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And so it came to pass that there were semi-great storms in the Texas area in early 2011, and they did reap horrid damage unto the land. Trees were splayed in twain and fences did break loose from their moorings. The simple Texan folk looked out onto their devastated lawns and saw that it was horrible. They cried out — on the internet — for a savior, a tool to salve the wounds of their broken shrubbery, and reading from the book of interweb-jackass they did find a chainsaw. And lo, there was much suffering across the land.

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen people who really don’t need to be using chainsaws cranking one up to do jobs they don’t know how to manage with tools that are complete overkill for the task. For that reason, we’ve been big believers of the Alligator Lopper since it came out a few years ago. For those who haven’t seen one, it’s essentially an electric chainsaw with grabber guards on each side of the bar — and they’re handy as hell. What the Alligator Lopper does is remove a lot of the common issues with chainsaws but still gives the operator the power and convenience that comes with one.

Case in point: Recently we had storms in the North Texas area which messed up a bunch of trees, fences, and roofs and left about 100,000 homes without power for a few days. Afterwards my fellow neighbors lost their minds a bit. We had a good amount of tree damage, but no fallen branches bigger than 3 to 4 inches around. To clear this rather small problem, at least three people on my block bought $250+ chainsaws with 2’ to 3’ logging bars on them, filled them with fuel, and started attacking their yard. The damage from these decisions was catastrophic: one cleaved his cable connection in two, another managed to mangle a completely innocent Kia Sportage, and the third brainchild tore open his thumb.

Here’s the thing. If you’ve never used a chainsaw and don’t know the difference between what’s safe and what’s not, how to cut and what to do when confronted with a less-than-perfect cutting situation (which is any situation not entirely set up by you), then perhaps you should opt for something you have a little more control over.

The aforementioned Alligator Lopper is your friend in these cases. I don’t have a lot of experience in uncontrolled environment cutting, so the jaws on the Lopper and the relatively small 4″ bar make it a welcome addition to storm recovery as long as you’re not dealing with giant limbs or old-growth trees. Add in the scissor motion of the jaws that grab a limb and keep it from kicking back, plus the fact that you now have a grip on either end of the blade if it does do strange things, and we begin to have a winner here.

It’s designed for anyone to pick it up and slice up wood without difficulty and that’s just what it does. In either the plug-in variety or the battery pack version, it really doesn’t matter; for about $70-$135 you can get either model.

My place had a few trees that cracked in half about three feet from the ground and had become very unstable. In short, they had to go. The Lopper went to work and sliced up each of them in turn and created a pile of foliage in close to 25 minutes, instead of the looming accident waiting to take my fence down.

There’s nothing wrong with large chainsaws. They’re most certainly great tools and there are lots of folks out there that can handle them without issue. They’re powerful, handy, and sometimes the absolute only correct tool for the job. My issue comes when people who don’t know as much about them as they should attempt to Malboro-Man their way around with one and wind up hurting themselves or something else because of it.

So we say unto thee, if ye have not the knowing of chainsaw safety, and the ancient ways of logger-craft escape you, then hurry thyself to house of Black & Decker and procure a Lopper. Surely it will save flesh and bone, Kia Sportage, and all manner of other worldly goods in the immediate vicinity after nature’s wrath hath done grievous damage to your once-prosperous backyard visage. For we look upon its safety-scissor-like jaws and see that they are good.

Alligator Lopper [Black & Decker]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


24 Responses to Let Thou Be Not Jackass: Lopper Vs. Chainsaw

  1. fred says:

    I have a modest old Husqvarna 16 inch chain saw in the Garage that my wife is afraid to touch. It has the advantage of working without the need of a power cord – and in post storm conditions when power might be out.

    That said, my wife loves her B&D lopper for pruning limbs – except when the blade jumps off its track

  2. mlocer says:

    I’ve tried the loppers for a small gardening job and i had better results with a pair of regular loppers and a pruning saw.
    but these power loppers do have some benefits, i know an OAP who likes to dabble in the garden and he swears by has B&D tool but he pays to get someone in to cut his firewood up using a proper chainsaw whilst he plays with the smaller branches

  3. PutnamEco says:

    I usually steer the dubious arboriculturists towards a Sawzall, cordless if the conditions warrant it.
    I often find myself using a manual option, a decent arborists saw, like one of Silky’s curved blade saws, cuts small stuff with surprising ease.

  4. ddt says:

    the loopers are great too for demolition of 2×4 walls. Much faster than a sawzall, and better blade life.

  5. Mike says:

    Cords are so 1980. Gas or cordless is the only way to go. I can grab my saw and have something cut before you can even find and untie a cord. It’s all fun till you cut the cord in half too!

  6. Angelbane says:

    I agree on you as far as buying a loggin’ saw but this thing is a unitasker. Personally I little 12-14 in electric would be much more useful and still pretty damn safe.

  7. JKB says:

    Three or four inches, it would take longer to get a temperamental saw started than to use a bow saw. Even large trees, I like to limb with a manual saw so you can hear the tree. Biggest problem I see with storm tree clearing is people are to eager to attack the trunk and don’t want to take the time to limb a tree and remove the limbs from the work area.

    My brother relate a near disaster story from clearing a 2′ diameter Virginia Pine that fell blocking the road during the storms last Wednesday. Four sawers were attacking this tree. My brother was dragging limbs out. An older gentleman was cutting on the trunk when my brother heard, “Will you look at that.” He turned to see the tree 20′ in the air, the cutter having neglected to account for the tree extending out over the embankment on the road. No one was hurt and it did clear the road but only by luck.

  8. Kurt says:

    I had some storm damage, and got a $ 70 dollar Remington electric chain saw to clean up. 16″ bar, worked fine for what I needed. Then I had some tangled bushes at work that I wanted to get rid of. Started with a trimmer, then thought of the saw. Got under and slice those puppies off at the base (they had spread about 4′), and sliced through all the entangled bits like a lightsaber. I was sure glad I got the chain saw instead of the lopper,which I had considered. The cord is not a problem for either home or work (unlike my corded lawnmower, which is a pain), and I like the flexibility and reach. I agree that there no need for the average homeowner to have one of those “axmen” rigs. LOL

  9. Brau says:

    Personally I don’t like the Alligator because the covers don’t allow it to prune properly, flush to the bole of the tree. Instead I use a small 12″ chainsaw pruner attached to my Weed wacker. I find this pruner very safe and easy for most branches as it keeps the work about 5 feet away. It will also easily cut rounds up to about 8″, provided the chain is kept sharp. For anything less than 2″, I find a cordless recip saw or hand pruner is all that’s needed and as an added bonus they are not limited to one purpose like the Alligator.

    (In a fit of macho, my tool-dumb inlaw just bought a 16″ Husqvarna chainsaw “to trim the bushes around his yard”. Not a branch more than 2″ in his whole yard of California lilacs. I’m hoping he returns it before he loses his arm … or face.)

  10. Greg Smith says:

    I have a chain saw and a cordless reciprocating saw, I use the reciprocating saw for most tree trimming. I’d love to see a Dewalt version cordless alligator loopers.

  11. Wheels17 says:

    I knew I wanted a saw, and went back and forth between gas and electric versions for my suburban lot. I decided that the ability to plug in and go was probably an advantage for a seldom used tool. It also eliminates the need to climb a ladder with a running saw or trying to start it at the top of the ladder. The price was right too.

    Today I went out to cut up some storm-downed limbs. As I pulled the big extension cord out of the garage, the neighbor pulled his gas saw out of the garage. I could hear him trying to start it, and I was able to cut up half a dozen limbs and head back to the garage before he was able to get the saw started.

    I think I made the right choice….

  12. Toolfreak says:

    I have a 16″ Husqvarna 345 that was great…until the gas line tubing shrank and is now too small/short to reach the connector on the body. Apparently this isn’t one of those models where you just yank out the old hoses and stuff in new ones…the old hose won’t budge, even with the saw body apart.

    If getting a chainsaw, be sure it’s one where you can do the simple maintenance easily.

    I do prefer the sawzall or bowsaw option otherwise though. A 12″ wood cutting blade on a $29.95 reciprocating saw will take care of branches and most small trees with much ease and less expense than a chainsaw. A decent 24-36 inch bow saw will take care of even more and is the go-to option when electricity or gas is scarce or unavailable, which is often the case after natural disasters causing widespread damage.

    The B&D electric stuff is okay, and not a bad option for making small yardwork jobs a little easier, but it’s definitely a lighter-use product, and probably not durable enough to see the kind of use associated with clearing up after a storm. I suppose the right owner could maintain it and repair it like a chainsaw, making it last longer, but that kind of person would probably just get at least a basic chainsaw instead, or have electric and gas options available to them already.

  13. DP says:

    I use an M18 Hackzall and a pruning blades for 3-4″ limbs all the time. With the saw being one-handed you can steady the branch to keep it from pinching.

  14. Michael says:

    I thought about getting an alligator but got an electric poles saw 4 years ago instead. We got it for 99 on sale and have used it to limb some really big trees that we have taken down as well as a ton of pruning. I love the fact that it extends—I can stand on the ground and reach really high or on a ladder and can reach the sky. I generally cut pieces off limbs overhead–i let the tree hold the limb for me rather than trying to cut it flat on the ground–smaller pieces also means less chance of getting killed by an errant falling branch.

    Being a guy I first thought that the 10 inch bar was way too small but I have been amazed at the thickness of the limbs I can cut with it.
    Taking down a 50 ft tree, the only thing it couldn’t handle was the trunk.
    I also love the fact that I can reach into a pile (rather than climb in there) and cut up limbs—also great for sticker bushes–reach in get the base with no pain to the operator.

  15. Bill says:

    That is a sweet lefty chainsaw in the pic. Does that use regular chain?

  16. Manny says:

    Just like DP, I agree with the hackzall. I own an old milwaukee cordless sawzall where the handle folds 90 dgrees, I’ve used this one for those size jobs as explained in this article. Any small cordless or electric recip saw with a wood blade will do just fine. It will even make those loppers look like overkill for 3″- 4″ jobs like this.

  17. IronHerder says:

    Thanks to all for the useful comments.

    I have found that bow saws are more than adequate for pruning and cleaning up storm damage. Ideally, I keep a 20 inch bow saw and a 36 inch bow saw where I can find them after a storm, along with spare blades.

    Also, ideally, it would be nice to have a satisfying career, an adequate retirement nest egg, be able to see my belt buckle and earn the respect of my spouse.

    At least I stand a chance with the bow saws.


  18. Toolhearty says:

    Woman taken to the hospital with a chainsaw lodged in her side:


    My old ash trees often go “pleh!” and divest themselves of 3″ – 4″ limbs (especially during/after high winds). Never used anything other than a 20″ bow saw (a cheap one at that) to carve them up. Granted, it’s not the fastest method, but how quickly does one need to get the job done? No cords, no batteries, no gas engines.

    I figure I might be able to use a chain saw safely on the ground, but I’d really hate to have to try and use one on a ladder.

  19. Gary says:

    Old house. Big old trees. I’m a turner.

    Gas chainsaw. Electric in the shop for stuff too big for the bandsaw.

    Gas string trimmer pole saw attachment – works surprisingly well.

    Manual pole saw.

    3 bow saws (1 in the shop).


    Waiting for the Shindaiwa plasma wood cutter to come out…

    Friends call to tell me about downed trees = happy turner.

  20. I live in the Rual PNW timber country, In the winter, we need chainsaws sometimes just to get to the store. I keep bow saws, axes, small chain saws, and a sawzall handy. I use the sawzall with a generator when pruning the fruit trees. I just toss the genset on a trailer, and tow it to the trees behind the tractor. Don’t know just how handy those chain pruners would be, but wonder as well as to the cut.

  21. Justin says:

    Another Hackzall user here; the one-handed M18 RedLith is so handy and fast. And, as others have stated, the ability to use your other hand to steady or position/hold those branches is quite a time-saver plus let’s you throw cut pieces straight into the wagon, pickup, or pile without raking or picking up by hand again later!!! Haven’t tried the M12 12-volt version tho so dunno if it’s got enough power compared to the 18-volt one I like—and even the 18-volt HackZall doesn’t cut like its bigger 18-volt brother does (the M18 RedLith Sawzall which now has 100% the cutting power of the 12amp corded Sawzall made in good ol USA — but sure as ‘ell not the runtime of the 12-amp plugin lol). One of these days I gotta try my M18 and/or 12amp Sawzall side-by-side with same blade against milwaukee’s 15-amp version—those 3 additional amps and heavier motor windings might be a lot more power than the 25% one would ordinarily expect.

  22. Eddie Hagler says:

    I have to disagree. This is a specialty tool and does not need to be purchased by people who don’t already own and use multiple chain saws a lot.

    For the average joe (who doesn’t do a lot of tree cutting) a regular chainsaw makes much more sense than this.

    A regular chainsaw can cut any kind of limb this can and cut much more. A regular chainsaw can do more than this tool.

    For those that trim a lot of trees this tool could make sense. For those of us who only rarely use a chainsaw this thing is not a good choice to buy instead of a chainsaw and not needed if you do have a chainsaw.

    That said, some people should not own a chainsaw (or many other power tools) because they are too stupid to be safe with them.

    • Eddie Risbergs says:

      You want an example of stupid people and powertools? Try lending one to someone you thought had better sense. You’d be amazed at the condition your tools are in when you get them back. But yes, after hurricane Ike hit us, you saw a lot of stupid things done by people who had little to no skill with chainsaws. Basic safety is a matter of common sense. Sadly, common sense is less common than it used to be… heheh

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