Hedge trimmers and pole saws are two central tools in the landscaper’s kit. Professional landscapers will likely need both tools in order to effectively and efficiently do their work. But for the everyday workman, a hedge trimmer can often do light tree and shrub maintenance such as cutting through 1 Inch thick tree branches and cutting vines.
In this head-to-head, we’ll compare hedge trimmers and pole saws to determine which is the best tool for the job.
Hedge Trimmer vs Pole Saw
Hedge Trimmer – Pros and Cons
Hedge trimmers leave a better finish on shrubs and hedges than pole saws. While a pole saw could feasibly prune a hedge, it’s quite brutal and may lead to stripped branches, split ends on hedges, and an uneven cut. By contrast, hedge trimmers cut with a pincer motion to cleanly cut hedges to size.
To ensure a cleaner cut, the hedge trimmer should be moved in a sweeping motion over the hedge. Rather than hacking down to the position you want in one swoop, it can be useful to take off a few inches at a time. This will again help to lead to a better finish.
Most hedge trimmers also have a much longer blade than a pole saw. Your average pole saw blade is 8 to 9 inches in length, while the average hedge trimmer blade is about 22 inches long. This helps you to get more hedge pruning done in one swoop.
When it comes to branches and vines, there are several hedge trimmers that can cut branches up to 1 1/2 Inches thick. These tools have add-ons like articulating saw tips, power cut mode, and extra powerful gas powered motors. However, on balance pole saws are better at managing thick branches than hedge trimmers. If you’re wanting to get a hedge trimmer that can manage vines and thick branches, check out our review article on the best hedge trimmer for thick branches.
A downside of a hedge trimmer is that it doesn’t have the reach of a pole saw. 95% of hedge trimmers can only do work on hedges below 5 feet tall. Fortunately, there is the option to get a pole hedge trimmer that’s got a telescoping pole. These hedge trimmers allow you to work on hedges up to 15 feet tall.
Overall, a hedge trimmer is designed for sculpting thin shrubs and hedges, but can also work well tackling grass and weeds.
Pole Saw – Pros and Cons
Pole saws can make short work of thick branches. A pole saw is designed to saw through hard woods, which hedge trimmers have no chance against. Their blades are designed to ‘saw’ rather than ‘snip’, giving them the power to work on branches up to 8 inches thick.
They’re also designed to have high reach. A pole saw can usually reach up to about 15 feet high. But beware that this isn’t how high the telescoping pole reaches. Usually a brand will advertise its maximum reach with the assumption that a 6 foot tall man is holding the pole saw at around chest height. So the telescoping pole itself might only be 9 or 10 feet in length.
When it comes to working on shrubs, pole saws are very ineffective. They strip branches and leave an uneven finish. Their short blades also mean you’ll wear yourself out very fast trying to tackle a hedge with a pole saw.
One additional feature that’s often overlooked is the ergonomic design of pole saws. They usually have better shoulder straps and hand holds for maintaining balance when working on trees and plans that are more than 5 feet away. By contrast, you’ll often find yourself off-balance when trying to achieve reach with a hedge trimmer.
Pole saws and hedge trimmers have similar product sub-categories. You can get corded hedge trimmers and corded pole saws for small jobs close to power outlets. Similarly, there are cordless hedge trimmers and battery powered pole saws.
Professionals might be inclined to go for gas powered models in both categories. You can get gas powered pole saws which are generally more powerful than electric pole saws. We find gas powered motors to be more responsive and more effective than electric models. Professionals are often long distances from power outlets, so will either need a gas model or an electric pole saw.
We generally think gas powered hedge trimmers will be better at tackling branches and vines than electric hedge trimmers. In this sense, they’re more capable of doing ‘pole saw’ type tasks than your regular hedge trimmer.
Pole saws and hedge trimmers are designed for very different purposes. However, sometimes each tool can do the work of the other for small job. A hedge trimmer can often cut branches and vines up to 1 1/2 inches thick (if you have the right one), while a pole saw can theoretically (but crudely) prune hedges.
When cleaning up after a disaster, a pole saw comes in very handy, while a hedge trimmer is practically useless. Similarly, for clearing land, a pole saw will be put to work regularly on branches, while the hedge trimmer will gather dust.
However, in early spring when you’re out getting the hedge looking great for the summer, the pole saw will only be required if you come across tricky branches. Most small new branch growth from the past 12 months could be tackled if you have a powerful hedge trimmer.