I would like to share information about a valuable garden tool with you. If you do your own maintenance of the palms and cycads that you grow, this tool will likely be used as much as your shovel or rake. I rate this tool very highly on my list of must-have tools for the trade.
A few years ago I was pruning some of the lower leaves of a Phoenix dactylifera that had about five feet of clean trunk. A friend of mine stopped by and happened to see that I was laboring with a small (two foot blade) bow saw. He said that he had a cordless battery powered "Saws All" type of reciprocating saw in the trunk of his car, and he said that he used it for all kinds of pruning and trimming jobs in his yard. He offered it to me to use. Although I have a reciprocating saw of my own, I thought that I would accept his offer, and give it a try. Since I could trim the leaves that needed removal while still standing on the ground, I could control the saw with two hands, but I could not control where the leaves would fall.
After having completed all of the trimming necessary on the Phoenix palm, I began to question myself why I hadn’t used my own reciprocating saw to make the task much easier.
(See Figure 1.) Then it dawned on me why I hadn’t. First of all my reciprocating saw is not powered with a rechargeable battery, so a long extension cord is needed. Secondly it is so large that it requires both hands to safely operate. Since I was standing comfortably with both feet on the ground, I was able to use both hands to operate and control the standard size reciprocating saw that my friend had loaned me. But more often than not, when I prune palm or cycad leaves, I prefer to use one hand to hold on to and control the leaf being cut and the other hand to control the cutting instrument (pruner, or bow saw, etc.). Often there are smaller plants nearby that I do not want damaged by falling leaves. To further complicate the cutting process I am occasionally standing on a ladder to access the lower leaves of my cycads. Oh, sorry, that was an “in my dreams” Freudian slip. I meant to say “lower leaves of my palms” instead of “cycads.”
|1 - Electric Reciprocating Saw
||2 - Battery Powered One Handed Reciprocating Saw
||3- Pruning Blades and the Additional Larger 12v Battery
Well to make a long story slightly longer, a few months later, I happened to be shopping at a Home Depot (home improvement center), and I decided to take a look at battery powered reciprocating saws. I saw several of the standard sizes and models with battery packs as well as some with power cords. AND THEN I SAW THE GAME CHANGER! (Flashing lights and the sound of trumpets.) This little beauty brought the same twinkle to my eye that Ralphie had when he finally received his beloved Red Rider BB gun in the classic movie Christmas Story. Yes, finally someone had designed a battery powered reciprocating saw that could safely be operated WITH ONE HAND. (See Figure 2.) Thank you Milwaukee! Although I believe there are other good brands of single hand operational reciprocating saws, I chose the Milwaukee brand, and I have been very happy with its ease of operation and comfortable grip. No, I do not have stock in Milwaukee. (Perhaps I should.)
This model has larger capacity additional batteries available. It also has blades that are designed for pruning, which I prefer, but I have a friend who prefers the smoother cut of the blades that are designed to cut metal. (See Figure 3.) I believe that he said that the finer teeth of the metal cutting blades tend to leave a smoother cut surface on the petiole (leaf bases) of his palms and cycads. I think that the coarser cut surface that occurs with the standard pruning saw blades is just fine for me, and its coarser teeth seem to cut through the palm and cycad leaf bases faster.
It is also worth mentioning that the smaller saw can be operated comfortably with either hand. This is helpful because the user fatigue factor between the larger reciprocating saw and its smaller, lighter counterpart is significant, especially if you are putting in an extended time period of pruning. (See Figure 4.)
|4 - Size Comparison of Electric and Battery Powered Reciprocating Saws
||5 - Clockwise from top - Tote Bag, Larger Battery, Pruning Blades, Saw with Smaller Battery Inserted, Charger Stand
Along with the saw motor and its gripping assembly, a small rechargeable12 volt lithium ion battery is included, and is already plugged into the handle grip in these photos. Also included is a battery charger stand. Milwaukee also provides a handy canvas tote bag for storage and transport convenience. I purchased separately pruning blades, as well as an additional (larger) rechargeable 12 volt lithium ion battery, so that I could alternately change out and recharge batteries as needed. (See Figure 5.) I am not sure where prices are now, but I paid about $220.00 for the six items mentioned above. Milwaukee provides packets of saw blades for varying applications, as well as additional batteries, and they are sold separately.
I would have to say that the time I save with this single hand reciprocating saw is at least one half as much time as would be needed if I were using pruners, loppers, or a bow saw. The time saved makes for a pretty rapid payback, if you have a modest to large garden to maintain.
Grow, prune, and prosper,