When it comes to landscaping work, one of the most miserable jobs is trying to remove old bushes and trees. The actual cutting down of the offending tree or shrub isn’t usually too onerous a task; the miserable part lies below the surface. Shovels and pickaxes are great for exposing the roots, but most of us are reluctant to dip our pricey chainsaw blades into the dirt to cut them out. Standard reciprocating saw blades work well to get at the tangled mass below ground, but they don’t have much of a life expectancy once they dip into the grime. We recently received an assortment of Milwaukee AX Carbide Pruning Blades to try out; we’ll show you how they fared in the battle of Man vs. Wood (and Dirt!).
When I’ve used Sawzall blades for pruning in the past, I generally grabbed whatever wood-cutting blade I had handy. Milwaukee designed the new blades specifically to cut through branches and roots quickly, with an aggressive three tooth-per-inch layout. My favorite feature, though, is the ability to attack roots down in the dirt – without instantly destroying the blade. Here are the rest of the specs from Milwaukee:
• Fastest Cuts Above and Below Ground
• Ability to cut through clean wood, tree branches, and roots
• Optimized carbide that withstands underground abrasives (rocks, sand, dirt)
• Low blade profile, designed for root removal
• 3 TPI design for fast cutting into clean wood
• Large gullets to avoid debris build-up
• Carbide teeth for up to 50X Life
• 1/2″ universal tang
• Offered in 1PKs and 3PKs
Milwaukee AX Carbide Pruning Blades Vs. Carbon Steel Blades
When doing battle with nature, you need any edge you can get. On Milwaukee AX Carbide Pruning Blades, that edge is tipped with carbide teeth. Milwaukee claims the carbide provides up to 50 times the usable cutting life of a standard carbon steel blade.
One thing I noticed, as I got ready to insert one of the pruning blades into my Sawzall, was its heft. These blades are noticeably thicker and more robust than a standard reciprocating saw blade. When you’re cutting thick tree limbs, or burrowing around in the dirt, that added heftiness will definitely be your friend.
Milwaukee AX Carbide Pruning Blades Meet Roots – And Limbs, And Trunk…
Shortly after receiving our assortment of Milwaukee AX Carbide Pruning Blades, my daughter and her husband graciously offered to provide a testing ground. The area behind the old home they recently bought hadn’t had a lot of landscaping love in the last quarter-century or so, and they wanted to clear an area for a patio. They had already cut down the bushes, but had saved the roots as a special treat for me.
My son-in-law and I got busy, and cleared space around the roots with a shovel. Using a 9” blade in the saw, I went after the tangled root masses beneath each ex-bush. Most of the roots weren’t very thick, at 2” or less, but there were a LOT of them.
The Milwaukee AX Carbide Pruning Blades made very short work of severing all the roots. Even the thickest roots were quickly severed, and the blade had no trouble at all burrowing through the sandy soil. When we finished, the blade was dirty and missing a bit of paint, but it cut through the last roots as quickly as it did the first.
A Somewhat Bigger Challenge
Next up on the landscaping hit list was the removal of a poorly-placed tree, with a roughly 8” trunk. My son-in-law used one of the 12” Milwaukee AX Carbide Pruning Blades to remove all the limbs, then cut the trunk down, leaving about two feet of it protruding.
Using a mattock and shovel, we cleared dirt from around the root area, and proceeded to attack the roots. The tree roots were much less cooperative than the bush roots had been. Some of them were 5 or 6” in diameter, and, like the Hydra of trees, it seemed like for every root we severed, two new, larger roots appeared.
We persevered, though, cutting through as many roots as we could get to. In almost every case, the blade was also digging into the surrounding dirt with every stroke. It didn’t seem to faze the blade at all, though, and eventually we cut through enough of the maze of roots to allow us to topple the trunk using our (and by our I mean my son-in-law’s) brute strength.
Dishing The Final Dirt On Milwaukee AX Carbide Pruning Blades
After using Milwaukee’s carbide blades on these two projects, all I can say is Wow! The blades are beefy enough to withstand a fair bit of abuse, and they stay sharp enough to do a LOT of cutting. We used the same 12” blade to get through all the tree roots that my son-in-law used to take the tree down, and cut up all the limbs, and it was still cutting well when we finished.
Milwaukee offers the blades individually, and in three-packs. Milwaukee AX Carbide Pruning Blades are available in 6”, 9” and 12” lengths, and the universal tang is designed to fit most reciprocating saws on the market today. If you have trees or shrubs to tame, whether above or below ground, grab a few, and go play in the dirt.