Cordless Reciprocating Saw—Handy for Yard Work
Spring and fall are two good times of the year to clean up the yard. Leaves are raked, shrubs are pruned and trees are ignored, except for dropped limbs and other debris.
Some tree species need more pruning than others, while a number of species demand more pruning. For example, my yard has many self-pruning trees such as silver and other soft maples, tulip poplars and some willows. These trees leave limbs on the ground throughout the year, but the build up is most noticeable in spring, after a long winter.
Then there are those trees, like the pin oak I planted at the end of my shop 20 years ago, that grows in such a way that it demands pruning annually for many years. The lowest limbs grow towards the ground, creating a nice, cool spot for summer reading, but making lawn care a real nuisance.
When you include trees in your shrub-pruning chores, the need for trimming and cleanup is glaring. Pruning shears are wonderful for light brush and small limbs no larger than 1 inch in diameter. Larger limbs can require a great deal of effort. For years, most people in my neighborhood used small chainsaws for trimming limbs that were over 3 inches in diameter, but that “tweenie” size, from 1 to 3 inches, required handsaws or pruning shears with handles the length of a rake.
Recips to the Rescue
Tool companies are ever innovating. Some innovations, such as reciprocating saws, are solidly worthwhile. I had a small Ryobi cordless reciprocating saw floating around my shop, but no time to help my wife Frances with pruning. I took 10 minutes to show her how to use the recip saw, and it revolutionized her pruning chores. That small, low-cost recip saw did the work with ease, eliminated the tweenie-sized tools, and kept on buzzing. Felco’s F-21 pruning shears are as good as it gets (about $100); the Ryobi recip, with battery and charger, runs about the same price. The newer lime green Ryobi li-ion saw is a few bucks more, but with more features and superb battery technology for longer lasting charges.
Frances’s cleanup of our yard with the reciprocating saw was just the beginning. I managed to collect several recips, ranging from several of the best NiCad and Li-ion 18-volt tools. One saw is a real fire breather, the Bosch 36-volt behemoth. Swapping saws as I went, I trimmed a number of trees around the yard with limbs ranging in size from 1 inch to just shy of 6 inches in diameter.
My conclusions help to cut the effort of pruning and yard junk cut-up. The cordless 18-volt reciprocating saw is a prime tool for yard work and cutting up smaller branches. It reduces effort and skill needs tremendously, while speeding the work. In the case of mid-range work, cordless recip saws replace the chainsaw as a homeowner’s tool, cutting up to about 5-or 6-inch diameter wood. The cut is slower, but safety is much enhanced.
Recip saws do not kick back. A chainsaw does. A speeding chain jumps back at the operator the first time it makes solid contact in the curved nose area. Chainsaw kickback is very dangerous. Chainsaws are usually the most dangerous tools a homeowner is ever likely to use. Recip saws can bite you, but you have to almost insist on getting hurt with them.
Fresh, sharp edges are cheap. Tap a nail with a chainsaw: If luck holds, about 15 to 20 minutes is needed to sharpen the chain and get back to work. However, hit a nail with a pruning blade on a reciprocating saw, and it takes 30 to 60 seconds to remove the old blade and stick in a new one. The blades cost a shade over two bucks each, in 6-inch lengths, and just over three for 12 inches. Chainsaw chains range in price—for a 16-inch, from $13 to about $40. Mess up a chainsaw bar, and prices can double or almost triple.