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TM reader Jeff writes: “I saw this product link on The Hardware Isle via Make Magazine’s blog.  I was wondering if anyone has used something like this before.  I purchased a house in the last year with trees in need of pruning. Being a Toolmonger, I’d rather prune the easy limbs myself.  Also, the tool looks pretty easy to make. The only interesting piece is the chain that cuts in two directions.  Has anyone ever used one of these?”

When I first saw these, my first thought was, “When you’re done cutting, won’t the branch fall on your head?”  But I’ve never used one.  Have you?  Let us know in comments.


28 Responses to Hot or Not? The High Limb Tree Saw

  1. Wheels17 says:

    My inept neighbor decided he wanted to cut down a maple about 15″ in diameter in his back yard. He had his 83 year old father over to help him. Seeing disaster looming, I went over to help. The tree had to be taken down limb by limb due to proximity to the house. They had some shaky ladders and an ancient chain saw. After a bit of work on the lower branches using the ladder and chainsaw, it was clear that the higher branches were going to be a disaster.

    Then I noticed one of these things in their chainsaw box. I was a bit skeptical, but we tossed the bag over a branch, and pulled the chain up into the working position. We used one person on each end of the rope, so we were not under the branch that was going to fall. With two people, we were able to keep tension on the chain at all times, and coming down from the top of the branch, it never got wedged. It worked very well, and we had the tree down in less time than it would have taken messing with ladders, and we avoided the fall and chainsaw hazards.

    With one person, it’s tiring, awkward, and poses the risk Jeff mentions, but with two people, it works very well! The worst part is that I throw terribly.

    One difference between the one illustrated and the one we used was the safety weight. Ours had a much lighter line, along the lines of nylon mason line, on the safety weight to make the toss easier. We’d toss the light line until we got the branch we needed and then pulled the heavier line and chain over the branch. The flat stock is there to help make the chain go over the branch teeth down.

    I’m not sure I’d recommend it for pruning on a tree you want to keep, as there is no good way to undercut the branch to prevent tearing of the bark as the last bit of the branch rips away. I guess you could cut the branch long and then short.

    I’m following the link to order…..

  2. Lee Gibson says:

    I might just go ahead and not stand under the branch, but I’m crazy like that.

  3. Chris Byrne says:

    THey work, but they’re slow, tiring, and not the safest thing in the world no matter where you’re standing.

    You’re better off with a long extension saw (fixed blade or powered), and a good ladder (or better, a man lift) positioned where you can control the cut properly.

  4. Crispy says:

    Screw that, running for your life away from the limb is half the fun of this thing. But it will cut through a limb, and it doesn’t usually get stuck.

  5. PutnamEco says:

    I wonder how it would compare to a wire saw.


  6. Ray says:

    I’ve used these and I agree with wheels. This is *not* a pruning tool. I have used these to take out a lim or too along fence rows (i.e don’t care about the tree). They can work *fairly* well in that case however sever head trauma is aways a potential side effect. If you can do it with a pole saw you are better off (http://www.orchardsedge.com/order1.jsp?code=TP-6870) The pole saw will serve you well for tree maintenance as you can undercut and make quality pruning cuts. For the couple of times you need more umpf. Rent one of these (http://www.stihlusa.com/polepruners/HT131.html) basically a a chainsaw on a pole (rents for about $40.00 a half day near me) Lastly if it is a really big limb or really high up, rent a boom lift or leave it to the pros.

    As for making one of these tools yourself you will note that there are only a few cutting teeth on this blade. If you were to use a chain saw blade (as I assume you might be thinking) it has far more teeth and might be to aggressive for manual operation at the end of a long rope. Plus unless you have a dead one laying around a chainsaw blade will probably cost you more than this tool.

  7. Tony Clifton says:

    The guy from Survivorman or Man Vs. Wild or one of those shows tried to use one of those wire saws; IIRC he got two cutting strokes before the thing snapped.

  8. Uncle Flea says:

    I agree with the first poster….seems like a great way to peel the bark off the underside of the branch. I’ve seen inexperienced people cut from the top only and strip 4 feet of bark from the underside of the limb all the way down the trunk! Often the weight of the limb will snap the remaining portion that is waiting to be cut and the bark will peel off like a banana. Undercut first, at least enough to break thru the bark.

    If you aren’t concenered about keeping the tree healthy, then try it.

  9. bmadigan says:

    That looks like one of those ‘inventions’ who’s time will never come. There is a right tool for the job, then there’s everything else. Might make a nice weapon though.

  10. perruptor says:

    This is not a new device; I’ve had one for about twenty years – exactly the same as pictured, except mine has no writing on the throw bag. It works, if you stand directly under the limb (or if you have a helper). If you stand off to one side while working both ropes, it will bind. It’s not the best way to get a limb off, and it’s not kind to the tree, but if you can’t get a better tool on the limb, it is an option. Note that if there’s a lot of foliage around the target branch, it can be very hard to get the throw bag over just that branch.

  11. Bill Tanner says:

    “It is poorly designed with widely spaced teeth on just one side. It is almost impossible to orient the chain with the teeth touching the limb. The chain has a natural tendency to place the teeth facing up away from the limb.
    The chain needs more cutting teeth to give it smooth action without getting wedged in the cut. A commando wire saw works better.
    The weak clip holding the throwing bag to the rope failed the first time the bag got snagged on a 1/4″ limb. I replaced it with real rope clip.
    I had to add 5″ long handles to the rope to develop enough pulling force.”

  12. I have used these with success. The throw bag included is too large and heavy. I have a much smaller one shaped like a bullet that works nicely. And I immediately replaced the yellow cord with stronger and thiner climbing rope.

    If you secure the limb you are cutting with another rope over a limb above the one you are cutting, you can hold the limb up as you cut, get a clean cut all the way through (so the bark does not peal off underneath) and then lower the cut limb gently and safely to the ground.

    It’s pretty easy to stand to the side while using the saw (so the limb won’t fall on your head). You just have to orient that metal bar weight at the correct angle.

    Practice throwing the weighted bag is the most important thing. The type of work I do made that practice worthwhile. It’s actually kind of fun too. After a couple hours you can send the weight where you want it 90% of the time. After a couple more hours you will rarely miss.

    Having all these ropes and tools and saws hanging 50 feet over your head may sound complicated and it can be, but once you get used to this kind of work it’s very quick and easy. A lot better then hauling yourself up in the tree (which is the kind of work I learned to use this tool for).

  13. P Terkow says:

    I love this saw, what a great idea! This saw easily gets those really high branches beyond the reach of pole saws, and ladders. It consists of two long pieces of rope with a chain saw blade in the middle. A weighted bean bag allows you to toss the line over the limb. I was amazed at how quickly it cuts. The limb height is limited by the length of the lines, but you can always add more if needed. The challenge is throwing the bean bag over the right limb and getting the chain to lay right side up. I have thought about tying a steel nut to some fishing line and shooting it up with a sling shot for greater height and accuracy. I own a chain saw, skill saw, table saws, chop saw, band saw, coping saw, hack saw and others, every one has a special use. High Limb is an apt name for this one. High limbs often require a bucket truck and crew, but you just might do it yourself with this.

  14. wangrow says:

    I have used this high limb tree saw quite a lot..I had a tree close to the house once and I got up there to cut it down with an extention ladder..That isn’t a good idea . I contemplated how I was going to cut limbs off a tree that was too close to my house in the back, without spending $700.00 that a tree service wanted.. I came across the High limb tree saw on Northern Tool and baught it for $34.95….I couldn’t handle the bean bag, being 82 years old, so I went to WalMart and bought a sling shot, the heaviest fishing line they had and a pack of lead sinkers.I simply shot a sinker over the limb I wanted to remove and when the sinker came back down, I tied it to the end of the rope on the saw,,I pulled the rope over and started sawing..It wasn’t long until the job was done..Just yesterday, I cut a limb off that was over 20 feet in the air..Soon I have to cut off 2 more..I want to get that job done before I get too old..It takes a little practice to get that sinker over the right limb but you can do it..You do have to get that metal bar weight at the right angle and you don’t stand directly under the limb…Think the job out before you start sawing..AND..When the limbs are all cut, use your slingshot to shoot the rabbits that get in your garden..

  15. getterdun says:

    I bought one of these a year ago and have cut about 5 very high (35 – 50′) limbs with it. I’ve had no problem with the saw; it cuts really fast, although it sometime takes some jiggling of the rope and pulling it back and forth to orient the saw for cutting — no big deal. However, getting my ropes up there is still challenging. Like wangrow above, I use a homemade slingshot, monofilament line, and a round fishing sinker to get a line over the limbs. Then I pull up the ropes/saw. I get one line over the limb for sawing, and another across a higher limb to hold the limb after it’s cut until I can safely lower it. The latter I first tie to the limb to be cut (by first pulling the rope all the way to the ground to make a looped knot in one end, then putting the other end of the rope through the hole and pulling the knot up to the limb), then I shoot another monofilament line over a higher branch, and pull the same rope over it and down to the ground. It takes me three shots with the slingshot to get the ropes and chain saw in place. Incidentally, I’ve not had any problem with the chain binding in the cut; my grandson and we saw from as far away from the tree as practical to prevent this. All and all this has been a good tool for me; but, it does take me a lot of time (I worked over an hour yesterday on one limb, but still only have one of the two ropes up there).

  16. C. Leach says:

    I used the 24″ version today on a limb about 6″ in diameter, which was about 40′ above ground. I added rope to each end of the rope provided. I used a Wal-Mart slingshot to get 25 lb fishing line over the limb (tied the line to a rusty old bolt), then pulled up the rope & saw. Had another guy on the other end of the rope – so that no one would be under the limb. The entire operation took about two hours and the saw worked extremely well. I’m 72.

  17. Prem says:

    I’ve used this rope saw many times, and as some have pointed out, it can be most effectively with two people spaced apart. I’ve never tried to support the limb, since I prefer to cut most of the limb off (leaving a foot) and then doing a second, clean cut close to the branch collar. My challenge has always been tossing the sand bag between overgrown branches. I’ve had this cable caster for tossing drag lines for telecom cable pulls, and this is now my weapon of choice. It’s basically a sping loaded suction cup dart gun from your childhood with a spincast reel attached. Looks silly. Works well.


  18. badmoonryzn says:

    I too have used one of these on a maple tree here on the property that had limbs to high for me to climb safely. I thought it was way more trouble than it was worth. It was difficult to get the teeth pointing down for me and once I managed that fun the part that held the rope on the chain broke and rendered the whole thing useless. The other part got stuck in the tree. I got somewhat irked and went and got my 7mm MAG and trimmed the limb with a few shots using the stuck rope hooked up to my pick-up to pull it in the correct direction so it wouldn’t fall on the house. Now I do not recommend using that for limbing, that was a last chance deal for that particular day and if you have neighbors close by they might not like it either.

    Considering what it costs to rent a lift bucket that is what I am going to do the next time it comes up. That way I can use one of my own saws safely from a stable platform. Considering what all of the new fancy limbing saws cost that only reach out 12 or so feet one can rent one of those lift devices and have enough money left over to buy the wife dinner and a movie or a new fishing pole, rifle, boat, new 4×4, motorcycle, quad or what ever you manage to get away with.

    Oh yea, those wire saws are pretty useless! The one I tried spent most of the time stuck in the tree and I darn near had a stroke using the thing. The limb was about 5 inches and we spent nearly an hour on it without going in more than a couple of inches and that thing is still stuck in the log setting in the wood shed.

    Considering one little mistake can cause serious injury to someone, rent the bucket/lift truck and stay safe. Cheers!

  19. Robert Weaver says:

    Getting the rope up is no problem if you use a spincasting rod with a 1/8,1/4 oz weight cast above where you need it and slowly pull weight over higher till it drops on your limb. Wiggle the rod tip and allow the weight to drop to ground ,fasten a heavier line to it.
    pull heavier line over limb,use this line to pull the cutter rope up and over. A bit of electric tape on the joining knot will help smoothe the passage,and whipping the following part aids too.

  20. Joan Meinecke says:

    We have used these for 30 years to cut down trees to about 60 feet.we throw up alight nylon chord with a fishing weight or any weight till get in the right place. Loose some to wrong brach and hang-ups so cheap line and weight is better than bag that comes with it.we take down trees from the top down, using the saw to cut through the trunk,instead of just branches. We attach long heavier lines to the saw and pull it up with the lighter line. We use long ropes so we are not near where the branch or tree top can fall on us.I am only 125 # and female . I find it easier to wrap the line behind me and rock back and forth instead of trying to pull with my arms.living in a heavily wooded area we take down multiple trees per year, dead or too close to the house. Don’t wrap the line around your hands . If the lines get hung up when the branch drops , it can jerk you across the ground like being shot from a cannon.as you probably have guessed, I learned this the hard way many years ago.this has saved us 10’s of thousands.still doing it over at over 60 years old.

  21. Mr.ABD RAHMAN says:

    I am from Malaysia and very keen of the hot or not link on saw.Plsase furnish me how to purchase and cost of the prduct.
    Thank you.

  22. Grey Nomad says:

    The clip holding the sandbag on is rubbish,broke 1st throw.The sandbag is rubbish, pulled the eye out 1st time I pulled the bag back over a branch. The clips that form the eyes in the rope are rubbish, pulled out 1st go at cutting. I now use a ~15mm diameter lead sinker attached to some 80lb fishing line(rolled on a fishing reel) & use a sling shot to shoot the line over the branch. I then cut off the sinker, tie the line to a 3mm nylon cord & pull that back over the branch. I then attach the saw rope to the nylon cord & pull that back over the branch. Then it’s technique, technique, technique. At 1st I thought the saw was also rubbish, but, after practise I think it is absolutely fantastic. I have just saved, I don’t really know how much actually; but, whatever it would cost to cut down a ~25m eucalyptus tree. (The main trunk ~10m was dropped with a chainsaw) so apart from the rubbish accessories, the actual saw, & rope, are excellent. Remember though, it takes practise to use effectively.

  23. Grey Nomad says:

    Should have included this in my comment, Joan Meinecke is correct when she states not to wrap the rope around your hands. I would like to add not to place the included nylon tape loops around your wrists, but rather, just grasp the loops with your hands. When a, large, branch falls it falls upon the saws ropes & pulls them down. If you cannot let go you will experience what a water skier feels when the boat takes off!

  24. Rick Nelson says:

    I have used one of these for over ten or fifteen years. I has worked well for me up until the other day when the chain broke. I am online looking for a new one. the only draw back to it was the weighted bag that came with it was not heavy enough. Being a machinist I made a heaver weight for it. But you could also solve the problem with throwing a lighter line over the limb first.

  25. Brad Cobb says:

    I have used them and they work. Lots easier and less expensive than long extension ladders, safer too.

    You may need to add more rope than what came with the high limb rope chainsaw so you can extend the rope to where you are safely away from falling limbs.

    These cut both directions (unlike a standard chain saw blade) but you must have it facing the correct direction, so I would only use the kind that comes with a metal tang which hangs down and indicates you have the correct side of the blade that will cut facing/against the limb being cut. Takes a long time otherwise!

    Throwing the bag over the limb for uncoordinated is difficult to impossible, so I use a beannie flip (IE sling shot) with a fishing weight and fishing pole. Then after shooting the weight over the limb, I attach the pull rope to saw onto the fishing line and pull the rope over the limb that way with the fishing line and pole.

    These rope chainsaws are tiring, cut relatively slowly, and are a pain to use, but for me faster than ladders for high up reaches and dealing with a cranky 2 stroke chainsaw that does not want to start and run when you need it.

  26. this work looks very professional

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