Best Saw for Cutting Trees

As you might have guesses, there are at least seven popular types of saws used on trees. This is because there is more to cutting a tree than simply sawing until it falls. There is also the task of cutting the tree into smaller pieces and cutting or pruning the branches.

7 Types of Saw for Cutting Trees

What follows are the seven most popular types of saws for cutting trees. The first three in the list are power saws and the rest are hand tools for manual cutting.

1. Pole Saw

Put a power saw on the end of a long pole and you have a pole saw. This saw is perfect for pruning branches that are way off the ground. It’s also a lot safer to use compared to climbing a ladder.

10-Inch Electric Pole Saw
In Picture: PS45010S 10-Inch Pole Saw – Click to See Price

You can choose from manual, gas, or electric-powered saws to do the cutting. It should be noted that a gas and electric pole saw is essentially a chainsaw on the end of the pole. You should always wear protection when using this type of saw.

The reach of the pole saw has extended considerably over the years. This means that some pole saws will extend much like a ladder. You can even find gas or electric pole saws that operate exclusively from the bottom so you can turn on, adjust, and turn off the saw while it is still extended.

The only downside is the weight of the pole saw as it reaches full extension can be considerable. You will need to brace yourself and work in shorter shifts to not strain or injure your muscles.

2. Reciprocating Saw

This type of saw is not specifically designed to cut trees or prune branches, but it does so anyway. This is because the reciprocating saw uses a thin blade, is relatively lightweight, and easy to use. You can find either gas or electric types of this saw, but they are almost always electric these days. A blade is attached to one end and the motor will move the blade back and forth is rapid succession. The result is that this saw can quickly cut through wood with a minimal amount of effort.

Cutting tree with Reciprocating Saw
Tool in Pic: BLACK+DECKER BDCR20B Saw – Click to See Price

Because the blades are interchangeable, you can use those designed for pruning to cut off branches. Thanks to the handle and size of the motor, it is easy to place and cut branches that are within reach. However, it is not the best type of saw for cutting or pruning branches that are high up in the tree.

About the only downside is the corded versions which can be cumbersome. It is recommended that you use a battery-powered reciprocating saw. While the battery makes them a little heavier, the cordless versions are much easier to use.

3. Chainsaw

Arguably the most familiar type of saw, the chainsaw is a motorized rope saw that rotates a chain with many teeth for cutting. There are gas and electric-powered chainsaws that range from small pruning versions to large machines designed to cut down big trees. A chainsaw is quite versatile and can perform several cutting tasks that normally require two, three, or more types of manual saws.

Greenworks 12-Inch 40V Cordless Chainsaw, 2.0 AH Battery and Charger Included 20262

The chain is moved along a track or guide bar with the engine moving the chain by spinning a wheel similar to how a bicycle chain works. The upside of a chainsaw is that it does not require much in the way of strength to operate. Plus, it can cut through thick branches and even medium-size trees.

Compact Mini Chainsaws

Today, thanks to battery technology, electric chain saws are becoming considerably more popular. This is particularly true for compact chainsaws which are perfect for cutting down small trees and saplings along with pruning branches.

Mini Cordless ChainSaw
Tool in Pic: WEGSD Mini Chain Saw – Click to See Price

On the downside, the chainsaw is a dangerous power tool and should be handled with extreme caution. You will need to be well aware of the controls of the unit and wear protective glasses, gloves, and clothing when operating the chainsaw. It also requires some maintenance and tightening, otherwise the chain will come off the track. There is the rare possibility of the chain breaking, but the chances are relatively slim. Otherwise, it is probably the most popular type of saw used to cut trees and branches.

4. Pruning Saw

This is the smallest of the saws used on trees. The blade on a pruning saw is generally 6” to 12” long and curved to assist in cutting through branches. The pruning saw is perfect for cutting away small, dead branches on trees and shrubs. Plus, they are thin enough to squeeze between tight branches, so you can remove any overgrowth easily.

Corona Razor Tooth Pruning Saw, 13 Inch Curved Blade, RS 7120,Red

Because they are so small, only manual pruning saws exist. Some are small enough to be mistaken for large knives. The only noticeable difference is the saw teeth on the pruning blade. Because they are so small, they are used by practically everyone who cuts, shapes, and prunes trees as part of their work.

There are different types of pruning saws based on the number of teeth in the blade. The more teeth that are present, the finer the blade for trimming. Coarse blades are best for softwood while fine blades are better suited to hardwood.

Folding Saw

A variation of the pruning saw is the folding hand saw. As the name implies, this is a saw that can fold at the handle for easier storage. Otherwise, it is basically the same as a pruning saw.

Folding Saw for Wood Pruning
Photo: REXBETI Folding Saw – Click to See Price

The folding hand saw is perfect to carry on camping trips, hikes, and other adventures in the woods when you need to cut firewood. Plus, they are relatively inexpensive and have a variety of uses.

5. Bow Saw

As the name implies, this is a saw that is in the general shape of a bow. It’s the perfect saw for cutting, trimming, and pruning trees. This is because the teeth are designed to be pushed and pulled through the wood. Plus, the blade is fastened in place with nuts and bolts, so changing the blade is easy to do if it goes dull or breaks. Especially because the blade can be tightened or loosened by moving the handle for easier replacement.

24-Inch bow saw for cutting wood
Above: Bahco 24-inch Bow Saw – Click to See Price

The bow saw is often seen in wood shops as it is easy to use. Because of the thin blade, the bow saw is perfect for cutting smaller pieces or trimming off the excess with minimal effort. A bow saw is considered standard equipment for shops and for those who enjoy the woodworking hobby in creating smaller items.

The bow saw is easy to carry. And while it is not the smallest of saws, it is one of the most versatile. Apart from cutting down large trees, the only time when the bow saw is impractical is when you are pruning branches in a tight space. Otherwise, the bow saw is the perfect saw for all types of cutting.

6. Crosscut Saw

You probably have seen crosscut saws on competitions as they are quite large. It is a saw that is quite long and designed to cut against or perpendicular to the grain of the tree. The crosscut saw is meant for cutting down trees and cutting felled trees into smaller, more manageable pieces. The two-man crosscut saw is arguably the most recognizable as it has made its way into movies and television shows, mostly for comedic bits. But it is the one-man crosscut saw that is the most used.
A Crosscut Saw
When gas or electric chainsaws are not handy or not big enough for the job, the crosscut saw can fell even a large tree. Plus, it can be used to cut the tree into smaller pieces for processing. While mechanical devices have mostly replaced it in the lumber industry, it is still being used today.

7. Wire or Rope Saw

If you can imagine a rope that has the teeth of a saw, then you have a rope saw. Sometimes called a wire saw, this is really a chain that has saw teeth for cutting, although it should not be confused with a chainsaw.

48-inch Hand Rope Saw for high tree branches
Tool Used: Homyall Limb 48-Inch Rope Saw – See Price

Although the rope saw can wrap around large branches and trees, it is really meant for cutting or pruning smaller branches that are a difficult location to reach. The rope will have a weight on each end. You toss the rope over the tree branch you want to cut and let it fall to the ground while holding on to the other end. Once you have positioned the rope or chain, you simply pull one side, then the other repeatedly until the branch is cut clean through.

The advantage of the hand rope saw is that it is lightweight and relatively easy to position. Plus, it avoids having to use a ladder to climb up to high branches. The downside is that it does require some manual effort to saw. If you are in pretty good shape, then the rope or wire saw may be the perfect choice for pruning branches high in the trees.


Choosing the right type of saw starts by assessing the type of cutting you need to do. Then, selecting the right saw for the job. While some of the saws can be used for more than one task, you will probably find yourself using two or three different saws depending on how many tasks need to be performed.