Types of Saws for Cutting Trees

Saw Cutting Tree

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With the large variety of saws designed for cutting, pruning, and trimming trees, I thought it would be appropriate to make a page explaining a little about each one. Because there are so many different types, I’m going to keep things simple by combing them into broad categories.

For example, a folding hand saw is used by many people in the survival and bushcraft communities but they are generally considered pruning saws. As such, they’re grouped in the Pruning Saw section.

Also, please remember this page only contains saws meant for cutting timber; felling, pruning, and trimming. While it’s possible to use a circular saw to cut a tree branch I wouldn’t advise it.

They’re not meant for trimming trees and because of that, I won’t be adding them to the list. The same goes for the other saws designed for something other than cutting trees. Now that we’re on the same page, let’s get started.

Pruning Saw

Folding Hand Saw

The first kind of saw on our list is the pruning saw. A pruning saw typically has a curved blade between 6 inches – 12 inches in length. They are used, as their name implies, for pruning trees.

Pruning is the process in which you trim and remove dead or overgrown branches in order to increase the growth of the tree.

They’re used by arborists, landscapers, gardeners, homeowners, campers, and even survival enthusiasts.

Pruning saws are hand saws because they’re not gas or electric-powered. They’re held in your hand and you’re the power behind the tool. As such, many people refer to a pruning saw as a hand saw which is understandable.

Related: Best Hand Saws for Cutting Trees

The TPI (teeth per inch) varies between brands but most offer several options from coarse to fine. A coarse blade has lower TPI, typically between 5 – 10 while a fine blade has 11+ TPI.

A coarse blade is best for pruning and trimming fresh and softwood while a fine blade is better for cutting hardwood.

A folding hand saw is another type of pruning saw. They serve the same function with the difference of having a blade that folds into the handle. This is especially useful when packing a saw along for a hike or having the option of putting it in your pocket.

Aside from pruning, they’re a popular saw for camping because you can throw one in a backpack and forget about it until you need it. The best folding hand saws aren’t too expensive, ranging in price from $15 – $40.

Bow Saw

Bow Saw
Bow Saws on Amazon →

A bow saw is an all-around great saw for trimming, cutting logs, and pruning. They’re designed to cut on both the pull and the push. A single saw blade is stretched tight between either side of the bow.

A handle is positioned on one side while nuts and bolts are typically used to hold the blade in place. For most bow saws, the handle folds back and forth to tighten or loosen the saw blade; this comes in handy when replacing the blade.

Once a new saw blade is replaced, the handle should slide back in order to tighten the blade and remove the slack.

These are usually faster cutting than pruning saws but due to their size and shape, they’re not always a practical choice. Especially when dealing with tight spaces in between branches.

Pole Saw

Electric Pole Saw
Pole Saws on Amazon →

A pole saw is best described as a pruning saw attached to the end of a pole. They’re great for trimming those hard-to-reach tree limbs and branches. Instead of using a ladder, consider getting yourself a nice pole saw.

There are manual, electric, and gas-powered pole saws nowadays. A gas-powered pole saw is much like a chainsaw with an extension. They can be dangerous but, if you’re doing a lot of trimming, it’s worth considering a power pole saw. Electric pole saws, like the one pictured above, are powered by plugging in a power cord or a battery pack.

Related: Best Manual Pole Saws

Some of these have extendable poles to greatly increase their reach. Innovation has come a long way in recent years, too. Fiskars offers a pole saw with a small lopper attached to the bottom. It’s operated by pulling a rope that extends from the blade to the handle.

Crosscut Saw

Two-man Crosscut Saw

A crosscut saw is designed to cut perpendicular to the grain of the timber. There are one-man and two-man crosscut saws. The one-man crosscut is much more common.

You’ve likely seen a two-man crosscut saw on TV or in history books (similar to the one in the picture above). A two-man crosscut saw is sometimes called a felling saw because they were often used in felling trees. “Felling” is the process of cutting down timber.

As you can imagine, a two-man crosscut has a handle on both sides, and using one is a lot of work. However, before chainsaws came along, a two-made crosscut saw was faster than using a felling axe.

Not only can they be used to fell a tree but once the tree is down, it can be used in processing the lumber into smaller pieces.

Rope Chain Saw

Rope Chain Saw
See Rope Chain Saws on Amazon →

A rope chain saw is exactly what you would imagine; a chain with teeth and ropes on either end. To be clear, it’s not a chainsaw, as in a gas-powered chainsaw. It’s a chain with teeth, meant for sawing tree branches. It’s hard to explain so I’m hoping you’ll get a better understanding by looking at the picture above.

A rope chain saw is especially handy when trimming tree branches that are hard to reach. It can eliminate the need for a ladder in most cases. A rope with a weight is attached to both ends of the chain.

You use the weight to toss over a tree branch and retrieve the end as it comes down. Once the chain is positioned on the tree branch, simply pull either side of the rope until the branch is cut.


Chainsaws on Amazon →

I assume everyone knows what a chainsaw is. In case you don’t, a chainsaw is a cutting tool with teeth on a chain that is typically powered by a gas engine. A cutting chain is attached to the guide bar and mechanically powered to spin the chain. The cutting chain is what cuts through the wood.

A chainsaw is the fastest way to cut wood. Whether you’re trimming large branches, felling trees, or cutting firewood, this tool is the most effective. Needless to say, they can also be very dangerous.

Not only are there gas-powered chainsaws but nowadays you can buy electric chainsaws, too. They’re typically smaller and easier to handle, which makes them a viable option for many.

Reciprocating Saw

Reciprocating Saw
Reciprocating Saws on Amazon →

A reciprocating saw is powered by electricity, either by a cord or battery. They work by moving a saw blade back and forth very fast.

Because the blade is so thin, a reciprocating saw has many different uses; most of which aren’t for cutting trees. Having said that, there are pruning saw blades for reciprocating saws. Since they’re lightweight and easy to use, reciprocating saws are extremely efficient in trimming tree branches.

The only drawback to using a reciprocating saw is the cord. Trying to move around from one branch to another is cumbersome with an extension cord dangling behind you. Should you decide to get one, definitely consider getting a battery-powered reciprocating saw.


  • I will just mention that “kiln dried” firewood means that someone has burned fossil fuels to get your firewood dry. For anyone looking to burn firewood to reduce their carbon footprint this is counterproductive. I know that it’s not everyone’s primary concern, but food for thought when simply buying a year earlier and leaving the wood to sit more or less accomplishes the exact same thing without the waste.

    Enjoying the site.

    • YES! Thank you. (I’ve just stacked my lumber in the top of my garage, to be dried next summer in the heat.)

    • John, 99.9% agree with you unless waste heat is used for the drying process. Life these days needs more thought on the environmental impact on eveything we do from what we eat and its carbon foorprint to transport and heating,

    • Not that I care about carbon footprint, but there are solar kilns and wood-fired kilns, so not all use fossil fuels.

      • I was wondering whether we shouldn’t be concerned with limiting our axe usage. I mean, the more we split wood manually, the more energy we’ll use. The more energy we use, the hungrier we’ll get. I am concerned we will eat too much and therefore require more food to be produced which would require more trucks to replace the food we consumed. Those trucks will burn fossil fuels which will do something really bad. Then we’ll all die.

        I’m really freaked out right now.

  • Thank you for the review. Your article clearly covered the subject making the purchase decision that much easier. Very much appreciated!

  • How about soaking axe in container of oil to reenforce junction point ,where most breaks happen?

  • I’m trying to find more information on a small axe I have. It’s made in Germany, about 24” or so long, and it’s a hand written brand that looks like Tltis. But the internet has not helped so far

  • I have become a Collector of old vintage axes since last year, so I thoroughly enjoyed your article. I have an Original Iltis Ox-Head Brand axe with a 7” x 5” cutting edge. Not sure what the head weight is. I have a Hults Bruk vintage axe with a 1.5 pound head. A Sater Banko vintage axe that was my Father’s. It was made in Sweden. It has a 3 pound head. I recently hung another “Made in Sweden” vintage axe head, but I cannot find any axe makers marks or logo. It has a 3, with Made in Sweden under it. I assume it’s a 3 pound head, but curious about which company made it. It is older, but it cleaned up very well and you can tell it’s very good steel. Comments?

  • Hi John. Enjoyed your critique of the Fiskars hatchet. I have been in Wilderness Search and Rescue for about 45 years and have carried a hatchet (as needed) since my Boy Scouts days. I own both the Fiskars 28″ axe and the X-7. Both work very well to clear trails. I am wondering if you would be willing to perform and post the exact same handle test on your $ 150.00 hatchet for us as a comparison? Should my X-7 fail, I do plan to use my 21″ bow saw, Laplander folding saw and my K-Bar BK-2 as “plan B”. Thanks again…. Mike


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