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Between Loppers and Chainsaw: Using a Cordless Reciprocating Saw as a Garden Tool

By evermorelawnless
March 9, 2015

Using a cordless reciprocating saw with a pruning blade is often easier (and safer) than using a chainsaw or even loppers. This article describes how we use a recip saw around here as a garden tool and provides several illustrations.

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Name: Carole
Clarksville, TN (Zone 6b)
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SongofJoy
Mar 9, 2015 5:29 AM CST
Use it all the time.
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Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
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fiwit
Mar 9, 2015 8:53 AM CST
I just bought a corded one yesterday (my first), because I couldn't think of any reason I'd really need a cordless. Am taking the new one back and swapping it out. Hilarious!
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Asa

Bee Lover Garden Photography Region: Utah Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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evermorelawnless
Mar 9, 2015 9:02 AM CST
fiwit said:I just bought a corded one yesterday (my first), because I couldn't think of any reason I'd really need a cordless. Am taking the new one back and swapping it out. Hilarious!


Now THAT'S a conversation I don't want to have. I don't want to think how many extension cords I've cut through using the corded hedge trimmer. Seems like every time I get it out, POOF, SNAP, SPARK, oh, geeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez....

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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
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valleylynn
Mar 9, 2015 10:22 AM CST
So would this work on trimming a boxwood hedge? If so which blade type would you use?
Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
Gardening dilettante, that's me!
Plays in the sandbox Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Dog Lover Daylilies The WITWIT Badge
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Bluebonnets Birds Region: Georgia Composter Garden Ideas: Master Level
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fiwit
Mar 9, 2015 10:24 AM CST
They actually have a "pruning blade," Lynn... I bought one today. And the HomeDepot guy says he uses his all the time for hedge trimming, etc.
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Mar 9, 2015 10:26 AM CST
Oh Mary, thank you so much. Group hug
I am going to go get a reciprocating saw and different blades. What would be a good assortment of blades for the average gardener?
Name: Asa

Bee Lover Garden Photography Region: Utah Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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evermorelawnless
Mar 9, 2015 10:37 AM CST
http://www.homedepot.com/p/Diablo-9-in-x-5-Teeth-per-in-Flea...

http://www.lowes.com/pd_27179-70-PC760R_4294607785__?product...

http://www.amazon.com/94100-05-Pruning-Reciprocating-Blades-...

The porter cable is one we've had good luck with (the one linked from Lowes...and Amazon has them, too).

I'd start with a pruning blade...it's pretty aggressive. Then, if you want finer cuts or are cutting fibrous stuff, any assortment would do. I think you might be happier with the longer blades (9 inch), generally, than the shorter (6 inch), though. I found an assortment box of 30 or so of them at Costco a while back for twenty dollars.

Here's a random assortment from Home Depot -

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Milwaukee-Sawzall-Blade-Set-12-Pi...

Hard to know what exactly to recommend. I'd try the pruner first...then if you want other blades, get an assortment that has a broad spectrum of teeth-per-inch (tpi)- from 6 to 24 or something...and then figure out which ones are most useful to you...and then buy replacements for the specifically useful ones as you dull the originals.
I share this blog with the unwashed cetacean - have a look! - http://garden.org/blogs/view/evermoredorphins
Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
Gardening dilettante, that's me!
Plays in the sandbox Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Dog Lover Daylilies The WITWIT Badge
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Bluebonnets Birds Region: Georgia Composter Garden Ideas: Master Level
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fiwit
Mar 9, 2015 10:41 AM CST
I'm not the best resource for that, but can't resist chiming in Hilarious!

I bought an assortment pack yesterday -- it was $16, I think? Will handle a variety of materials, and then I got the pruning blade today. Per Mr HomeDepot, reciprocating saw blades are universal. So you're not limited to having to get the manufacturer brand.

As one who's had a variety of cordless tools over the years, go for the biggest battery you can afford (I got the DeWalt 20v lithium-ion saw. Mine came with battery, charger, and carrying case, for about $100 more than just the saw alone).

This is mine: http://www.homedepot.com/p/DEWALT-20-Volt-Max-Lithium-Ion-Co...

Here's what the pruning blade looks like
http://www.homedepot.com/p/Diablo-9-in-x-5-Teeth-per-in-Flea...

edited to add: Asa beat me to it Hilarious!
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
[Last edited by fiwit - Mar 9, 2015 10:42 AM (+)]
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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
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valleylynn
Mar 9, 2015 11:05 AM CST
Just to make sure we are on the same page. This will work to trim/shape an existing boxwood hedge?
Name: Asa

Bee Lover Garden Photography Region: Utah Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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evermorelawnless
Mar 9, 2015 2:54 PM CST
valleylynn said:Just to make sure we are on the same page. This will work to trim/shape an existing boxwood hedge?


It will work well for stuff that's the diameter of a pencil and larger. I know that when I've trimmed hedges, there have been times when the hedge clippers have been too small to get some of the larger branches and I've had to go after them with the loppers.

That said, a recip saw won't work like the bar of a hedge trimmer (think many tiny pairs of scissors operating at once). It's much more suited to single targets (or, in the case of the yucca, a sheaf of stuff contained to act like a single target).

In other words, if I were trimming a wildly feral hedge, I'd probably end up using both tools. If it were just a minor manicure, the hedge trimmers would be the tool of choice.

I sure hopes this answers what you're asking.

I share this blog with the unwashed cetacean - have a look! - http://garden.org/blogs/view/evermoredorphins
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Mar 9, 2015 3:00 PM CST
Yes that did help Asa. I believe it will take both. This hedge needs a major trimming, some of the limbs are larger than a pencil.
Thank you for your help.
Name: Holly
South Central Pa
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HollyAnnS
Mar 9, 2015 4:00 PM CST
I use mine quite often, great for branches that are just a bit big for my loppers. I've even used it for dividing perennials.
Life is Great! Holly
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Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
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dirtdorphins
Mar 9, 2015 8:04 PM CST
I have given up on the loppers in lieu of the power saw--a few years back I actually cracked a rib going after an overhead branch with the loppers (of course I was using my chest as a fulcrum of sorts, which was dumb, but still).
Seems there is always something the loppers and I can't handle, so if I can't cut it with my pocket pruners I go for the saw--rather than starting with the loppers and then getting the saw anyway. Perfect for thinning out shrubs and those old, thick dead rose canes, ya know, why lop off all the lopper-sized branches and leave that big ugly thing, right? (Well unless it's the only thing holding up the clematis I guess Hilarious! )
The nice thing is that the saw can cut lopper-sized things, too. I can also operate it with one hand if I am so inclined to cut small spindly things with it--it works alright if you hold the spindly thing still with tension. Like I could use it to cut back the tall grass clumps in handfuls, but I use my pocket pruners because I get a cleaner cut.
And dividing those perennials Thumbs up slicker than jumping on shovels, bouncing off, and rolling down the hill Hilarious! I know a thing about that too
TN (Zone 7a)
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cookiedr
Mar 14, 2015 9:26 AM CST
I am apparently just finding out what you all already know....cordless reciprocating saw in the garden. Will you all recommend which cordless reciprocating is best....would be nice if it were light weight too. My hands have been giving me trouble for years and before long I'm going to have to find better ways of pruning. Thank you!
Name: Asa

Bee Lover Garden Photography Region: Utah Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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evermorelawnless
Mar 14, 2015 11:36 AM CST
cookiedr said:I am apparently just finding out what you all already know....cordless reciprocating saw in the garden. Will you all recommend which cordless reciprocating is best....would be nice if it were light weight too. My hands have been giving me trouble for years and before long I'm going to have to find better ways of pruning. Thank you!


This is kind of a tough question. I had a TON of tools stolen out of the garage a while ago but the insurance was generous/reasonable (I really was thankful for "replacement value" insurance in this case) so I got to start fresh with a bunch of my things. After shopping and reading and trying things out, I selected the Home Depot house branded Rigid cordless tools. They're pretty high quality and they have a "batteries for life" program. And that's the stuff that goes out fastest and is most expensive to replace.

That said, DeWalt, Porter Cable, Mikita, Ryobi, Hitachi, etc., (I know I'm missing a few) make high quality tools and I wouldn't be averse to owning any of those. I'd shy away from Harbor Freight-type quality in this case (tho I do use some of their stuff as if it were disposable).

The only thing I'd advise is that you get a saw that meets your needs (cost, weight, durability) that is powered by a Lithium-ion battery rather than the Nickel-cadmium batteries. The Li-on is superior for so many reasons - most importantly, it will just work better and frustrate you less.

The other bit of advice is that I think you should have at least two batteries for the saw. It's really nice to have one on the charger ready to go...so you don't have to quit in the middle of a job. YMMV on that one, but that just makes me crazy.

The final consideration is something compatible with what you may already have - or what you may buy - in terms of cordless tools. Around here, I really cannot live without a cordless drill...and having a set with some integrity - batteries that fit everything - really makes it easy.

I'd go to the hardware store or home center and try a few out. Check the weight...and balance on them. See what feels good and what fits your pocketbook. It makes no sense to get something that you cannot use...and you cannot really know what's best until you have a few in your hands.

I share this blog with the unwashed cetacean - have a look! - http://garden.org/blogs/view/evermoredorphins
Name: Holly
South Central Pa
Charter ATP Member Greenhouse Region: Mid-Atlantic I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: Pennsylvania Tropicals
Ponds Hummingbirder Birds Butterflies Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Garden Ideas: Master Level
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HollyAnnS
Mar 14, 2015 12:38 PM CST
I use my DH's saw and it has seen some hard work over the years, his is a ryobi.
I will say that a cordless reciprocating saw, although easy to operated could be a bit hard for someone with hand problems. Mine is a bit heavy due to the weight of the battery, depending on what you are cutting the back and forth movement of the saw can a a bit strenuous and holding it at the angle that you need can be awkward. I really love mine and find it great for in the garden but if you have hand issues you should give it a try before you buy if possible. Many store will let you try a tool before you buy it and if you take it home and it doesn't work for you, you should be able to return it.
Life is Great! Holly
Please visit me and learn more about My Life on the Water a Personal Journey Thread in the MidAtlanticMusings Cubit.
http://cubits.org/MidAtlanticMusings/thread/view/5752/

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