Skip the ladder and pole your way to tree-trimming

By JimRental

I used to have this completely unwarranted sense that I was invulnerable to falls. Not that I didnít provide ample opportunity for falling while brushing second-story peaks, or rope-hauling chain saws up to tree-notch platforms.

My sense of invulnerability hardly showed a crack even when my friend Bill fell while trimming the upper reaches of a tall hedge and landed on a sharp limb heíd lopped off just minutes before. Glad to say it wasnít serious -- he only skewered a muscle in his back. And generally, Bill keeps his shirt on, so you don't notice anything at all!

It was simply a matter of time before I came crashing down. And in doing so, I gained a new attitude about working on a ladder -- or getting on a ladder for any reason whatsoever!

Lesson learned late, but learned. The problem was that I still had some high trimming to do. Not so much that Iíd need to hire a tree guy, but enough that I'd need to work from a ladder. Would I fall again to the ladderís siren song? Hardly!

Enter the rental pole saw. In case you're unfamiliar with them, theyíre basically a mini-chainsaw mounted at the end of a fiberglass or metal pole.

Pole trimmers are a similar tool, with hedge-trimming blade mounted at the top of the pole.

Saws are for bigger limbs ("bigger" within context -- it is a mini chai saw on a pole, after all), while the trimmer lops small limbs up to about a half-inch in diameter

Pole saws and trimmers come in a standard fixed lengths with about a five or seven-foot cutting height. There also are adjustable models, like the one I used, which extend to a cutting height of 15 feet or so. Whether gas or battery powered, the engines on all are located at the base, like a reel on a fishing rod.

By the way, cutting height means thatís how high the tool will cut if you hold it at waist- or chest-height. Oh boy, and if you got up on a ladder with a pole saw -- imagine the cutting height!

Back to reality -- just because I'm through doing stunts like that, it doesn't mean I can't dream!

While the pole saw's chainsaw is a mini, it was big enough to eliminate my need to use my standard chain saw from a ladder. That's more than a fair trade.

In our case, we only needed the pole saw for two small jobs. One was to remove a couple of low-hanging limbs over our driveway, which formed a looming obstacle for anything bigger than a pickup truck.

That, and a lilac bush that had grown into a tree, with all the flowers blooming 20 feet up -- which made it tough to snip flowers for the kitchen island!

Lopping off the offending limbs over the driveway was a snap with the pole saw, and I worked the lilac down to a manageable height and size by using the pole saw for the high stuff, and my a regular saw for cuts I could safely make from the ground.

If youíre looking at some high work, and think you probably could tackle it with a standard chain saw from a ladder, well, Iíll be thinking good thoughts for you. As for me, Iíll just play it safe with a pole saw!