What is the best tool to cut tree branches?

by Sam Wood | Last Updated: 22/10/2020

If you are planning on cutting down or pruning a tree, you may well have pondered over which tool will be best. There are lots of options, and it can get overwhelming, well worry not, we are here to answer the question of what is the best tool to cut tree branches?

what is the best tool to cut tree branches in article

The tools available

Depending on the size of the branch you are trying to cut, there will be many different tools that will do the job. Below we will list all the tools to cut branches before jumping into more detail on them all.

  • Chainsaw
  • Reciprocating Saw (also known as a sabre saw)
  • Tree Saw (Bow Saw)
  • Loppers
  • Secateurs
  • Folding Saw


The big daddy! The chainsaw is the tool everyone immediately thinks of when it comes to chopping up trees. A chainsaw will rip through any size branch with ease. The issue with a chainsaw comes down to safety. They are serious tools that can quickly go seriously wrong. We recommend leaving chainsaws to the professionals, especially seen as though there are lots of other tools that can get the job done. If you need a chainsaw purely because of the size of the tree you are cutting then again maybe it would be better left to the pros.

Reciprocating Saw

A reciprocating saw is a great multi-use tool. One prevalent use is tree pruning. With the right pruning blade, a reciprocating saw will rip through tree branches. It does all of this while being a lot safer than a chainsaw. Available in corded or cordless forms and also in a wide range of size formats.

Tree Saw

A tree saw is also commonly referred to as a Bow Saw. These are a manual hand saw which resembles a bow as in a bow and arrow. They have large vicious teeth designed to cut on both the push and pull strokes. They are a good value option for cutting tree branches but have their drawbacks. They always seem to get stuck, well with me they do anyway! The bow design also makes them very tough to get into smaller spaces, so while they are fine for cutting branches if there is nothing else about, you will run into trouble if you are trying to cut in the main canopy of the tree.


Loppers are essentially secateurs on steroids. Large handles lead to hardened steel blades which often cut using a rachet for increased cutting power. While really effective at cutting smaller branches, they have a set upper limit. The jaws will only open a fixed distance, if your branch is broader than this distance, then you are out of look and will have to choose a different tool. Maximum cuts on the average set of loppers will be around 50mm as a rough rule of thumb.


The baby brother of loppers, Secateurs are handheld snips used mainly for pruning plants and bushes. They can be used to cut tree branches but only tiny ones. Think watershoots and very young branches. Anything bigger than this and you will have to get something bigger out of the toolshed.

Folding Saw

A folding saw is very similar to a tree saw, or bow saw. The big advantage they have is the small form factor. They fold, obviously, so are a lot more portable than a Bow saw. They also don’t have the sizeable bow-shaped frame so they can fit and cut in a lot tighter spaces. This is invaluable if the tree you are cutting is a mess of branches where you won’t have the area to get a bow saw in. We have a full article on the best folding saws.

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Wood by name, wood by nature. I am a fully qualified, time-served, award-winning joiner with an NVQ Level 3 in Carpentry and Joinery as well as an HNC in Construction. Beyond my joinery qualifications, I have also earned a degree in building surveying. I believe these qualifications make me perfectly positioned to provide expert advice on many different areas of DIY as well as share all of the tips I have picked up in over a decade working on building sites!