As Doug wrote in his recent post, Two Tree Herders Upgrade their Saws, we have a lot of trees to trim.  Our architect, Della Hansmann, works with Roald Gundersen of Whole Trees Architecture, who builds homes from whole trees, culling the weed trees from the woods and counting on the superior strength they bring to bear because their fibers have not been cut like conventional lumber.  That means some fairly small trees can do a big job, and in the end you have a neat house and a healthier woods.

Our dream saw arrived last Wednesday — the Hayate 420, a 20-foot state-of-the-art, heavy-duty, aluminum telescoping pole saw. (This saw is also available from Forestry Suppliers and Ben Meadows .  Here is how its Japanese maker describes it:

Thick aluminum alloy extension poles are oval shaped, providing precise control over the direction of the blade (especially important for high cutting) thus reducing bending to the minimum. The 16-21/2-inch curved blade utilizes proprietary Silky MIRAI-ME (Smooth Cutting) Technology.  The Teeth of the Future! The taper-ground profile reduces drag and directs more usable energy to the cutting edge. This is the strongest and fastest telescoping pole saw available on the market today.  Incorrect use of the Silky pole saw may cause injury.

I added the italics as foreshadowing.

Thursday Doug and I took a half day of vacation to give this amazing instrument a test drive, and it worked like a dream.  We trimmed several maples near the house site.

..The saw has an extra blade to score the underside of the branch and make a clean cut.

And then we started to work on a massive dead oak.  It needs to be felled, but is likely to take with it some spruce that we hope to keep.

Removing a few strategic branches narrows the footprint of its fall, and with our new saw, we could reach them.  Oak sawed more slowly, but branch after branch crashed satisfyingly to the ground.

..Warming up on an easy branch. It's the one above this that was trouble.

It was getting late and cold.  The sun set into thick gray clouds. Still plenty of light for us though.  The last, highest branch was also the thickest, and Doug extended the saw to its full length, set the blade and began to work.

He sawed and sawed.  And he sawed some more.  I stepped up to help.  It’s a big enough handle that two can easily saw together, but I was beginning to wonder if we had perhaps bitten off a little more than we could handle.

We had created our very own Sword of Damacles up there.  The saw got stuck, but Doug freed it.  We sawed on.  Again the saw stuck.  Again Doug worked it loose.  In the dimming light, it was hard to actually see the blade — it was so far away.

...The branch Doug is sawing is actually attached to the Branch Too Far that ate our saw. (and I photoshopped a little more light into this shot so at least you can see)

Then the tree gave that low, ominous growl oak makes when it rips, and we watched the slice we had cut open into a narrow V – just enough to grab the saw blade with all its force and then stop.

There the branch hung.  Holding on by maybe a quarter of its diameter and holding onto our saw.

Doug tried, but there was no getting the saw free.  It was now quite dark.  It was cold and dark.  We had created a killer branch, and we had embedded our state-of-the-art, heavy-duty, aluminum telescoping pole saw 20 feet above our heads.

Sometimes you just have to laugh.  That was not one of those times.  But by the time we went to bed, we were laughing at ourselves.  We named Thursday A Branch Too Far Day.

Maybe we had been arrogant.  Maybe we had been foolish.  Maybe we had broken our new toy.  But maybe not.

As soon as we got home Doug had improvised a rescue tool out of salvaged metal bob and rope which he planned to lob over the dangling branch.  The idea was that I would pull the limb to one side and free the saw.

It’s nice to have a plan.

But when we arrived Saturday, jumped out of the car and ran back to the dead oak, that monster branch was resting comfortably on the ground. So was our saw.

Perhaps the wood sprites could tell that we had the health of the woods in our hearts, and they freed our saw.

Or maybe it was a simple physics equation.

Nothing was injured after all but our pride, and we got a sobering reminder to be careful out there. Gravity is not just a good idea – it’s the law.

So we re-straightened a slight bend in one of the telescoping poles and took our battle-tested Hayate across Lloyds Lane to lop whirl after whirl of branches off pines that stand a few yards from our building site and will become our rafters. This time, the clouds arranged themselves in a rosy, feathery fan of a sunset as we dragged the last of the cut branches uphill to a burn pile.

I always figured the Hayate 420 would be Doug’s toy.  He has more upper body strength, and that saw is both heavy duty and just plain heavy.  But on a lark, I picked it up to try it.  It was just within my power range, and it was so thrilling to use that I pole sawed most of the afternoon.

Two days later, my muscles are still talking to me.  A good tool and a bit of muscle create the kind of dialog I like.  Though it’s much better when the conversation ends with the saw hanging in barn instead of a tree.

..Our old and new saws lounging against the barn. As Doug said in his post, this saw wasn't cheap, but when compared to firing up gas-powered equipment or hiring the work out, and factoring in the great satisfaction of doing it oneself -- it seems well worth it to us.

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4 replies

  1. Hah! Last year my saw got hung up in a tree like you describe. I wasn’t quite smart enough in deciphering how the branch would bend. So my saw hung there for several weeks until the tree guy came out and freed it for me as he was working on some other tree projects. One learns to take time to project carefully where trees will fall and what direction branches will crack!

  2. Yes. My number one rule for both exercise and working on the land is — don’t hurt yourself. But it is possible to get too close to a project and lose perspective. I think we have always given the proper respect to our chain saw. But our old pole saw was so wimpy that we never seemed to get into a scrape with it.
    Our new pole saw is a whole ‘nother beast, and I feel very lucky that we got to learn that lesson without paying too high a price.

    • o.k. I’ve known since I was an ears-owning member of the Mouseketeers Club that Wednesday is Anything-Can-Happen Day. I always look for surprises on Wednesday. And I think being called a superhero qualifies.
      I like your blog and can totally get behind your philosophy — Don’t make anyone’s day worse! You certainly brightened mine.

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