Can a Chain Saw Be Used to Trim Bushes?

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Chainsaws can cut through bushes, hedges and shrubs with little problem.

A chainsaw can be used to trim bushes, hedges and shrubs. While not as effective as a hedge trimmer, a chainsaw can cut fast enough to trim through lighter woods. However, if you're looking for those precision cuts, a hedge trimmer will best serve your purposes. If it's only needed to pair back overgrown bushes, a chainsaw will suffice.


Select Bar Size

Chainsaws tend to use longer bars than hedge trimmers as the wood they're cutting is much larger. However, chainsaws often allow up to 3 different size bars to work on the chainsaw. If you plan on cutting a lot of bushes, go to the lowest bar size recommended for your chainsaw, which will give added control to the cutting and reduce the cutting area. If you just want to get through it quick, use a longer bar to whack those bushes. A longer bar also may be necessary for longer, taller shrubs and bushes.

Keep Chain Sharp

Keeping the chain sharp is a mandate for all chainsaw cutting but especially when cutting lighter materials such as brushes. A sharp chain will allow you to get the most precise cuts and will keep the chain from snagging against the branches. Also, loosen the tension on the chain slightly, turning the tensioner screw about a half turn counterclockwise, which will give the chain added flexibility and will stop the chain from binding against the lighter woods. It will also prevent the chain from popping off the bar suddenly.


Operating Procedures

Correctly operating the chainsaw will greatly reduce the risk of injury to the operator. Always throttle the trigger fully when making a cut to give the chain a maximum speed, allowing it to slice through the wood much easier. This will also reduce the risk of binds and chains popping. If possible, work with just the tip and the underside of the chain, which has the highest speeds and most effective cutting. However, if your handles prevent safe handling of the chainsaw in this manner, work with just the tip of the saw. Always keep good footing, and work with a partner in case of an accident.


Safety Considerations

When using a chainsaw, always wear the proper protective clothing. An added piece of protective gear — chainsaw chaps — should be used when brushing. These chaps use interwoven fibers to cover the front of your legs, which will prevent injury should the chain pop off the bar during trimming. Never cut with the power head above your head; if you have taller hedges and bushes, use a pole saw or other equipment to safely cut those areas.



Eric Blankenburg

Currently based in Minneapolis, Minn., Eric Blankenburg has been a freelance journalist since 2000. His articles have appeared in "Outside Missoula, Outside Bozeman," "Hello Chengdu" and online at and various other websites. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the University of Montana.