 inches for forestry use. The blades are typically made from steel or harder high-carbon steel.
Pruning saws either have curved or straight blades with fine to large teeth. The tooth configuration is important because it will determine how the saw cuts.
Some teeth slope forward, producing a pulling action. Others slope backward and have a pushing action.
When the teeth of pruning saws extend straight out, they can cut with either a pulling or pushing action. The number of teeth in each inch of the blade also affects performance.
The lower the teeth per inch (TPI), the quicker the saw will cut, but it tends to leave rough cutting edges. When the TPI is higher, it takes longer to cut branches, but the cut will be smoother.
When hand pruning, you can also use a bow saw. These have a bow-shaped handle and a long, straight coarse blade with lots of cross-cut teeth.
You can use pruning saws to cut branches that are anything from 2 inches in diameter. But a lightweight bow saw is better suited for cutting logs up to 6 inches in diameter.
What is a straight pruning saw?
A straight pruning saw has a straight blade. Designed for hand pruning, they are versatile tools that are commonly used for sawing green wood and sap.
Despite its straight blade, straight pruning saws often have curved handles that are shaped rather like a pistol grip. A 10-inch long model is ideal for cutting branches that are up to 4 or 5 inches thick.
Straight pruning saws are designed to have a reach between your hips and head height. When you are sawing within this range you will find your forward-to-back arm action is comfortable.
What is a curved pruning saw?
A curved pruning saw has a curved blade and curved handle. While they can be used for cutting smaller branches, they are best suited for heavy-duty sawing.
Curved blades are designed for pruning higher into trees or below the waste. If you use a curved blade when sawing between the height of your hip and head, you will tend to sway or curve the saw without thinking. This is due to the action of the curved blade.
Difference between straight vs curved pruning saws
The obvious difference between straight and curved pruning saws is the shape of the blade. But, as already mentioned, the two types are intended to be used at different heights.
Additionally, curved pruning saws are better for heavy-duty cutting. Straight saws are more practical for smaller branches.
Another difference between these two types of saws is that because straight-blade pruning saws have a simpler design, they can also be used for general woodworking projects. But they aren’t suitable for cutting in high-up or awkward low-down positions.
Curved blades, on the other hand, excel when you are sawing low down.
Things to consider when choosing between straight vs curved pruning saws
The first thing to consider when choosing the best pruning saws is what you need. For example, consider how tall the tree is and how thick the branches you need to cut are.
Look at what various products, like Silky Saw, have to offer. Then determine what works best for you.
Generally, a straight saw is the best choice for multi-purpose use. While designed for use between your hips and head height, you can extend the reach for cutting branches by using a ladder.
If you are more likely to be sawing low down or above your head, then a curved blade pruning saw will be a better choice. But you need to use a slightly arched position to work with it, which can be uncomfortable.
If you’re not very fit, a straight saw blade will be less demanding on your body muscles.
Whichever type of pruning saw you opt for, good advice is to work with gravity, cutting from the top of the branch downward. And if you are cutting very heavy branches, start by cutting a notch at the bottom of the branch with your pruning saw to stop it from tearing.
Learning From Forestry Workers
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forestry Service mentions several pruning saws in their publication, Handtools for Trail Work. Mostly, they focus on pruning saws that are useful for cutting smaller branches or limbs of trees and brush.
While this is geared toward foresters, it gives some useful insight into the benefits of straight vs curved pruning saws. Interestingly, the only straight-blade saws they include are an all-purpose saw with a 21-inch blade and a double-edge pruner with fine teeth for light trimming.
Examples of curved blade models include a general-purpose pruner that is ideal for the fast-cutting of small tree limbs. Weighing just half a pound, it has a 14-inch blade with seven reverse-rip points per inch.
There is also a professional, heavy-duty tree-pruning saw with extra-large teeth for quick cutting of large branches in their list. The flat-ground blade is 26 inches long and it has a pulling action.
They also favor folding pruning saws that are easy for foresters to carry. This might not be a consideration in your own garden environment.
Is a curved pruning saw better than a straight one?
No, a pruning saw with a curved blade isn’t better than a pruning saw with a straight blade. But that doesn’t mean that pruning saws with straight blades are any better than those with curved blades, although many people maintain they are more versatile.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of hand pruning, it might be a good idea to have at least one curved and one straight pruning saw available.
Ultimately, it’s not so much about whether the pruning saw has a curved or a straight blade. What you need is to ensure that when you are pruning trees and bushes in your garden, you have the right tools for the job.
Remember that it’s essential to train young trees and encourage them to develop a strong structure. If you don’t prune them properly (or at all) you will end up having to tackle unnecessarily heavy pruning later in their lives.
Use the Right Tools for Pruning
The University of Minnesota Extension has some excellent advice for home gardeners. First and foremost, whether you use garden shears, long-handled lopping shears, or pruning saws intended for hand pruning, the blades must be sharp and well-maintained.
Generally, garden or pruning shears will cut into young branches that are not more than ¾ inches in diameter. Lopping shears will cut branches double this diameter because they provide greater leverage.
You can use hand saws when branches are bigger than 1-2 inches in diameter, but choose a tooth suitable for your needs. For example, a tri-cut or razor tool pruning saw will cut up to 4 inches very easily.
Pole saws, as mentioned earlier, are ideal for an extended reach. But be warned, they can be difficult to handle and it’s not always easy to achieve a nice, clean cut.
If all else fails, you might prefer the option of a small chainsaw. You can buy models that operate with electricity, or the cordless type, which is powered by fuel.
The caveat here is that you should never use a chainsaw to reach above your shoulders. If you have to go that high, rather use a pruning saw with a straight blade.
If you’re faced with the task of pruning bushes or trees, it’s important to use the right tools for the job. Presuming garden shears won’t do the job, you need to choose a pruning saw of some sort.
The pruning saws we have discussed have straight or curved blades and include the ever-popular bow saw. Shop around and decide what works best for you.
Remember to consider the height of the trees you are pruning as well as the size of the branches you need to cut. You may not find one tool for the job.
But then, when you buy a drill, you won’t ever be able to use only one size drill bit. And no toolkit will be complete with only one sized spanner.
It’ll be a small investment for an improved job.