Tree shear attachments have revolutionized the forestry industry, allowing for efficient and precise tree removal. There are many types of tree shear attachments designed for excavators and skid steers, each offering unique features and advantages. In this article, we will delve into the key differences between these attachments including the single arm vs double arm and additionally the distinction between tree shears that can both cut and hold and those specifically designed for cutting only.

Tree Shear Basics

A tree shear attachment is a powerful tool used in the forestry industry to cut down trees efficiently and safely. It consists of a large, powerful hydraulic cylinder and sharp cutting blades designed to handle various tree sizes. Equipped with robust cutting mechanisms, tree shear attachments can effectively cut trees ranging from 1 inch up to 18 inches in diameter. The hydraulic cylinders generate the necessary force to operate the cutting blades or pull the tree into a fixed blade. These attachments are specifically engineered to withstand the demanding tasks of tree removal, providing operators with a reliable and efficient solution for their forestry operations.

Skid Steer vs Excavator Tree Shears

It is important to note the fundamental differences between tree shears designed for skid steers and those tailored for excavators. Both versions are specifically engineered to work with their respective machines, optimizing performance and compatibility.

Fundamentally skid steers don’t have the reach and flexibility of an excavator. Therefore what you tend to notice is that skid steer tree shears are more designed towards being able to cut the largest tree diameter possible. And since skid steers are most common in the US market, they are less focused on precision and more on cutting capacity. 

Excavator tree shears tend to be more catered toward the European market where work is carried out more precisely and in tighter areas due to land construction. What you’ll notice is that most excavator versions have the ability to cut and hold trees to enhance the precision and be able to clear land around houses etc. We will explain this in greater detail later in the article.

Skid Steer Mounted Tree Shears

Skid steer tree shears are designed to attach to the universal quick attach system for skid steers, which are known for their maneuverability and versatility in various applications. Skid steer attachments come in a wide range of options, catering to diverse needs and budgets. The spectrum spans from basic and cost-effective shears to heavy-duty, high-end models. This variety allows operators to choose a skid steer tree shear that aligns with their specific requirements, whether they are clearing smaller trees and brush or tackling more demanding forestry projects.

Skid steer tree shears range anywhere in price from around $4k to over $20k. Of course there are many reasons for this huge price difference. A basic skid steer tree shear will consist of a skid steer mounting plate, a hydraulic cylinder that moves the blade into a fixed serrated edge. The cheaper models will be fixed horizontally to cut trees down at the ground and let them fall over. See a basic tree shear model below: 

Rotating Versions

One step up from this base model would usually include some range of rotation for the shear. This lets the operator change the angle from left to right for trimming branches or cutting a felled tree on the ground. 

The cheapest option would be for a manual rotation that the operator would have to get out of the machine and change the mounting position from horizontal to vertical. Other shears have another hydraulic cylinder that rotates the shear from within the machine.

skid steer tree shear htc

Control Systems for Hydraulic Rotations

Being able to rotate the tree shear hydraulically without having to leave the machine saves a lot of time and energy on the job site. However this requires a way to switch the hydraulic oil flow from the cutting cylinder to the rotation cylinder. This requires a simple control system with a solenoid valve to switch functions. This means that the operator wouldn’t be able to do both functions at the same time. 

Excavator Tree Shears

As mentioned before the excavator tree shears are often vastly different to the skid steer versions. Although there are some versions in the market that can be used on both skid steers and excavators.

One main difference that we notice on the excavator tree shears is the ability to cut and hold. Some of the higher end skid steers do have this ability but most don’t. Because of this difference in design, what we notice is that most excavator tree shears have a fixed blade and an arm (or two) that pulls the tree into that blade to cut it. Rather than the actual blade moving itself, which we tend to see on the skid steer version. 

This is to enable the operator to hold the tree with the arms once the tree has been cut. This is vital because then the operator can place the tree exactly where they want and prevent it from falling on any surrounding objects or people. This is very important in smaller countries that are often working in much tighter areas and is perfect for urban job sites. Also because of the excavators long reach, this enables the operator to precisely trim tree branches too, which is another benefit over a skid steer mounted shear. 

Like the skid steer version there is a rotating version available for most excavator tree shears. This usually uses a worm drive gear that lets the operator rotate the shear endlessly for a  full 360 degrees. Worm drives give a strong holding torque over a hydraulic cylinder, meaning that the shear will hold at any cutting angle. 

Double Arm Designs

Double arm tree shear attachments for excavators are equipped with two hydraulic arms. These arms work in tandem to pull the tree into a blade for cutting. This design provides enhanced stability and control during tree cutting operations. Double arm shears are highly effective when dealing with larger trees or tough vegetation, as they offer increased cutting force and leverage. They are often favored for demanding forestry projects that involve cutting trees with large diameters or thicker branches. On this Echotec Tree Shear pictured above, the blade can be unbolted to use the shear and a grab for moving and handling your already cut down trees. 


Tree shear attachments for excavators and skid steers provide versatile solutions for efficient tree removal in various environments. Excavator attachments, available in single arm and double arm designs, offer versatility and stability, catering to different project requirements. Skid steer attachments, on the other hand, provide large cutting capacities, with options for cutting-only shears or cut and hold functionality.

Understanding the differences between these attachments allows professionals in the forestry industry to choose the most suitable tree shear attachment for their specific needs. Whether it’s a single arm or double arm design for excavators or a cutting-only or cut and hold attachment for skid steers, the right tree shear can significantly enhance productivity, safety, and precision in tree removal operations.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you can contact us on (941) 212 0037 or contact us here!

Links to all tree shears mentioned in this article:

OMEF Tree Shear (Green)

TMK Tree Shear (Black & Yellow)

CID Tree Shear (Black/Grey)

Sidney Tree Shears (Skid Steer – Black & Yellow)

Echotec Tree Shear (Grey & Orange – Double Arm)

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