Think of a hand saw as an extension of your body. It does what you cannot do. Some hand saws are made to be pull saws while others are push saws. Both types of saws will cut down the same tree. But what makes each saw different is how each motion of the saw feels different. For some, a Japanese pull saw may be easier to use than a Western push saw.
Remember, when cutting a tree, you will be using the saw for an extended period of time. If the saw does not feel right in your hands, not only will fatigue set in earlier but you will also be a danger to yourself and everyone around you. With the wrong saw, you are more likely to lose control of it.
How to Choose the Best Hand Saw for Cutting Trees
Know the Job
Before you even decide what type of saw to get, you need to know what kind of stresses your requirements will place on the saw. While all saws will get the same job done, choosing the right saw will get the job done faster, quicker and safer.
One-man VS Two-man Saws
The first question you will need to ask yourself in choosing a hand saw fit for cutting a tree is whether it will be a one-man or two-man job. If you only need to cut a small tree, then a one-handed one-man hand saw will do the trick. However, if it is a large tree like a big, majestic hardwood cedar tree, a two-man saw may be better for the job.
The biggest advantage of a two-man saw is, like its name suggests, the ability for two people to work on the same tree at the same time. This allows both to share the load and effort in the sawing process thereby allowing reducing the strain on an individual. However, for the two-man saw to operate efficiently, both partners have to be in sync with each other. That means, in the sawing process, each partner must be able to anticipate when one will push and the other, pull. If both partners are out of sync, each partner will start fighting against the other, both pulling or pushing at the same time. While such situations will only occur at the point when they’re at the end of the saw, repeating such a fight over the multiple cycles of sawing will add up.
When you are more likely to work on smaller trees, such as your own back yard saucer magnolia or Chinese magnolia, a one-man saw may be more appropriate. With a one-man saw, you are more likely to be able to have finer control over how your cuts are made. The downside though, is that you are bound to get tired more quickly.
Type of Saw
Not all hand saws are made the same. Pruning saws, bone saws, cross-cut saws, pole saws or rope chain saws, different saws do the same job differently.
As the name suggests, pruning saws are mainly used for pruning trees. Typically, pruning saws are smaller than other kinds of hand saws with a shorter blade length of between 5 -11 inches and a curved blade. These types of saws are best used on easier to access, lower to the ground branches. Their shorter blade length makes it easier to do finer precision work such as cutting off an awkwardly angled diseased branch.
Think of a pruning saw as a fine surgical scalpel. You generally want to use a pruning saw for hard to reach or awkwardly placed areas. Or to do finer landscaping work on your trees. They are not made to fell trees. While you can use a pruning saw in a pinch if you really need to fell a whole tree down to its stump, it is more likely that your teethes will go blunt first before the tree is taken down.
A special category of pruning saws are folding hand saws. As their name suggests, folding hand saws are made with the ability of the blade to fold into the handle, like a switchblade. Usually more expensive than your usual non-foldable pruning saw, foldable saws are popular with hikers and campers when packing space is a premium.
Pole saws are like the longer, taller cousins to pruning saws. As their name suggests, pruning saws are mounted on a long telescopic pole so that you are able to significantly extend the reach of your saw into hard to reach areas. When standing on a ladder still doesn’t allow you to reach the sides or crown of the trees, consider a pole saw. Some pole saws come in standard fixed-lengths while others have telescopic poles that allow you to vary the length. Regardless, pole saws are generally 6 – 24 ft long.
As the taller cousin to pruning saws, pole saws are generally used in the same way. The reach of the pole means that the amount of effort needed to use the saw is increased. This means that the blade cannot be too thick and the branch cannot be too thick or else, you will not have the strength to saw the blade through the wood. Because of their length, pole saws must be operated with a strict eye on safety. Since the cutting head will be far from you, it will be harder to control the blade. If the blade slips, the sheer length of the pole will mean that people further from you can get hit.
Crosscut – Bow Saws
As compared to pruning saws, bow saws are general-purpose saws. Shaped like a bow, the cutting edge is where the string should be. Due to the design of the bow saw, more control is afforded to you. This means that more force can be applied to the saw and thicker saw blades can be used.
If pruning saws are surgical scalpels, bow saws are like all-purpose chef knives. You can cleave with them or finely dice an onion. Similarly, with a bow saw, you can fine prune trees or you can saw a log or a thick branch. What makes them especially useful is that they cut on both the push and the pull whereas most pruning saws are made to cut only on the push.
The downside to a bow saw though, is its size. Because of the shape of the bow, there will be times where the bow prevents you from getting to harder to reach areas. Imagine you want to prune one diseased branch amongst a tangle of healthy branches. The bow will get caught amongst the tangle. While useful as a general-purpose saw, it does many jobs well, but never one spectacularly well.
Crosscut – Felling Saws
Think of a hand saw and the first image you might be thinking off is the hand saw found in many workshops around the world used mainly to cut blocks of wood to size. While that saw is a crosscut saw, crosscut refers mainly to how the teeth of the cutting blade is arranged. In a crosscut saw, the teethes are arranged at angles to each other in an alternating pattern. Furthermore, crosscut saws were designed to cut against the grain. With a crosscut saw, the saw will cut on both the push and the pull.
Due to the ability of a crosscut saw to saw on both the push and the pull, long crosscut saw blades were created to allow their operation by two men. With a blade length of 4 – 16 ft, two simple round handles were added to each end and the felling saw was born. Due to their sheer size and as their name suggests, felling saws are generally used to fell big, hardwood trees with a diameter of 24 inches and above. Besides felling trees, felling saws were also used to cut logs into more manageable pieces.
Rope Chain Saw
Rope chain saws are exactly what their name suggests. A chain with ropes on both ends. Unlike an engine powered chain saw, a rope chain saw is powered by human power instead of horsepower. By throwing the chain around a branch and then pulling on the ropes, the chain will saw through the branch until the branch is cut.
Think of it this way. Instead of pushing and pulling vertically on a piece of wood or branch, with a rope chain saw, you are pulling and therefore, cutting, horizontally. This action reduces the amount of effort needed to cut through a branch. While it offers the ability to get to hard to reach places like a pole saw, a rope chain saw can saw through thicker and hardier branches. Unlike the rigid blade of a pruning saw, rope chain saws are flexible. This flexibility is what allows rope chain saws to cut through thicker pieces of wood.
Push VS Pull
This refers to how the saw cuts. Push saws cut into the wood when the blade is pushed away from the body. Pull saws cut into the wood when the blade is pulled towards the body. In Europe and North America, most saws sold are push saws whereas pull saws are more common in Japan, Asia and the Middle East.
While both methods of cutting will have the same finish, some people find it easier to push the saw than to pull and vice versa. Push saws are generally used for thicker woods and hardwood trees whereas pull saws are used for thinner foods and softwood trees. You can use a pull saw on a softwood tree and a push saw on a hardwood tree. Nowadays, the difference boils down to how comfortable you feel with pushing versus pulling.
It is easy to think that the lighter a handsaw, the easier it is to use. That is true, up to a point. Yes, a lighter handsaw would allow you to use the saw longer with less fatigue but remember, the lighter the saw, the more strokes needed to pull the saw through the branch. If the wood is especially thick, too light a saw would cause more stress on the cutting teeth.
Teeth per Inch (TPI)
TPI or teeth per inch refers to the number of cutting edges per inch of saw blade. The more teeth that a cutting blade has, the better the finish of the cut. However, counterintuitively, more teeth do not equal a faster cut. Because of how the teethes are arranged on a saw, blades with a lower TPI count cut faster than blades with higher TPI counts. TPI can be divided into three categories, coarse, medium and fine.
A coarse blade generally has between one and seven teeth per inch. This allows the teethes to be larger and with deeper gullets. With each stroke of the saw, more material is removed thereby resulting in a deeper cut. However, this usually also results in rougher finishes as the deep gullets tend to tear the wood fibres more. Coarse blades are found on saws, such as bow saws, that are used for general cutting.
Medium blades usually have a teeth per inch of between seven and twelve. Finer pruning saws are examples of medium TPI saws that strike a balance between the smoothness of a cut and the speed at which a cut is made.
Fine blades have a teeth per inch of above twelve. Generally, these saws are not used for tree cutting and are more suited for use in a workshop. Fine blades cut slowly but because the gullets are shallower and the teethes are closer to each other, fine blades do not tear the wood fibres as much as coarse blades. This results in a smoother finish, which is why they’re more common in workshops that require fine finishing.
This sounds obvious. Safety must be your consideration in every job that is done. If you need a coarse saw but the only saw in shop has a handle that does not quite fit your hand, go to another shop. If you need a bow saw but the shop only sells saws too heavy for you, go to another shop. It is always better to spend more time looking for the right saw then to buy the one available now and get injured.
Top 10 Best Hand Saws for Cutting Trees
Now that you know what you should look out for in choosing a saw, here is our recommendations for the best hand saws for cutting trees. The list is arranged based on the type of saw.
The GreatNeck N2610 26 inch 10 TPI crosscut saw is our choice for an all-purpose saw. The blade is made of carbon steel is attached to a hardwood handle. The carbon steel blade ensures that that blade is tough and sturdy enough to cut through the thickest of trees. With only 10 TPI, the blade cuts fast but leaves a good finish. With the saw being a crosscut saw, it also means that you are getting cuts made on both the pull and the push. The 26-inch blade also means that it is suitable for thick stumps while also being able to prune individual branches.
Weighing in at 1.65 pounds, the N2610 is also light enough to carry around and use without being tired. This multi-purpose saw is great as a backyard weekend warrior. Cheap and ergonomic, this is a saw that will get most jobs done.
Due to the medium TPI, some users have reported that the blade does not cut as fast as other blades. Some have also complained about the material used for the handle. Due to the material, the grip can cause blisters after prolonged usage. The size of the blade also means that this blade is more difficult to handle than similar use saws and will get caught on areas with dense foliage.
- Suitable for Many Jobs
- Value for money
- Easy to Re-sharpen
- Long blade May Interfere in Tight Spots
- Tight Set on Teeth
The AIRAJ 18-inch Quick Cutting Professional Hand Saw is another good choice as a multi-purpose saw. What makes this different from the GreatNeck N2610 is that the teethes are not arranged like a traditional saw. Instead of being angled against each other, the teethes are arranged in an alternating pattern of short tri-ground teethes between deep gullets. At 18 inches long, it would also get most jobs done and can be used in spaces where the N2610 cannot.
However, unlike the N2610, the AIRAJ is not as effective for jobs that require finer control. The deep gulley mean that you run the risk of getting the saw stuck on thinner branches. This is still a fantastic saw to use for many jobs.
However, because of the unique design on the blade, the deep gulley will get caught on smaller branches. Some users have also reported that the blade will sometimes struggle to catch on the branch until some progress has been made.
- Flexible blade
- Light and portable
- Value for money
- Ergonomic handle
- Teethes can get caught on smaller branches
- Blade flexes dangerously under heavy use
Unlike our previous two saws, the Corona RS7510D is made for pruning. The 18-inch curved blade allows it to wrap around branches that are at awkward angles allowing for more precise cuts. With a TPI of 6, the RS7510D will cut fast with minimal effort. The high carbon steel blade is also firm and strong which makes it ideal for harder woods.
Weighing in at just 1.1 pounds, this saw is made for pruning and does that job fantastically well. However, because of how light the saw is, some users have reported that against thick branches, the saw struggles to cut. The length of the blade also means that the blade can get caught amongst tightly bunched branches.
- Ergonomic handle
- Cuts fast
- Curve profile allows it to reach under branches to cut
- Easy to maintain
- Long blade may get caught on tightly bunched branches
- Expensive compared to other saws
Coming in at 14 inches, the Typhon East Curved Japanese Hand Saw stands out from the rest with how it cuts. As a pull saw, the Typhon East makes cutting branches at awkward angles much easier. The pulling action requires less force and more accuracy, allowing you to reach the furthest corners of a tree while keeping your balance stable.
Unlike the other saws here which use either a palm grip or fist grip, the Typhon East uses a pistol grip. This allows you to pull down on the saw without it slipping out of your hands. Weighing in at a mere 0.7 pounds, this saw is also extremely light. The small size and light weight make it ideal for camping as well. The Typhon East is the perfect blade for those who need to do light bush clearing or simpler pruning tasks.
However, some users have reported that due to the thin blade, heavy use will cause the blade to buckle. Since the blade is not foldable, a blade guard must be used.
- Value for money
- Easily cuts small branches
- Blade tends to flex
- Not foldable
- Cannot be used on thick branches
The Fujiwara 10 Inch Folding Pruning Saw does what it says it will do. The folding saw is secured with a gear lock which means that it will not close while sawing nor will it swing open when closed. Like the Typhon East, the Fujiwara is a Japanese style pull saw.
While smaller than the Typhon East, the Fujiwara makes up for its lack of cutting diameter with functionality. Unlike the Typhon East, the Fujiwara can fold back into its handle, reducing its length profile from 21 inches to a mere 10 inches. The Fujiwara serves as an essential emergency blade. Whether you’re out camping or doing landscaping work at home, this blade will not fail you.
However, some customers have reported that because of the thinness of the blade, the blade tends to flex under heavy use. The design also means that when closed, the blade teethes cut into any lanyard rope in the lanyard hole. Also, because of the gear lock system used to keep the blade securely opened or close, when the gear lock breaks, the whole saw needs to be replaced.
- Ergonomic grip makes handling easy
- Portable with a small profile
- Handles small bush well
- Blade bites into lanyard hole
- Unable to cut into thick branches
The Bahco Bow Saw is a heavy duty saw that you will want to call on when you have a piece of thick hardwood that no other saw can cut through. Available in 24 inches and 30 inches, the Bahco Bow Saw is made of a lightweight hollow steel frame which gives it the flexibility and durability of heavier saws.
Unlike many bow saws, the Bahco comes with a handle built into the frame of the bow. Using a palm grip, this allows easy griping of the bow. With a pointed nose, the saw can also be used in tighter areas. The easy to adjust tensioning mechanism also allows you to make changes on the go. Weighing in at 2.8 pounds, this saw is not light but its heft gives it stability on both the push and the pull of the saw. This bow saw is not the cheapest but you cannot put a price on quality.
However, some customers have reported of the blade breaking or bending when used. The hollow shaft, while reducing weight also means that it does not have the same stability as heavier bow saws. Some customers have reported that under heavy stress, the bow may bend or the tension nut came loose.
- Ergonomic handle makes gripping easy
- Adjustable tension
- Blade will break if tension is not adjusted before use
- Blade guard difficult to put on and remove
The Milliard Extendable Pole Saw boasts an impressive length of 16 ft when fully extended, allowing you to reach the crowns of most garden trees. With a 14-inch-high carbon tempered steel blade, the Milliard Extendable Pole Saw comes with an inbuilt pair of 1.25-inch shears that allow you to clip branches.
The double pulley system allows you to literally saw through branches with the pull of a cord thereby reducing the amount of effort needed. When closed, the Milliard has a length of 6 ft but the fibreglass pole means that it only weighs 5.7 pounds. This is the most expensive saw on our list but the convenience of having such a long pole more than makes up for its cost.
The trade-off with having an extendable pole is that some customers have reported that the pole bends under heavy stress. Because of the size of the blade, some have also reported that the teethes of the saw struggle to get a bite on rougher barks. The built-in clippers may also get caught on thick tangles of branches requiring a substantial effort to remove.
- Easy to use
- Can reach high areas without a ladder
- Saw blade struggles against thick branches
- Telescopic pole may bend
All chain saw and no fluff makes the Homyall Limb Rope Saw ideal for situations when you need massive cutting ability on the fly. With 62 carbon steel teeth on a 48-inch chain, the Homyall Limb Rope Saw is guaranteed to cut through the thickest of branches or trunks. With blades on both sides of the chain, it does not matter your chain lands on the branch. It will cut. Since the saw wraps around the branch, every pull on the chains allows you to cut at three points of a branch at once allowing an extremely fast cut.
With two sides of the chain, this pull saw also allows two people to cut at the same time. Since the rope saw is not limited by the length of the pole like the Milliard pole saw is but by the length of attached rope and how hard you can throw the weight, the Homyall Limb Rope Saw can reach areas that would normally require a forklift or pruning basket. Unlike other saws on this list, it will take some time to get used to the pattern of pulling on either ends of the rope saw. The convenience afforded by the rope saw cannot be beat.
However, because it is not electrically powered, some customers have reported that on particularly hard barks, the teethes have gotten caught on the grooves, an issue that would not be present on electrically powered chainsaws. Depending on how it’s thrown, some have also reported that the chain looped around the branch and has gotten stuck.
- Teethes on both side of chain
- Cuts faster than conventional hand saws
- Able to reach areas pole saws cannot
- Portable due to how the chains fold up
- Requires 2 people to use optimally
- Requires your own rope
- Can get caught on thick branches
While fixed length saws are limited in their cutting ability by the length of the blade, the Sportsman Pocket Chainsaw is not. A rope saw like the Homyall, the Sportsman Pocket Chainsaw is able to handle branches that generally would require heavier lift. However, while the Homyall is designed for high elevation cutting, the Sportsman is designed to be a pocket chainsaw. Instead of wrapping around a branch, the Sportsman can be wrapped around the trunk of a tree to fell a tree. With a 36-inch chain and built in handles, this rope saw can be handled by one person.
Made of heat-treated carbon steel, the Sportsman Pocket Chainsaw is also extremely durable. Weighing in at just 5 ounces, the flexible chain can be kept in a small pouch and carried around making it perfect for survivalists. This rope saw us a must have in every survival kit.
However, because of how rope chainsaws are designed, they are not as durable between the links that solid cutting blades. As some users have complained, some hardwood trees will cause the teethes to require constant sharpening. Since the teethes are only on one side of the chain, it is also more difficult to use on high branches. Unlike the Homyall, it is recommended that the chainsaw be used on areas that are within easy reach.
- Cuts faster than a traditional saw
- Cuts bigger logs than traditional saws
- Blades only on one side
- Takes a few tries to start cutting
Trees beware. When the Lynx Two Man Crosscut Saw is used, you know you are doing some serious cutting. This saw is mostly used in the forestry industry. With a TPI of just one, the two man saw will make short work of any log or tree.
Made of British CS80 steel, the saw is easily sharpened with a triangular file. Weighing in at 5.5 lbs, this is not a saw for amateurs. But if you need a heavy log cut down to size, this saw will do the job and you will not break a sweat while doing it.
Due to the design, the saw cannot be operated only by one man. As one customer has stated, “the saw bends too much and is too long for one person to operate”. Another complained that the saw handle broke on the first use although the caveat was, it could have been due to human error. This blade can only be used in extremely specific situations such as clearing thick logs. Either way, while a fantastic heavy duty saw, it is not a saw for amateurs or first-timers.
- Durable steel blade
- Cuts extremely quickly
- Requires 2 man to operate
- Weight might be a problem for some.
- Requires a very specific scenario to use
When looking for a saw, it can at first be quite overwhelming. From the type of saw to the type of cut, finding the right saw for the right job can be quite overwhelming. In our list, we covered many different types of saws that will all do the same job. However, as you’ve learned, even though all saws will cut, choosing the right saw will make your life that much easier. And remember the golden rule of working with hand saws, Be Safe and Be Comfortable.