Chainsaws and pruning tools

Selecting the most appropriate equipment for the job is key to getting the best result and there are plenty of new options, Sally Drury finds

Makita: two fully charged 5.0Ah batteries able to deliver 60 cuts through 5in timber - image: Makita
Makita: two fully charged 5.0Ah batteries able to deliver 60 cuts through 5in timber - image: Makita

Whether pruning for aesthetic, safety or health reasons, success is always more likely if you use the most appropriate equipment. Depending on the subjects to be cut, you may opt for a chainsaw, powered pole pruner, extended-reach or standard saws and loppers, or simply use secateurs.

For those with climbing experience and the necessary tickets, there are a number of new chainsaws available. The latest top-handle model in the Echo range is the CS-2511TES. Weighing in at just 2.3kg - dry and excluding bar and chain - this is the company's lightest and most compact saw to date. The design is intended to make it highly manoeuvrable and easy to use for long periods of time.

It is powered by a 1kW engine. A contoured handle with palm rest offers control and comfort, the controls are logically positioned and a swing-out lanyard ring is fitted to aid climbing. Narrow louvres in the body prevent debris penetrating the engine compartment.

Top handle: CS2511TES Echo chainsaw weighs just 2.3kg

Designed for ease of use

Everything on the new saw has been designed for ease of use. The tank openings are wider for easier oil and fuel filling, and the oil adjuster is on top for convenient access. The starter grip doubles as an aid to opening the oil and fuel caps, making oiling and fuelling easier when wearing gloves. Captive nuts reduce the risk of loss during maintenance. The CS-2511TES costs around £400 + VAT and is backed by a two-year professional warranty.

Where it is deemed necessary to remove branches or even fell small or medium-sized trees and follow up with subsequent logging-up, Husqvarna has added the 550XP Triobrake to its family of chainsaws. With a 50.1cc low-consumption, low-emissions engine and power output of 2.8kW, it weighs in at 5kg and is packed with Husky technology. AutoTune gives optimal engine performance via automatic setting, so no time has to be spent on carburettor adjustments, while also compensating for different fuels, altitude, humidity, temperature and the degree of air filter clogging.

This chainsaw also has RevBoost, a technology that gives rapid acceleration and higher chain speed for better limbing performance. A flip-up tank cap makes opening and closing easier when fuelling and, of course, it features Triobrake - a safety system where the chain brake can be activated in a third way.

There are two customary ways with the left wrist and through the inertia function, but with Triobrake the right hand can also be used. It provides extra protection in situations not necessarily covered by a regular chain brake, such as in the event of climbing kickback when pruning a standing tree or should the operator stumble. In addition, the rear-handle guard will let you know if you bend your back rather than your knees when crosscutting and is also activated if you use the saw incorrectly above shoulder height. The 550XP Triobrake is available with a 15in (37cm) bar and costs £583.33 + VAT.

For users with less chainsaw experience, Husqvarna's 420EL may fit the bill. As an electric chainsaw with 14in (35cm) bar, it is intended for carpentry and preparing firewood but can be used for pruning and small tree work. It features an in-line 2kW output motor, oil-level window, tool-less chain tensioner and 5m of cable. Chain speed is 14.5m/s. The RRP is £145.83 + VAT.

Updated battery models

Battery chainsaws have come to the fore in recent years with the introduction of lithium-ion batteries boosting power and productivity. Units are available from Pellenc, Stihl, Husqvarna, Makita, Greenworks, Worx, EGO, Cobra, Hyundai, Redback, Bosch and Wolf.

FGM Claymore, known for Tanaka petrol chainsaws, recently started supplying the 82V Snapper SXDC82XD with 18in (46cm) Oregon bar. Emak is supplying the MT Li-ion 2200 chainsaw, with a chain speed of just 8m/s, for home use. Echo, having brought a cordless tool kit to market last November, is expected to introduce a chainsaw in the future.

Chain speeds of up to 20m/s are now possible with saws such as the Husqvarna T536Li XP top-handle battery chainsaw. The company's latest model is the 120i-KIT 36V rear-handled saw with 12in (30cm) bar, brushless motor and keypad with "savE" technology for longer running. The RRP including battery and charger is £200 + VAT.

Zubat Arborist: with extra-large teeth - image: Silky Fox

Improved performance

Last year Makita introduced a 6Ah version of its 18V lithium-ion battery to power its cordless tool range. But this year the news is of the DUC353Z Twin 18V direct-drive brushless motor chainsaw. Said to match the logging performance of similar sized petrol saws, this new model has a rated output of 1.1kW - similar to a 32cc petrol unit - and comes fitted with a 14in (35cm) bar.

It boasts a chain speed of 20m/s and trials have shown that two fully charged 5.0Ah batteries will deliver 60 cuts through 5in timber - at least seven linear metres of cutting per charge. For safety, the saw locks out after 60 seconds of inactivity. Operating weight is 5.2kg. Shop around and you can find a body-only price of around £200 + VAT.

Pellenc also has a new battery to power its chainsaw and pole saw offering. The ULB1500 has been developed to give users 50% more stored energy compared to the existing largest battery on the market, allowing for a full day's work without recharging. Importantly, it is IP54 waterproof rated, so no worries about working in the rain.

Two new battery chainsaws from Stihl, the MSA 120 C-BQ and MSA 140 C-BQ, are for preparing firewood and garden maintenance. Both have Stihl's Quick Chain Tensioning, QuickStop Super chain brake, brushless motor and oil tank window and come with 12in (30cm) bars and 1/4in PM3 saw chains. Prices are £207.50 and £274.17 respectively, including battery and charger but excluding VAT.

For operations at height but allowing the user to keep both feet on the ground, there is an increasing range of pole pruners. The latest from Stihl, the HT 103 and HT 133, are petrol models with 31.4cc and 36.3cc engines respectively and priced at £665 + VAT and £750 + VAT. With telescopic shafts, both extend to 3.9m and have 12in (30cm) guide bars. An angled gear head is also available.

Sometimes what you need is simply a handsaw - no petrol, no battery. Silky Fox has a reputation for keen cutting tools, as with its new Zubat Arborist 330-5.5. This saw has extra-large teeth spaced at 5.5 per 30mm for aggressive, faster, precision sawing of soft, fresh wood such as poplar and willow in tighter spaces. It is housed in a scabbard that has a third roller for smoother sliding and is intended to be the handsaw that lets you leave the chainsaw in the shed. Zubat blades, cannot be resharpened but are replaceable and can be interchanged with the Zubat professional pole saw, thus giving extra versatility.

Another recent introduction from Silky Fox is the new length 33cm version of the straight-blade Gomtaro. Intended for the general pruning of medium to large branches, it has a rubber handle and polypropylene holster for attaching to belt or leg strap. The saw has eight teeth per 30mm for a smooth finish when cutting dry or hard wood.

Lighter tools available

As well as the material to be cut, all pruning operations should take into account those who are doing the pruning. An increasing army of volunteers is now working in our parks and gardens, many of them well practiced in pruning but remaining active and filling in retirement time. Lighter tools may be needed in some situations and for such a purpose Wilkinson Sword has introduced its UltraLight range including bypass lopper, hedging shears and telescopic branch/shrub cutter. The loppers weigh just 450g - 50% lighter than standard loppers - have a non-stick coating and 25mm cutting capacity. The RRP is £29.99 including VAT.

Husqvarna X-CUT saw chain: sharp and durable

Since chainsaw performance is dependent on the quality of the chain, last autumn Husqvarna began manufacturing its own saw chain at its factory in Sweden.

"The X-CUT is a milestone in Husqvarna history," says division president Pavel Hajman. "We have provided world-class chainsaws since 1959 and with our new saw chain and bars we deliver a full Husqvarna experience, taking performance and productivity to a new level."

The micro-structured steel and chrome composition of the pre-stretched X-CUT chain is said to offer extended sharpness and a high level of durability. It is made of five parts - cutter, tie strap, bumper drive link, drive link and rivet - linked together to become a low-vibration, pixel saw chain that cuts a narrow kerf and requires less power from the saw than standard cutting systems.

Image: Wilkinson Sword

Topiary pruning shear

Wilkinson Sword has developed a new single-handed topiary shear (above) featuring carbon steel 16.5cm blades with precision-ground face and scissor-like action of one razor sharp blade passing over another to give a crisp and clean cut. The blade is sprung to help with the cutting stroke, the handles have non-slip grips and there is a large, central catch with a safety locking mechanism. RRP: £14.99 including VAT.

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