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How To Fell A Tree With Your Chainsaw

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The hard and potentially most dangerous work when working with a chainsaw is the felling of a complete tree.

If you are the novice user, you should trying with smaller saplings first. This allows practice in the creation of the notch cut or wedge cut, and the back cut, which make up your common technique in tree felling.

When cutting down small trees, the notch plus back cut can be sufficient. With a bigger trees you must have a hinge to allow a controlled tree fall.

Safety first

Whenever you are using any size of chainsaw you should ensure you are wearing the correct clothing. You need good sturdy boots to protect your feet from falling objects and the blade going awry; protective glasses that wrap around the face (small particles of sawdust can cause lasting damage to the eyes); ear protectors (the larger more powerful chainsaws which are needed to fell timber, are very noisy and when used constantly can cause damage to the ear drums); strong gloves to both protect your hands from falling materials and to give you a better grip on the chainsaw; a helmet is essential for protecting your head against falling debris and protective trousers or “Chaps” prevent the chainsaw from cutting into your legs.

Ensure safety of others

Ensure people in the vicinity are aware of what you are doing (make sure pets and animals are locked indoors or away from the task at hand) and create an area only you will be allowed into. Also, beware of sheds houses valuable inanimate objects and power lines above your head.

Determine where the tree will fall

Before you begin any cutting it is essential you have a clear idea of where the tree is going to land once it is cut down. Clear uneven land free of other trees is ideal. Avoid the issue of it falling onto rocks or other tree stumps as this can end up damaging the tree. Try to visualise the tree falling at all points of the compass. What will be the safest and most preferred place for it to fall? Also, take into consideration how the tree is leaning. Generally speaking, it is easier and safer to fell a tree in the direction that it lean if possible. Once you have decided where you want the tree to fall it is helpful to place a marker in the ground exactly at the proposed point of contact. This will help you get your angle cut correct.

Create an escape route

It is imperative that you have worked out an escape route for yourself. You need to be able to retire safely away from the scene in an opposite direction to where the tree will fall. However is not advised at the end of the tree which has been cut may fly up and cause injury. It should be at 45 degrees to where the tree is standing. Check the route you are going to take is completely clear, and has no potentially dangerous.

Preparation Before Fell A Tree

First, assess whether you have the suitable chainsaw for your cutting work. An important rule is that you should not seek to cut a tree whose diameter is greater than that of your bar length. You should only be considering proper tree felling if you have a suitable gas-powered chainsaw.

Do you have all the equipment and chainsaw safety clothing needed? Wear a helmet, ear muffs, goggles, cut-resistant clothing and boots, and be equipped with sufficient 2-stroke fuel, chain sharpener, axe, lever and wedges.

Next, survey the state of the tree to assess whether there is any dead part, use axe blows around the trunk to hear whether there are any hollow sounds. If there are, you need to take the tree down gradually in pieces because you cannot trust it to come down as a single trunk without putting you in danger.

Is there any evidence of fungus or rot at the base of the tree, or roots sitting in water or soft ground? These can all be dangerous and lead to tree collapse or a fall in an unexpected direction.

What is the lean of the tree? Is it away from the ‘lay’ or direction you have chosen for the drop? This will make life much more difficult.

If a tree is fallen over or leaning over another tree, it is often known as a widowmaker, such is the danger that it presents. Do not attempt felling in this instance without expert help.

It is necessary to cut off all branches that will get in the way and might, if not pre-removed, cause the tree to buck and divert dangerously, or tangle with other trees. To do this, use an orchard ladder to reach the uppermost branches. Start from the top then work around and move down, moving the ladder to keep your working area safety. Do not stretch to reach any branches and only cut branch sections that are small enough for you to move by hand without great effort.

The Notch Cut

The Notch cuts should be made first, using your saw’s brake bar angle as a guide, that the cuts are on a horizontal plane.

You make the wedge on the side of the desired lay. Ensure the Horizontal Cut is level and at 90 degrees to the trunk. It should be around 1/3 of the trunk width and never more than halfway.

The Wedge Cut is level as well. To help ensure this, insert a stick or dowel into the innermost part of the Horizontal Cut so that you can see the opposite end from you, poking out from the trunk. Make your cut at 30 to 45 degrees above the horizontal, to meet the innermost edge of the first cut. Make sure you have a clean notch removed from the trunk. Keep a close eye on any movement of the tree at all times.

The Back Cut

This is another horizontal cut but on the opposite side of the wedge. It must be at least 3 cm above the V point of the notch.

Mark on the trunk the points on each side where the Back Cut needs to stop. In the case of a full-sized tree, the cut must stop 2 to 5 cm short of the V. This creates the Hinge.

This is a critical moment and you must keep checking the top of the tree for any sign of movement. If you have to use the escape route, do not turn your back on the tree.

If you are happy with the situation, cut the hinge from the rear and as the fibres split, the tree falls. If it looks as though the tree may fall backwards, use a felling lever to persuade it into the desired direction, supported by wedges next to it, driven into the back cut to force the fall correctly towards the notch.

The fall

A cry of ‘Timber’ is important and if you have pre-prepared and completed the cuts exactly, the trunk should fell exactly. Always beware of a trunk rolling or bouncing in an unexpected direction before you approach it. Take the remaining stump down in manageable sections and leave a short remnant above the ground, avoiding damage to your saw that would be caused by touching with stones on the ground.

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