How to Make a Rope-and-Chain Saw to Prune High Tree Limbs

David Thompson

A rope chain saw cuts wood with sharpened teeth, using the same principle as a power chainsaw, except you provide the muscle to move the chain across the wood. Make your own rope saw to prune tree limbs up to 20 feet high or more while standing on the ground.

Attach ropes as long as you need to reach the limbs you plan to cut. The saw works best on limbs 1 to 6 inches in diameter.


To use the saw, throw the weight over the branch, tug the ropes until the chain rests across the wood that you want to cut, and work the saw by pulling alternately on the ropes, sliding the chain back and forth across the branch. Use brightly colored rope so you can see the position of the saw more easily among the tree branches. If the rope you want to use is too large to fit through the rivet holes, thread a 6-inch length of high-tensile fence wire through each hole and form it into a loop with a crimped fence connector. Tie the rope to the wire loops.


Wear safety equipment to protect your eyes and head from falling objects and stand to one side of the branch when sawing. Make sure the area is clear of power lines and other dangers before starting work and that the space where the branch may fall is clear.

  1. Remove the master link of a chainsaw chain to disconnect the ends so it’s straight rather than a loop, or purchase a straight chain specially designed to be used for sawing by hand with a rope saw. If the chainsaw chain doesn’t have a master link, use a chainsaw chain punch or chain breaker to remove a rivet to disconnect the chain.

  2. Tie one end of a 25-foot length of strong, lightweight rope, such as parachute cord, through the rivet hole in the link on one end of the chain. Do the same with another piece of rope on the other end of the chain.

  3. Tie a weight to the other end of one of the ropes. Use any object that you can throw over a tree limb and to which you can attach the rope securely, such as a small cloth bag containing sand or rocks.