Bow Saw vs. Pruning Saw: What’s the Difference & Which One to Use?

If you are a green-fingered homeowner, you may wonder which tool to choose, a bow saw or a pruning saw, for your gardening projects. While both saws are great at cutting branches and trees, they have unique features, benefits, and limitations. 

When it comes to cutting branches, pruning trees, or sawing through logs, choosing the right saw can make all the difference in both speed and efficiency.

Depending on your needs, I will lay out the difference between a bow saw and a pruning saw, their uses, and some tips to help you select the right tool. 

Why take my advice? I have worked in garden centers and landscape nurseries, planted trees commercially, and consider myself an above-average do-it-yourself. I am a tool junkie and have bought my fair share of junk and disappointing gadgets. I strive to bring my real work experience to every article.

Before we drive in, let me note that a Pruning Saw is also called a Hand Saw or garden hand Saw. For ease of writing and to use the official name, I will be using the term Pruning Saw from here on out. In addition to the names, I will save you the trouble of deciding which saw to buy; you need both a Bow Saw and a Pruning Saw!

What Is A Bow Saw?

A bow saw is a versatile and traditional hand saw designed for cutting through thicker branches and logs. The bow saw’s defining characteristic is its large, curved frame with a relatively wide, coarse-toothed blade. The bow saw’s teeth are designed for fast and efficient cutting and can be replaced when worn out.

The frame is usually made of metal, plastic, or wood, and it has a handle on each end for holding and screws or nuts for tensioning the blade. Bow saws are designed for cutting medium to large branches or logs and are perfect for tasks requiring aggressive cuts and long strokes. They are also useful for shaping or trimming trees, sawing firewood, or cutting through thicker branches.

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Advantages Of A Bow Saw:
  1. Fast and efficient cutting: Bow saws are known for their ability to cut through wood quickly and easily, making them perfect for trimming trees, cutting firewood, or other heavy-duty wood-cutting needs.
  1. Replaceable blades: The ability to replace the blade means maintaining a sharp and effective cutting edge for a long time, increasing the saw’s lifespan and usefulness.
  1. Sturdy frame: The bow saw’s frame provides excellent tension on the blade, which helps ensure smooth, accurate cuts.

What Is A Pruning Saw?

A pruning saw is a smaller, more specialized hand saw designed specifically for pruning trees and shrubs. Pruning saws feature a narrow, curved blade with sharp, fine teeth that are ideal for cutting through green wood or smaller branches. These saws are best suited for tasks requiring precision and a clean cut, such as shaping trees or removing dead branches.

Advantages Of A Pruning Saw

1. Precision cutting: Pruning saws are designed for clean, accurate cuts, which are essential for maintaining the health of your plants.

2. Compact design: The smaller size of a pruning saw makes it more maneuverable, allowing you to reach tight spots and make precise cuts with ease.

3. Pull-cut action: Most pruning saws utilize a pull-cut action, which means the teeth cut on the pull stroke, providing more control and reducing the chance of binding in the wood.

A pruning saw is a smaller, lighter saw with a curved or straight blade with teeth along one edge and a comfortable handle for grip. Pruning saws are made for precise and intricate cuts on small to medium branches and twigs in tight spaces, such as dense shrubs, fruit trees, or ornamental plants. 

Because they are thinner and more flexible than bow saws, pruning saws can reach awkward angles and tight spots without damaging surrounding areas. Pruning saws are perfect for pruning, shaping, and maintaining plants without disturbing their growth.

Design and Structure

One major difference between these two saws is their design and structure. A bow saw is a longer, more robust saw with a curved metal frame that many times has a triangular blade with teeth that cut on both the pull and the push stroke.  

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A pruning saw, on the other hand, is shorter and more lightweight, making it easier to maneuver into tight spaces with its narrow blade with smaller teeth typically meant to cut on the pull stroke. Due to its sturdy frame, a bow saw can handle both thick and thin branches, while a pruning saw is ideal for cutting smaller, precise branches.

Bow saws excel at tackling larger branches that need a bit more muscle and leverage, while pruning saws shine when dealing with smaller branches that call for a lighter touch and greater control. Bow saws tend to be louder and more aggressive, while pruning saws are quieter and more precise. Now, if either sound level bothers you there are other issues we need to talk about!

A pruning saw is a smaller, lighter saw with a curved or straight blade with teeth along one edge and a comfortable handle for grip. Pruning saws are made for precise and intricate cuts on small to medium branches and twigs in tight spaces, such as dense shrubs, fruit trees, or ornamental plants. 

Because they are thinner and more flexible than bow saws, pruning saws can reach awkward angles and tight spots without damaging surrounding areas. Pruning saws are perfect for pruning, shaping, and maintaining plants without disturbing their growth.

Bow saws have a higher risk of damaging surrounding areas, while pruning saws are designed to minimize the risk of cuts and injuries. In summary, if you have a lot of heavy-duty cutting work to do, choose a bow saw; if you have delicate pruning work to do, choose a pruning saw.

Another significant difference between these two saws is their blade types. The bow saw uses a precise tooth spacing and a sharp blade, which allows the saw to cut large branches with a fast cutting speed. 

These are available in both coarse or fine teeth for specific cutting styles. Pruning saws come in various shapes of blades, but most commonly, the blade is narrow with small teeth to make precise cuts whilst lessening the chance of damaging the tree or plants it is used on.

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Blade Size: Box Saw Vs. Pruning Saw

Typically, a bow saw has a much longer blade than a pruning saw. Bow saw blades can range from 21 to 30 inches, while most pruning saws will have a blade that is between 6 to 12 inches long. Bow saws are designed for dealing with thick branches of trees and hedges, while pruning saws are ideal for precision cuts on thinner branches and shrubs.

How To Chose the Right Saw

To choose the right saw for your needs, consider the size and thickness of the branches you need to cut, the space in which you are cutting, and your own strength and skill level. If you are unsure which saw to use, it’s best to start with a pruning saw, as it is easier to handle and less risky. 

You can then upgrade to a bow saw if you need more power and precision. Always wear protective gear, such as gloves, safety glasses, and sturdy shoes, when using saws to prevent accidents and injuries.

Which Saw is Right for You?

The choice between a bow saw, and a pruning saw ultimately depends on the specific tasks you need to accomplish in your garden or landscaping projects. 

Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:

Task requirements: If you need a saw for heavy-duty cutting of larger branches or logs, a bow saw is likely the better choice. A pruning saw is the more suitable option for precise pruning tasks and shaping trees or shrubs.

Workspace: Consider the space in which you’ll be working. A pruning saw’s compact design will be advantageous if you need to maneuver in tight spaces or make precise cuts.

Frequency of use: If you plan to use your saw regularly for a variety of tasks, investing in both a bow saw, and a pruning saw may be the most practical solution, as each saw has its unique strengths and uses.

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Make Sure To Pick The Right Saw Based On Your Needs

Understanding the difference between a bow saw, and a pruning saw is crucial for anyone who wants to maintain their garden and keep their trees and plants healthy. Both saws have their own specific uses and tasks, and selecting the right one for the job makes all the difference. 

Remember, it’s all about picking the right tool for the job at hand. If you need to cut those thicker branches, a bow saw will give you the power you need, but a pruning saw is the way to go for precise cuts on smaller branches or more delicate plants. 

Choosing the right saw depends on the size and location of the branches you need to cut and your own level of experience and comfort with different saws. I will also mention that you will need both a Bow Saw and Pruning Saw in your arsenal of landscaping tools.

Blair Witkowski
Author: Blair Witkowski

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