Selective pre-commercial thinning (PCT) is usually carried out by workers with a brush saw in order to increase the growth of the potential crop trees (main stems) through removal of competing trees. In the last decade relative PCT costs have increased, partly because stands are denser and have higher trees when treated, which has led to new interest for mechanised PCT. The objective was to compare mechanised and motor manual PCT regarding productivity and damage to remaining main stems. Time consumption for, and damage after, mechanised and motor manual PCT were studied on 50 plots per treatment in mixed pine birch stands with an initial stand density exceeding 4500 stems ha–1. In the present study productivity was influenced by stand density, stand height and the quota between height and diameter. Irrespectively of these factors, mechanised PCT was 0.74 hours ha–1 slower than motor manual PCT. Motor manual PCT of the average stand (average height 3.69 m, 10 816 stems ha–1) took 5.06 effective hours. In average 2475 and 2805 main stems ha–1 were left after the mechanised and motor manual treatments, respectively, whereof 1.3 and 2.1% were damaged by the treatments. The results show that efficiency in motor manual PCT has increased in dense and tall stands compared to older studies. Motor manual PCT was more time effective than mechanised PCT, and thereby also even more cost-effective. However, the potential for technical and methodological development of mechanised PCT is probably larger than for motor manual PCT.