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Saws that get the job done

January 10, 2020 -  By
Battery-powered chainsaw (Photo: Cartwright Landscaping)

Saw selection Cartwright suggests a powerful cut-off saw for concrete, hardscaping, pavers, bluestone and any natural stone. (Photo: Cartwright Landscaping)

Landscape construction contractors need powerful tools that can handle a variety of cutting jobs. Jeff Cartwright, owner of Cartwright Landscaping, based in Henrico, Va., has a few saws that he considers vital parts of his construction arsenal. Cartwright Landscaping does 50 percent design and installation work, mostly high-end residential, as well as maintenance and irrigation.

Michael Burdett, construction operations manager at Plants Creative Landscapes in Atlanta, a $4 million residential-only company that does $2.2 million in design/build work, advises keeping current with Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines when training crew members on saw safety. Here’s the equipment that Cartwright’s and Burdett’s teams use on the job.

A solid cut-off saw. Cartwright has Stihl TS 500 and Stihl TS 700 models in his shop, both of which handle thicker stones such as marble, slate and porcelain.

“They’re great with any projects we’re doing with hardscaping, pavers, bluestone and any kind of natural stone,” he says. “If we have to cut concrete, because of the depth of the blade (5 inches), we can get a really nice, deep, clean cut.”

An all-purpose chainsaw. “We don’t do tree work in-house, but when we do demo work and need to clear tree limbs and smaller trees, we use a Stihl MS 250 chainsaw,” Burdett says.

A lightweight battery-powered saw. Cartwright recommends a lighter, battery-powered saw for quick cuts or for jobs such as cutting metal edging to contain rocks in a walkway or mulch in planting beds. “We have a Stihl TSA 230 for smaller jobs, like cutting a few bricks,” he says. “It’s easy to put in the trunk or the back seat, and (a bigger saw) can be an access issue if you’re in tight spaces. When we’ve used it, we’ve never run out of a charge or strength, and it’s consistent in the power it delivers.”

Cartwright Landscaping uses a variety of battery-powered tools for construction as well as maintenance work, including battery-powered hedge trimmers and pruners. To avoid misplacing tools, Cartwright keeps the company’s battery-powered equipment, extra batteries and chargers in his office and staff signs them out.

A concrete-cutting saw. For tougher jobs like cutting concrete, marble and porcelain, Cartwright recommends a heavy-duty saw and preferably a tool with a water hookup. “Any time you start to get into marble and porcelain, you definitely want water on the respective cuts,” he says. “There’s just so much heat generated when you’re cutting.” He’s rented the Stihl GS 461 Rock Boss from a local rental company and was impressed with the results on jobs such as cutting through an existing cinderblock wall. Burdett’s crews use a concrete and masonry cut-off saw, the Stihl 14-inch TS 420, on brick and block.

A masonry saw. For big masonry projects, such as large hardscape jobs and permeable pavers, Plants Creative Landscapes uses the iQ Dust Control masonry saw. “We don’t use it all the time — we only have one, and we keep it on a special tool checkout basis with our staff — but it does a good job of keeping the silica dust down.”

Cartwright’s construction teams typically have two saws on a job site in case a saw malfunctions or different saw blades are required in order to cut harder stone. He suggests demoing saws before buying them when possible and having operators get comfortable with using them on a variety of materials.

“I’d say use six or seven pieces (of stone) and try different cuts, like a corner cut or curve cut,” he says, noting that veinage, striation and different pressures will affect how the saw and blades handle the material.

Abby Hart

About the Author:

Abby Hart is the former senior editor of Landscape Management. A native Clevelander, she spent 10 years in Chicago, where she was operations manager of a global hospitality consultancy. She also worked as managing editor of Illumine, a health and wellness magazine; and a marketing specialist for B2B publications. Abby has a degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication.

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