Purchasing and Using a Pole Chainsaw Pruner

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Buying Your First Pole Chainsaw

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Stihl HT 56 C Gas Powered Pole Saw. Steve Nix

Safety First

I just purchased a new gas powered extended pole chainsaw for several jobs around the yard and in my small farm woodlot. I have long used gas operated chainsaws but have always been reluctant to reach high to cut or saw off of platforms that might become unstable.

Chainsaw safety is a major concern of mine and using one over my head is never done without a pole extension and at a proper angle. Even with a pole saw, I try never to cut limbs over a maximum 60 degree angle with the ground although it is tempting to cut on tiptoes and straight up. Don't do it as limbs will wind up in your face along with a moving saw chain and blade

Buying My First Pole Chainsaw

I will never be a commercial power pole saw user. So I decided to purchase a "lighter" Stihl HT 56 C which is considered a preferred saw for a property owner who does not demand continual use. Don't let using even a small pole chainsaw fool you.  Even the lightest saw can be a man-killer and many jobs can be hard on even a large-sized person in good health.

I bought this saw from a local Stihl chainsaw dealer fully assembled and serviced for immediate use. I also purchased an extended 5 year warranty which unfortunately does not include parts of the powerhead subject to ethanol damage. Always purchase and use gas without biofuels.

In my opinion, It is almost mandatory to buy from a dealer because of the warranty, service and the inevitable need for maintenance. The best saws are easily serviced at a dealer of that particular brand done with appropriate parts by a mechanic who understands the brand. Cheaper saws have to be assembled if purchased online or in big box stores. It is hard to get service for cheaper saws and comes with very little customer loyalty.

The online reviews of the HT 56 were good so it finally won out as the pole pruner I purchased. The saw is well-built and has adequate extension for most of the high trimming and pruning I will need to do. This particular model is not considered a pro model but will definitely hold up for my yard use and light farm chores - it is also $200 less than Stihl's more expensive "commercial" versions.

02
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Understanding Your Pole Chainsaw

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The Saw's Engine Parts

The main operating unit of the pole pruner is called a powerhead. It looks and works very much like a regular powersaw although somewhat smaller in size. You have a trigger and a trigger lock at your hands, the red choke is on the left and is necessary during cold starts (see image). The fuel pump bulb is on the rear near the pull cord. Every pruner brand is different so read your operation manual. The gas tank is also near the pump bulb and should be only filled with non-alcohol gas mixed with a high quality 2-cycle oil at a ratio of 50:1 (2.6 oz of oil per gallon of gas).

Operating a Pole Pruner

Gas operated pole pruners are primarily used to put high trimming jobs within reach, giving you the power and precision to trim branches down to size. These saws either have a disconnecting drive tube or "pole" or one that can extend from within the tube. I purchased the connecting tube and can work at a maximum height of about 15'.

The pruner when intact has a balanced weight just behind the saws powerhead. You should transport the saw in a horizontal position holding the saw at that balance point.  A smooth cutting operation works off this point in combination with a shoulder strap. As you take down limbs you need to stand firmly on the ground and do not take off too much limb at one time.

Do not tackle a large limb (over 4" in diameter) without cutting it in several sections. Each section should start with a small undercut to prevent tearing bark and pinching. Follow that with a top crosscut to drop the section. When the limb has been felled, flush cut the remaining trunk snag to a point where some cambium can begin to grow over and reseal the wound. Painting is not necessary.

Prevent Saw Pinching

It is a given that you will pinch your saw blade, especially as you are getting used to the physics of limb cutting. Prepare for a pinch by adding a handheld pruner to your tool kit. Pinched saws hanging from tree branches make for a bad day and much aggravation, not to mention a broken chain, blade or pole.

Regular pinched chainsaws have an advantage of being either on or near the ground. In the worst situation several wedges can be tapped into the cut to release the saw. Pole saws can hang in terrible positions with no way to relieve the pinch. So, managing weight and careful placement of cuts is important:

  • Size up the limb's weight and length and cut in manageable sections.
  • Use a small undercut at the limb drop point and finish off the section with a top cross-cut.
  • Learn from your mistakes.
03
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The Chain Cutting Attachment

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Pole pruning saw blade. Steve Nix

 All you have attached to the end of a gas pole pruner is a small chain and bar. It is made of the same parts and attachments as a regular chainsaw but powered by the drive tube with a splined shaft. This drive tube must be properly attached (see manual) on detachable models but is not a problem on extending tubes. Actually, the detachable poles simply slide and snap and are easy to manage.

Mounting and tensioning the bar and chain follow the same rules as regular power saws. A sprocket cover needs to be removed and the tensioner adjusted to where the chainsaw pulls slightly off the blade track groove. Sharpening also should be done in the exact same way as a regular saw.

One thing to remember is that the chain oil container is mounted on this chain cutting attachment. The tank is easily located and the filler cap is completely visible and easily removed for filling. The storage capacity of the automatically applied chain oil typically lasts about half a tankful of fuel.

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Your Citation
Nix, Steve. "Purchasing and Using a Pole Chainsaw Pruner." ThoughtCo, Mar. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com/purchasing-and-using-pole-chainsaw-pruner-1342691. Nix, Steve. (2017, March 7). Purchasing and Using a Pole Chainsaw Pruner. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/purchasing-and-using-pole-chainsaw-pruner-1342691 Nix, Steve. "Purchasing and Using a Pole Chainsaw Pruner." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/purchasing-and-using-pole-chainsaw-pruner-1342691 (accessed May 24, 2018).