Bow Saw vs. Pruning Saw

Choosing the right tool for your gardening work isn’t just about effectiveness, but efficiency and safety as well. Among the various types of saws, bow and pruning saws often raise a question: which one for what job?

At first, the differences between the bow saw and pruning saw may see mostly aesthetic in nature, but their uses and chracterestics are also distinct.

In this comparison, I will explain these differences, and help you to pick the right saw for your work.
Bow Saw vs Pruning Saw comparison

Understand the Basics

Bow Saw:

The bow saw is primarily designed for cutting through thicker branches and logs. It is characterized by the bow shape of the frame which looks like an elongated hacksaw. The saw blade is attached to each end of the bow and can be replaced when it is worn out.

Bow Saw illustration
The frame of the bow saw is traditionally metal, but it can be made of wood or plastic. The bow saw is designed for cutting large branches or logs with long, aggressive strokes.

Bow saws are known for their unique set of characteristics, which encompass,

  • Fast, Efficient Sawing
  • Sturdy Frame
  • Replaceable Blades

Pruning Saw

A pruning saw is designed to prune shrubs and trees. A pruning saw has a handle on one end where the blade is attached. The blade tends to be curved with fine, sharp teeth designed to cut through smaller branches or green wood.
Pruning Saw illustration
Pruning saws are recognized for their distinctive characteristics, which include.

  • Compact design
  • Precision Cutting
  • Pull-stroke Cut

Some pruning saws are also referred to as ‘folding saws’ due to their blade folding into the handle for safe storage and transport. However, it’s important to note that not all pruning saws have this folding feature.

Regardless of the design, the compact size and precise cutting ability of a pruning saw make it perfect for shaping trees, removing dead branches, and cutting away unwanted materials.

Bow Saw Vs Pruning Saw Comparison


  • Bow Saw: The bow shaped frame allows for saw blades to be detached and attached while being held under tension.
    A bow saw is used to cut tree branches
    You hold the bow saw with two hands, one hand doing the pushing and pulling from the back of the bow while the other hand is on top of the bow pressing down to maintain contact.
  • Pruning Saw: The pruning saw is like traditional handsaws in which the blade is part of the handle. A pruning saw is generally used with one hand on the handle, but the second hand can be on top of the blade pressing down if needed.
    Pruning saw in the hands of gardener

Simply put, in terms of design and shape, the difference between a bow saw and a pruning saw is similar to a hacksaw and a handsaw.

That’s an important difference because the pruning saw is designed to cut branches with minimal disruption. You use a bow saw when you want to simply cut the wood that is easy to access, while pruning saws allow you to cut branches that are too difficult to reach with a bow saw.


Both saws are used to cut wood, but the big difference is that pruning saws are specifically designed to prune away small tree branches.

Bow saws are designed to cut larger pieces of wood, both green and dry wood. While it can be used to prune small tree branches, it is really designed for larger pieces of wood to cut.


Perhaps the most obvious difference is that a bow saw has interchangeable blades while a pruning saw has only a single attached blade. If the blade on the bow saw goes dull, or if you need to change blades, that can be done quickly and easily.

The pruning saw has a single fixed blade that cannot be switched out (at least not easily). The blade tends to be thicker; but that allows for better one-handed use. Especially when cutting branches while standing on a ladder or in tricky positions.

Cutting Action:

Another difference is that bow saws will cut on the push and pull strokes. In comparison, most pruning saws cut on the pull stroke.

Speed & Precision:

The bow saw tends to give precise cuts because the blade is clamped at both ends. This keeps the blade straight without much deflection.
Plus, the bow frame allows for greater two-handed control when making the cut.

For cutting up larger pieces of wood, the bow saw is quite well-suited, especially in terms of speed when you have sufficient room to operate.

Pruning saws, primarily cutting on pull strokes, may be slower and seem to offer less control due to their one-handed operation. However, this one-handed design can actually enhance precision for smaller, meticulous tasks by freeing the other hand to stabilize the branch.
Also, for cutting in tight spaces where a bow saw can’t maneuver, a pruning saw often becomes the essential choice.”


Bow saws tend to be bigger and more cumbersome to carry compared to pruning saws. Plus, many pruning saws will have the blade fold into the handle to make them smaller and more compact when not in use.

Selecting which one will come down to the tasks that you want to perform. A bow saw is perfect for cutting green or dry wood quickly and with greater precision.

The pruning saw is better suited for smaller branches that are more difficult to reach. If you are pruning trees and shrubs, the pruning saw is the better choice.

Maintenance and Care

  • Bow Saw: “To ensure the longevity of your bow saw, remember to clean and dry the blade after use to prevent rust, and periodically check the tension in the blade for optimal performance.”
  • Pruning Saw: “Maintaining a pruning saw involves cleaning the blade after each use to prevent sap build-up and keeping it sharp for precise cuts. Remember to fold it back into the handle or use a blade guard for safe storage.”

Safety Measures for Bow and Pruning Saws

  • Bow Saw: When using a bow saw, wear gloves to protect your hands from potential slips, especially if the saw doesn’t have knuckle protection. I also recommend you wear safety goggles to prevent wood chips or dust from entering your eyes.
    Remember to maintain a stable stance while sawing, and never force the saw into the material.
  • Pruning Saw: Again, I strongly recommend wearing gloves and safety glasses. If you’re working at height, use a ladder with proper safety features and make sure it’s securely positioned.
    Lastly, fold the blade back into the handle or use a blade guard when the saw is not in use.

When to Use a Bow Saw vs. Pruning Saw?

The choice between a bow saw and a pruning saw hinges largely on the tasks you need to undertake. I think it would be better to explain this with specific examples.

  • Bow Saw: Imagine you’ve just weathered a storm, and a few large branches have fallen in your yard, or perhaps you’re preparing for a camping trip and need to cut up firewood. In these scenarios, a bow saw is your best friend. Its long, strong blade is perfect for efficiently cutting through thick, fallen branches or logs.
  • Pruning Saw: Consider a situation where you’re doing regular maintenance of your garden. There are some overgrown branches on your trees, some of which are nestled deep within the foliage or in awkward positions. A pruning saw, with its compact design and sharp, curved blade, is ideal for precisely trimming these branches without causing excessive damage to the surrounding plants.

In summary, If you frequently deal with thicker branches, logs, or firewood, the fast and efficient cutting action of a bow saw could prove invaluable. On the other hand, if you find yourself more often reaching into tight spots or meticulously shaping the trees and shrubs in your garden, the compact and precise pruning saw should be your go-to tool.

Remember, with the right saw in your hand, you’ll not only work more efficiently, but safely too.