To Fell a Tree: A Complete Guide to Successful Tree Felling and Woodcutting Methods 0615338798, 9780615338798

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To Fell a Tree: A Complete Guide to Successful Tree Felling and Woodcutting Methods
 0615338798, 9780615338798

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A Complete Guide to Successful Tree Felling and Woodcutting Methods

Jeff Jepson Illustrations by Bryan Kotwica




A Complete Guide to Successful Tree Felling and Woodcutting Methods

Jeff Jepson Illustrations by Bryan Kotwica

To Fell a Tree Copyright © 2009 by Jeff Jepson Published by Beaver Tree Publishing 1265 64th St. NE Longville, MN 56655 Email: [email protected] Second printing, December 2009 All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording or information storage and retrieval system, without the prior permission of the pub¬ lisher, except as provided by USA copyright law.

Disclaimer Serious injury or death could result from the use of techniques and equipment de¬ scribed in this book. It is the reader’s responsibility to seek qualified instruction on the techniques and safety of tree felling and woodcutting operations. Every person in¬ volved in tree felling and woodcutting operations should use good judgment and com¬ mon sense while practicing new techniques. Unfamiliar techniques should be prac¬ ticed in a controlled environment before they are incorporated into everyday work procedures. This book is sold with no liability to the author, editor, publisher, or cri¬ tiques, expressed or implied, in the case of injury or death to the purchaser or reader. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from: The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Cover design by Bob Wallenius Illustrations by Bryan Kotwica Printed in the United States of America Library of Congress Control Number: 2009913115 ISBN 978-0-615-33879-8

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Contents Acknowledgments .5 Introduction.7 CHAPTER 1: PREPARING FOR WORK.9 Training and Experience . 10 Health and Fitness. 11 Potential Work Hazards . 12 Chain Saw Safety . 16 Personal Protective Equipment .23 Work-Related Equipment .26 Working With Others.32 Are You Ready to Work?.34 CHAPTER 2: TO FELL A TREE.35 Basic Tree Felling Procedure .36 Step 1: Assess the Tree and Felling Site .37 Identifying Tree Hazards.37 Identifying Felling Site Hazards.40 Estimating Tree Height .42 Determining Tree Lean .44 Determining the Lay.46 Establishing the Escape Route .48 Step 2: Prepare the Felling Site.49 Protecting People .49 Protecting Property.51 Preparing the Work Area.53 Preparing the Tree .54 Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts and Retreat .55 Cutting the Notch .56 Making the Back Cut.62 Retreating From the Work Area.65 Reading the Stump .66 Cutting the Stump .67 Putting it All Together.68 Additional Felling Concerns and Precautions .70


CHAPTER 3: FELLING DIFFICULT TREES.71 Felling Aids: Wedges, Levers, Poles, and Ropes.72 Felling Wedges .72 Felling Levers . 82 Push Poles . 83 Pull Ropes (pull line) . 84 Felling and Pulling Trees in Confined Spaces . 100 How to Safely Make a Bore Cut. 101 Bore Cutting Trees With a Heavy Forward Lean . 102 Felling Large Diameter Trees . 104 Felling Dead, Decayed, and Defective Trees. 105 Felling Multi-Stemmed Trees . 107 Felling Entangled Trees . 108 Felling a Set Back Tree and Freeing a Stuck Saw . 109 Dislodging a Hung-Up Tree. Ill Felling Storm Damaged Trees . 115 Additional Felling Challenges . 119 CHAPTER 4: LIMBING & BUCKING FELLED TREES . 121 Limbing and Bucking Hazards . 121 Basic Limbing Techniques . 126 Basic Bucking Techniques. 131 CHAPTER 5: MOVING LIMBS & LOGS . 137 10 Ways to Move Limbs and Logs . 138 Loading Logs Using the “Parbuckle” . 146 CHAPTER 6: SPLITTING & STACKING WOOD. 147 Splitting Firewood . 148 Stacking and Storing Firewood. 156 Appendix. 160 Firewood Comparison Chart... 160 Recommended Resources . 162 Equipment Suppliers. 163 Final Words. 164 Footnotes.. 166

Acknowledgments “A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle. ” —Benjamin Franklin


NE OF THE GREATEST demonstrations of love is to give of one’s time for the sake of another. Perhaps this is because we guard our time as some¬

thing very valuable, knowing that the length of life is short and uncertain. Be¬ cause of this, I am grateful to those who have given away some of their precious hours to lighten my load while writing this book. Sharon Lilly, with the International Society of Arboriculture, has been a special blessing to me for the countless hours she spent reviewing, editing, and offering suggestions for improvement of this publication. I am also grateful to Jim Clark for his editing work, instruction, and encouragement to a writer wannabe. I thank Bryan Kotwica for his wonderful illustrations. Their presence, which fills more than half the book, speaks for themselves of their value. I am especially grateful to the talented and friendly folks at Evergreen Press—Chip Borkenhagen for his willingness to get involved with this book in the first place, Bob Wallenius for his cover design and help with graphics layout, and Jodi Schwen for her conta¬ gious love of words and editing suggestions to improve mine. Without the con¬ tributions from these individuals this book would be dull and terribly confusing. I would also like to thank Gary Dietrich and Gary Klingl, whose voices still echo in my ears: “write the book!” Those words were the nudging I needed and the nod of approval to get me started. Thanks also to Tom Dunlap, Tim Walsh, Tim Ard, and Scott Prophett for critiquing the book, Mike Osburnsen for introducing me to the “tire trick” (p. 151), and to his wife, Darcy, for leading me to Where the Red Fern Grows. Finally, I thank Bonnie, Anna, and Luke (my family), and my mother, for their random suggestions for improving the book and their encouragement and pa¬ tience while I wrote it. Thank you to the crew at Beaver Tree Service (Ryan, Keith, Bruce, and Peter) for the tree work they perform daily that helped inspire the book and Shelly for all her efforts that contributed towards its production. And if it weren’t for the constant interruptions from Josh, our dog, I probably would have suffered from blood clots in my legs from sitting so long. Most of all, I want to thank the One who has ultimately given me the motivation, time, and resources to write this book and the One to whom it is committed: Jesus Christ—my Creator, my Savior, and my Treasure forever.


Introduction For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. —Job 14:7


LOVE TREES. I plant them, prune them, play in them, and protect them, and I also cut a whole bunch down. While there are many benefits provided by

live trees, there are just as many that can only be realized when a tree is felled. If your ambition is to fell a tree, you have picked up the right book. My mission, and the aim of this book, is to help you do it without getting killed, or injured, or without wrecking anything. In the 25 years I’ve been in the tree care business, I have had my share of close calls and just as many felling failures. Each mistake has been a humbling teacher, which provided the motivation to learn more. Though trial and error is a good teacher, it’s not enough. That is why I turned to others more experienced than myself to learn more about this ancient craft. I’m grateful for their contribution to my tree felling education, whether it was through hands-on workshops, books they wrote, or videos they filmed. They all saw an educational need and took the initiative to meet it. Twelve years ago, I perceived a great need among professional tree climbers for a compact, concise, and affordable training manual. It was at that time I wrote The Tree Climber’s Companion. It has proved to be a popular and helpful re¬ source to the tree care industry. I believe there is a similar need among tree cut¬ ting professionals, along with the “weekend woodcutters.” That is why I wrote this book. The methods presented are the most current and the ones most fre¬ quently used by professional arborists, woodcutters, and loggers today. If you are a seasoned tree cutter, I’m certain you’ll pick up some new “tricks of the trade” that will make your work safer, more efficient, and more satisfying. If you are a beginner, or a casual cutter, my hope (and prayer) is that this book will help you realize that tree felling is much more than making a couple cuts with a chain saw and hollering “Timber!” as you scramble to safety and hope for the best. But instead, that you will see tree felling (and the woodcutting work that follows) for what it really is—a wonderfully complex art and science that re¬ quires great skill and concentration if you expect to perform it safely and suc¬ cessfully. May this book be but one resource, one tool among many, that will enable you to fell a tree with confidence and competence, and help you stay alive long enough to enjoy the fruits of your labor and pass the tradition on to another. 7




Preparing for Work “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax. —Abraham Lincoln


OU ONLY GET ONE CHANCE to succeed when felling a tree. Your suc¬ cess begins with preparation. It is the first of many steps that will tip the

odds of success in your favor. In fact, your potential for achieving the results described in the introduction (no one injured, nothing damaged, no regrets) in¬ creases in proportion to your preparation. Confident as you might be in your fell¬ ing skills, and eager though you may be to use them, here is a word of caution: take the time to follow the steps of preparation described in this chapter. There are seven areas of work preparation that I believe are essential for a safe and productive tree felling and woodcutting operation. They are relevant factors for all felling situations regardless of the species of tree being felled, the terrain in which it grows, or the methods used to fell them. They include: 1)

Training and experience


Health and fitness


Potential work hazards


Chain saw safety


Personal protective equipment


Work-related equipment


Working with others

Each area of preparation contributes to a safe and successful outcome. To neglect any of these areas can lead to a different outcome, an accident, or injury you wish to avoid. Take time on the front end of the job to plan a suitable work strategy, obtain the proper equipment for the task at hand,




events. This is what it means to be prepared and what is required to get the successful results you desire.

Frequent equipment maintenance almost always saves time in the long run. 9

Preparing for Work

Training & Experience It’s a wonder so many tree workers alive today survived the “close calls” of their early tree felling experiences. They have the stories and the scars to testify to their mistakes and to their folly in not seeking proper training in the extremely hazardous pursuit of felling trees. On the other hand, there are many who were not so fortunate. Newspapers and trade magazines regularly headline the felling fatalities of both the experienced and inexperienced tree cutter. Let the scars of the former, and the untimely passing of the lat¬

Learning tree felling

ter, be a warning and strong recommendation

skills solely from the

for the inexperienced—prepare for tree felling

“school of hard

by getting all the instruction and training possi¬ ble before heading into the woods or backyard

knocks” is not worth

with a chain saw. Learning tree felling skills

the risk.

solely from the “school of hard knocks” is not worth the risk.

The process of learning any new skill is an exciting journey. I describe this proc¬ ess as: tell me, show me, let me. In each case, someone (an instructor) or some¬ thing (a book or video) tells or explains to a student how to perform a task. Next the student is shown how to perform the task. They must see it accomplished with their eyes. There must be a visual reference point to which the information can attach. Finally, the instructor must let the student try. Each element of this simple formula reinforces the other. As the sequence is repeated, the student be¬ comes more proficient. Work becomes safer, more productive, and more enjoy¬ able. The one who masters the craft often becomes a future teacher for another searching student or employee. As stated in the introduction, consider this book as but one means to “show and tell” how to fell and cut trees. On page 162 is a list of other helpful resources (books and videos) that will contribute to your training and instruction. As you move on to the let me part of the learning process, make sure you do so under the supervision and instruction of an experienced tree cutter who can provide handson training. With increased knowledge and training comes increased skill and experience. These form the foundation for a safe, successful, and satisfying after¬ noon, or career, of cutting trees.


Preparing for Work

Health & Fitness Tree cutting places demands on your body, mind, and emotions that are similar to that of strenuous sports. Your body is subjected to repeated movements of pushing, pulling, bending, twisting, and lifting as you cut, limb, drag, buck, and chop. It is a total body workout that combines weight lifting and

For those who are

aerobics while often being performed on uneven,

unstable, unhealthy,

littered terrain in adverse weather conditions,

or unfit, be warned—

using what many consider the most dangerous of power tools—the chain saw. For those who are unstable, unhealthy, or unfit, be warned—tree

tree cutting may not be for you.

cutting may not be for you. People who are unaccustomed to the rigors of tree work are a potential threat to themselves and others. They are more susceptible to injuries and fatalities result¬ ing from overexertion or physical and mental exhaustion. Though it may be true that cutting trees and the related work can get you into shape, it is better to pre¬ pare for this type of work by making sure you already are in shape. How you get in shape is beyond the scope of this book. There are countless re¬ sources that deal exclusively with this topic. However, in addition to checking out these sources of information, you might consider consulting your doctor to assess your current physical condition. If you are out of shape it might be wise to recruit an athletic trainer or physical therapist to help design a fitness condition¬ ing program custom made for the type of work you will be doing. It is especially important to warm-up before beginning any work. The function of warming up is to increase body temperature and lengthen muscles and liga¬ ments, which in turn can improve work performance and decrease the chance of injury. Just carrying your gear to the work site can be a good warm-up activity, but doing some stretching exercises or calisthenics beforehand is even better. It’s important to take things “slow and easy” when you first start working. As the work unfolds, develop a rhythm and find a work pace that you can comfortably keep all day if necessary. Take lots of water breaks. It is also important to get plenty of sleep the night before and eat a proper diet. Finally, learn how to lift and carry heavy loads properly, and use labor saving tools like those described in chapter 5 to avoid debilitating injuries.


Preparing for Work

Potential Work Hazards The old saying “to be forewarned is to be forearmed” is certainly relevant when discussing the variety of tree work hazards you may experience. Some of these hazards come from the tools you will be using and some from the environment in which you’ll be working. Being aware of what they are and learning how to avoid them is an important step of work preparation and accident prevention. Though many of these hazards are discussed elsewhere in the book, seeing them presented collectively may give you a more complete awareness of the inherent risks of cutting trees and encourage you to take seriously the work you are about to tackle. Listed below are some of the most common work-related hazards I have encountered and become familiar with in over 25 years of tree felling and woodcutting operations.

Chain Saws The range of injuries resulting from the improper use of chain saws is extensive, including lacerations, avulsions, burns, vibration injury, and amputations. Survi¬ vors often receive deep, jagged cuts contaminated with bar oil and wood chips requiring hundreds of stitches. Chain saw kickback and coasting saw chains from an improperly adjusted idle speed setting are but a couple of the causes. Assum¬ ing that your tree felling will be done with a chain saw (opposed to an ax) it is incumbent upon you to learn how to use and maintain it properly. Chain saw safety is presented in more depth beginning on page 16.

“Struck-by’s” This is a trade term that describes an injury resulting from a forceful impact by an object. For the tree cutter, these objects typically include tree limbs and debris or the tree itself. Dead and lodged limbs located high up in the tree (known as hangers or widow makers) commonly become dislodged as the tree is falling or when a falling tree brushes other trees and falls on or back toward the worker. Hung trees, falling trees, butt rebounds, and spring poles (pinned limbs and sap¬ lings) also account for many struck-by injuries and deaths. Struck-by’s are the leading cause of injury for tree cutters, occurring even more frequently than chain saw related accidents. Fortunately, they are also prevent¬ able. You can start by wearing the proper personal protective equipment (see pages 24-25). Second, carefully assess the tree and site thoroughly before doing any cutting (starting on page 37). Third, keep all spectators at a distance of at least two tree lengths from the base of the tree being felled (see pages 49-50). Lastly, plan and clear an escape route that is at a 45-degree angle away from the direction of fall (see page 48).


Preparing for Work

Electrical Hazards Electrical hazards are frequently encountered when felling trees in residential ar¬ eas as opposed to woodlots. Accidentally felling a tree across an overhead power line or communication wire is not a common occurrence but does happen occa¬ sionally. Electrocution may occur anytime this happens through direct or indirect contact with an electrical conductor. Always perform a thorough inspection of the work site to determine if any electrical hazards exist before cutting. If you have identified a hazard, either arrange a line drop from the electric company or meas¬ ure the trees height to make certain it will clear the electrical hazard when felled.

Slips, Trips, and Falls Accidents and injuries often occur when you lose your footing on uneven, steep, or slippery ground. Ground surfaces littered with tree debris or covered with wet leaves, ice, snow, and mud all contribute to slips, trips, and falls. The best lines of defense from these injuries is to wear sturdy work boots that provide good trac¬ tion in a variety of weather conditions and be attentive to where the hazards are, moving them out of the way whenever possible. If a slip or fall does occur, the likelihood of injury is reduced if you have warmed up and stretched out beforehand.

Lifting Injuries One of the most common injuries for tree workers is back injury caused from lifting or moving heavy logs without using proper lifting technique (see page 138) or equipment. Make a habit of using the labor-saving tools described in chapter 5 such as cant hooks and log tongs instead of relying on brute strength to lift or move heavy objects. Of course you can always set pride aside and ask a coworker for help if one is available.

Fatigue Tree work is a physically and mentally demanding activity that can quickly lead to fatigue and exhaustion and then injury. Fatigue can cause you to react more slowly, ignore safety precautions, and become more careless and reckless. As stated earlier, be realistic about your health and work ability and work at a com¬ fortable but steady pace while taking frequent breaks to drink water and rest.


Preparing for Work

Cuts, Abrasions, and Splinters Wrestling limbs and logs is an inevitable part of tree work that leads to cuts, scratches, pokes, and punctures. Unprotected flesh is especially vulnerable to repeated contact with tree limbs, rough bark, and sharp wood surfaces. Wearing sturdy work gloves and long-sleeved shirts offers the best protection. Stock lots of band-aids in your first aid kit, as well as a means of removing splinters.

Eye Injury Eye injuries range from severe eye irritation and scratched eye tissue to blind¬ ness or eye loss due to airborne sawdust particles, wood chips, and tree branches. Flying wood and metal fragments from axes, mauls, wedges, or nails can be¬ come embedded in the eye while splitting firewood. Prevention simply involves wearing protective safety glasses and safety helmets equipped with face screens.

Falling from a Tree or Ladder This hazard most commonly occurs while work¬ ing unprotected (without a work-positioning lanyard or climbing line) from a ladder or within the tree itself in order to secure a pull line to the tree or to remove limbs to facilitate felling. Falls from any height can be fatal. Most falls how¬ ever, lead to broken bones and other debilitating injuries. Leave climbing to those who are trained and equipped to do so. Read my book, The Tree Climber’s Companion, for a good introduction to tree climbing and instruction on how to do it safely. Instead of climbing, use the techniques for installing a pull line, starting on page 85, and limb removal methods on page 54, both of which can be accomplished from the ground.

Poisonous Plants Poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak are the three poisonous plants with which you may come into contact. All three contain urushiol oil, which can cause a skin rash or an allergic reaction. This condition affects about one-half the U.S. population. Symptoms range from mild and irritating to severe and life threatening. Be able to identify the plants that are located in your area and avoid touching them. Wearing work gloves will help minimize skin contact. If contact is made, wash your clothes in hot water and your skin thoroughly in as warm a water you can tolerate.


Preparing for Work

Insects, Spiders, and Ticks Expect stings and bites from a variety of species of hornets, wasps, bees, spiders, and wood ticks anytime you are working around grass, brush, and trees. These pests have the potential to cause serious physical complications. Lyme disease contracted from deer tick bites or anaphylactic shock resulting from hornet and bee stings are but a couple of the debilitating and potentially life-threatening conditions you need to be aware of and prepared to encounter. Refer to a good first aid book to learn how to treat other injuries and complications that can re¬ sult from insect and spider bites. The preventative measures common to them all are, 1) learn which of these pests inhabit the area you’ll be working in, 2) look for their presence and avoid them, 3) wear appropriate clothing to discourage them, 4) apply bug-repellent to deter them, 5) use sprays to kill them, and 6) use first aid medicine when you are stung or bitten.

Preparing for Accidents There are a number of ways you can be injured or killed while working, evi¬ denced by the long list of potential work hazards on the preceding pages. Even when taking extreme safety precautions, accidents still happen. My recommen¬ dation is to prepare for work accidents by addressing the following questions before they occur: □

Do you have a fully stocked and labeled first aid kit available? Do you and the other workers know where it is located?

How close is the nearest person to offer help? Are they at home?

Where is the nearest phone? If using a cell phone, is there adequate recep¬ tion at your work location? Do the other workers know how to operate it?

□ Who will you call for help in an emergency? Are emergency phone numbers posted in the first aid kit or work vehicle? In most communities you can con¬ tact the local emergency medical service (EMS) and fire department by dial¬ ing 911. □

Can you give the address and clear directions to your work location when calling for help?

Are you capable of providing basic first aid and CPR to a coworker? Seek the appropriate training if you can’t.


Preparing for Work

Chain Saw Safety The chain saw can be the tree cutter’s best friend or worst enemy. When it is running properly and the chain is sharp this tool is a joy to use. There is nothing quite like the feeling of a properly sharpened saw cutting effortlessly and hun¬ grily into a log while spewing fragrant woodchips to the ground. Nor is there anything quite like the sensation of a chain saw cutting into human flesh. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, there are an esti¬ mated 36,000 people who are treated in emergency rooms for chain saw injuries each year. The majority of these injuries occur on the hands, legs, and knees re¬ quiring, on average, 110 stitches per injury. The next seven pages is an introduc¬ tion to the topic of chain saw safety. This section is intended to increase your awareness and understanding of the causes of these accidents and how they can be prevented. In addition to this primer, you should seek the training of a skilled and experienced tree cutter and other books or videos on the topic.

Chain Saw Starting Procedure The first step in avoiding chain saw injuries begins by learning how to properly start your saw using either the ground start or the leg lock method as follows:

Ground Start Method 1. Apply the saw’s chain brake and place the saw on level ground clear of any rocks or debris. 2. Position the on-off, choke, and throt¬ tle switch according to instructions in the owner’s manual. 3. Grip the front handle bar keeping your left arm straight and elbow locked as you apply a slight down¬ ward pressure. Place the toe of your right foot in the rear saw handle. 4. Pull the starter cord slowly, using the right hand, until it catches and then give quick pulls until the saw starts. 5. Pick up the saw, gently squeeze the . throttle trigger to simmer down the saw’s engine RPMs (revolutions per minute), release the chain brake, and begin cutting as soon as the saw is warmed up. This only takes a few seconds for most saws. 16

Using the ground start method.

Preparing for Work

Leg Lock Method This method is especially efficient when frequent saw restarting is necessary and the saw is already warmed up. 1. Apply the saw’s chain brake. 2. Grip the front handle bar firmly with the left hand and clamp the back of your right thigh over the back handle of the chain saw. 3. Pull the starter cord slowly with the right hand until it catches, while keep¬ ing the left arm in a locked position. Give strong quick pulls until it starts.

Drop starting It is not uncommon to observe an inexperi,. .. ... enced tree cutter starting his or her chain saw

The leg lock method.

using this method. Yet in some cases, it’s the veteran who simply refuses to learn a safer method. For the record, drop starting is a dangerous and unacceptable method of starting a chain saw. If the saw tip were to strike a hard object, with the chain brake off, the saw could kickback toward the operator (as well as dull the saw chain). Drop start¬ ing also causes excessive wear and tear of the starter cord.

Carrying the Saw When



the chain saw to and from the cutting site, hold the saw at your side with the bar pointing backward away from the direction you are walking. Carrying the saw in this position will prevent the bar from catching on brush and, should you fall, will minimize your risk of landing on the bar and chain. It is common practice that the chain saw be turned off before walking with it. How¬ ever, when walking short distances, it is acceptable to leave the saw running if you apply the chain brake first. Of course, you should always make sure the saw is shut off whenever you leave it unattended.


Preparing for Work

Proper Cutting Stance Maintaining a proper stance while cutting felled trees plays an important role in personal safety and work efficiency. ► Keep your left arm straight and maintain a firm grip on the saw with both hands on the handles. Wrap fingers and thumbs com¬ pletely around the handles. ► Position yourself slightly to the left of the saw while cutting. If kickback





likely pass away from your body. ► Bend your knees slightly and keep the saw close to the body to in¬ crease control and reduce fatigue. ► Maintain sure footing and good balance when cutting. Move any ground




that could hinder your balance and movement. ► If the saw is properly sharpened you should not have to push down with excessive force on the saw to cut. Let the weight of the saw pro¬ vide most of the cutting pressure.

Proper Grip Chain saws are designed for righthand use, that is, the right hand grips the rear handle, operating the throttle, and the left hand grips the forward handle. Keep both hands on the saw, anytime it is running. The only safe way to grip the front handle is with the thumb wrapped under the handle. Never grip the handle with the thumb on top or off to the side!


Proper grip on a chain saw.

Preparing for Work

Chain Saw Safety Top 10





ultivating a consciousness for safety is as important as de¬ veloping skillfulness with the chain saw. Ten important safety guide¬ lines are listed below which you should follow each time you operate a chain saw. Know your chain saw. Begin by reading the owner’s manual and learn how to properly start, maintain, and repair your saw. Understand the reactive forces of the saw (see page 20) and know how to avoid the injuries they can cause.




Use only saws equipped with the proper bar length, front hand guard, chain brake, throt¬ tle trigger interlock, stop switch, rear hand guard, chain catcher, spark arrester, and anti¬ vibration features. Wear personal protective equipment at all times while engaged in tree work. This in¬ cludes protective head gear with face shield, safety glasses, hearing protection, leg chaps, gloves, and heavy work boots (see pages 23-25). Maintain a distance of at least ten feet when working near another chain saw operator. Always approach a chain saw operator from the front to avoid surprise or use a branch to tap him on the shoulder.


8 9

Learn proper cutting stance and hand position. Always use both hands while operating a running saw. Keep the left thumb wrapped under the front handle. Never reach above shoulder height to cut. Stay off ladders and out of trees while operating a chain saw unless you have been spe¬ cifically trained to do so. Chain saw fatigue dulls your perceptions and reaction time which can lead to accidents. Avoid fatigue by taking frequent breaks, drinking plenty of water, and limiting the amount of time sawing each day. Do not work alone. In the event of an accident or emergency someone must be available to provide first aid and call for help. Do not operate a chain saw while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Even some cold medications can adversely affect your ability to work safely. Be prepared for accidents before they occur by asking yourself these questions: Where is the phone and first aid kit? Can I give clear di¬ rections to my work loca¬ tion? Am I capable of provid¬ ing basic first aid?


Preparing for Work

Understanding Chain Saw Reactive Forces Another critical safety concern for preventing chain saw injury is understanding the reactive forces that occur when the saw bar and chain make contact with wood or another object. There are three main reactive forces that can potentially occur at any given moment while cutting wood—push force, pull force, and kickback. To be unaware of the constant presence of these forces is a surefire recipe for disaster, especially in the case of kickback, whose recipients receive injuries that are often severe or fatal.

Push Force Whenever wood is being cut with the top of the bar, as when undercutting a log in bucking operations or in some instances to making felling cuts, the forward motion of the chain will tend to push the saw away from the wood and toward the operator. This can be a dangerous situation if you encounter such a force while using poor cutting stance, gripping the saw improperly, or are physically and mentally unprepared to respond to its effects, which can be powerful when operating a larger saw.

Pull Force Whenever you cut wood with the bottom of the bar, which is the majority of the time, the cutter teeth making contact with the wood tend to pull the chain saw (and you) toward the wood. This can be especially hazardous when cutting smaller pieces of wood, which can be thrown forcefully toward the crotch area. (As the folks at Arborwear®, designers and manufacturers of work clothing, would say, “Protect your crotch. We can’t stress that enough.” I wholeheartedly agree). The effect of pull forces can be minimized by starting cuts under full throttle and with the bumper spike in contact with the wood. Be prepared for reactive forces by maintaining a good cutting stance and keeping a firm grip on the saw. A properly sharpened saw will also help lessen the effects of pull force. Chains in which the depth gauge (rakers) have been filed down too much tend to accentuate pull forces aggressively and dangerously.


Preparing for Work

Kickback There are two forms of kickback: rotational and linear (or pinch kickback). Rota¬ tional kickback occurs when the upper corner of the bar (kickback corner or “no zone”) accidentally makes contact with an object. This contact forces the chain to a sudden stop and causes the saw to push itself off the object with a violent re¬ bound toward the operator. Linear kickback is a more violent form of the push force previously described that occurs when the wood closes, pinches the saw chain in the cut, and pushes the saw toward the operator. In both cases (but espe¬ cially with rotational kickback) there is no warning and little time to react when it occurs. From start to finish, the whole event takes place in a fraction of a second.

Avoid using the kickback corner (“no zone”) of the saw bar to avoid rotational kickback. Rotational kickback occurs most commonly while bucking logs and the bar tip makes contact with other logs piled behind the ones being cut or when using the tip of the bar to make bore cuts or to remove limbs close to the trunk. Wearing personal protective equipment will certainly help prevent or minimize injury if kickback does occur, but precautions must be taken to help prevent injuries from happening in the first place. These preventative precautions include: 1) keeping the bar tip clear of any obstacles, 2) avoiding use of the upper quadrant of the bar nose, 3) clearing the cutting area of any underbrush, branches, or other solid ob¬ jects, 4) holding the saw firmly with two hands with the left thumb wrapped un¬ der the front handle, 5) using a low-kickback chain whenever possible, 6) using saws equipped with a chain brake, 7) keeping your chain saw properly sharpened, 8) maintaining a high saw speed when entering or leaving a cut, and 9) following the bore cut instructions on page 101 when it is necessary to use the bar tip. 21

Preparing for Work

Chain Saw Operation Checklist There is nothing more frustrating than to have your chain saw conk out during the middle of a critical felling cut, except perhaps to discover the chain is dull as well. The remedy is preventative—prepare your saw for work before heading into the woods. Listed below are the five most essential (and often neglected) maintenance tasks you can perform on your saw.

1) Fuel the saw. Check and make sure your chain saw is filled with enough gas and bar oil to finish the felling cuts once you begin. Keep your mixed chain saw gas in a labeled container (I use an empty bar oil jug for this purpose) and use a light rope to secure it to the oil jug. Slung over your shoulder, you can more easily carry the pair into the field. This will save you some trips back to your vehicle and help reduce fatigue.

2) Tighten the chain prior to chain sharpening and as soon as you notice it’s loose anytime afterward. A loose chain will hang noticeably off the bar mak¬ ing it more likely to catch small twigs and debris causing it to derail. You should be able to move a properly tensioned chain along the bar yet have it tight enough to permit only a dime’s width between the bottom of the drive link and the bar.

3) Sharpen the chain. The importance of keeping your saw’s chain sharp can¬ not be overstated. And though keeping spares on hand to replace dull ones is not a bad idea, the need to sharpen them occurs so frequently that it’s even a better idea to learn how to do it yourself while in the field. A sharp chain saves time and money as they cut more efficiently, lessen the chance of chain saw kickback, and reduce wear on the sprocket, saw bar, and the chain itself. If you’re having to exert pressure to the bar to get the chain to cut, it’s proba¬ bly time to sharpen the chain. Remember to wear gloves when you do.

4) Clean the air filter daily to obtain maximum power and smooth acceleration from your chain saw. The quickest way to do this is to simply rotate the dirty filter with a clean one (always have several extras on hand). Later, back at the shop, you can more thoroughly clean the dirty filter with compressed air and wash it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Knocking the filter against the palm of your hand, followed by a gentle brushing with a toothbrush, will also do a fairly adequate job in the field.

5) Adjust the idle speed by turning the idle speed adjustment screw (marked LA on most saws) so that the chain does not continue to move when the en¬ gine is only idling. Many chain saw injuries to the lower extremities result from overlooking or neglecting to perform this simple maintenance task.


Preparing for Work

Personal Protective Equipment The safety equipment that is designed to protect your head, face, eyes, ears, hands, legs, and feet is referred to as personal protective equipment (PPE). This equipment is the last line of defense against personal injury. Therefore, it is the wise tree cutter who wears it, inspects it, and cares for it properly and regularly. Loggers and tree care professionals and their employers have a responsibility to comply with applicable regulations, policies, and standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American Na¬ tional Standards Institute (ANSI). Employers are required by law to provide per¬ sonal protective equipment to their employees. If it’s important enough for ex¬ perienced and skilled professionals to wear PPE then the occasional weekend woodcutter certainly ought to do likewise. Most chain saw dealers sell approved PPE as do the equipment suppliers listed in the appendix on page 163. A list of books and training videos is also included (page 162), many of which go into more detail describing the selection and maintenance of PPE. The following two pages offer a brief description of each piece of PPE.


Preparing for Work

Seven Ways to Protect Your Body 1) Head protection. If you question the importance of wearing a safety helmet, just think of your head as an egg—a thin shell protecting something valuable inside. You only get one brain, use it to put on a safety helmet. Even if you are not actually involved with the felling operation but are in the woods with someone who is, wear a hel¬ met! Besides, OSHA requires it (see ANSI Z89.1 for requirement specifications). The helmet style that is becoming the standard among tree cutting professionals and the weekend woodcutter alike is the “helmet system.” This helmet integrates head, face, and ear pro¬ tection with one piece of equipment. The screened face shield flips up easily when not needed or back down when things get dirty. Similarly, the attached ear muffs can be raised onto the helmet during periods of noise inactivity. Orange is perhaps the best color as it increases your visibility to other workers. Inspect your helmet daily for cracks, frayed straps, or any other signs of wear or damage to the shell, suspension, or helmet components. Repair of the hel¬ met itself is not an option. It is an inexpensive piece of life saving gear which should be replaced every two or three years, even if not noticeably damaged.

2) Eye protection. Getting poked in the eye with a branch will stop you dead in your tracks. Even a small wood chip or fine sawdust on the eye surface can be momentarily crippling. Wearing eye protection will significantly reduce eye injuries. With so many cool designs available these days there’s hardly an excuse for not wearing them. Safety glasses must also comply with ANSI specifications—the cheap glasses sold at gas stations and discount stores just won’t hold up to the task.

3) Face protection. The screened face shields mounted on the helmet systems described above offer excellent face protection as they stop or deflect small tree limbs, flying debris and wood chips. Though they do offer some eye pro¬ tection, face screens are not a substitute for protective glasses. Fine sawdust can easily pass through the screen openings and wood or metal projectiles can still manage to rip through either the metal screen or plastic mesh. Face screens are especially helpful when walking through areas of thick brush and both hands are occupied by carrying equipment. Screens are inexpensive, so replace them as soon as rust, tears, frays, and holes develop on the surface.


Preparing for Work

4) Ear protection. Many veteran tree cutters exposed to the constant racket of a chain saw wish they had protected their hearing when they first started their tree cutting careers. Those who try to converse with them also wish they had done so. Two effective ways to protect your hearing are ear plugs and ear muffs. Plugs are inexpensive, compact, and disposable, but are awkward to install, especially with gloved hands, and they quickly get dirty. Muffs are reusable, and if mounted on a helmet system, quick to employ and convenient to store. They also help keep your ears warm in cold conditions, which of course means they can be warm in hot conditions. Another less frequently considered benefit of muffs is the protection they offer to the ear itself, especially against a punctured ear drum when wrestling through thick brush and downed trees. Be aware that safety glasses can in¬ hibit a proper seal when worn with muffs thereby compromising the muffs’ effectiveness. I recommend you use both plugs and muffs together for maxi¬ mum protection.

5) Hand protection. Work gloves basically do two things: protect your hands from injuries such as cuts, scratches, splinters, and burns and provide a firm grip (with less effort) on the things you handle daily while working—limbs, logs, chain saws, rope, and other work related tools. Choices include tradi¬ tional leather, latex covered “gripper gloves,” and styles that are chain saw resistant. Avoid wearing the “gauntlet” style gloves, which fill with sawdust and catch easily on brush. For this reason gauntlet style should never be worn when feeding a wood chipper.

6) Leg protection. Since the majority of chain saw injuries occur on the legs and knees it should seem obvious that wearing the protective pants, chaps, or bibs designed to protect them is a wise thing to do. Furthermore, OSHA and ANSI require their use by tree cutting professionals. Regardless of the style worn, none are cut-proof. Instead, the fabric of the leg protection is designed to slow or jam the cutters of the chain saw when contact is made thus reduc¬ ing the severity of the injury.

7) Foot protection. There are many features that make for a good work boot. Select a pair that will provide adequate arch and ankle support, good traction in a variety of terrain and climate conditions, insulation against cold weather or water, and some measure of protection against chain saws or dropped log ends. Though some lower cut boots may meet the above criteria they tend to collect sawdust—avoid them. Realistically, no boot can do it all. Experienced tree cutters know this and usually own several pairs of work boots to meet the diverse work, weather, and terrain conditions involved in tree cutting.


Preparing for Work

Work-Related Equipment The well prepared tree cutter is one who is also well equipped. This means hav¬ ing available at the worksite, and in good working condition, any tool that might make your work safer and more efficient. The kind of equipment you’ll need will depend on the type of work you’ll be doing and under what conditions. The tools for cutting trees in the “back forty” for firewood may be different than those needed for precision felling in tight residential areas. Though the equipment se¬ lection available to the modern tree cutter is diverse, I’ve included in this book the ones I believe you will find most useful across a spectrum of felling situa¬ tions. In subsequent chapters you will find additional information and illustra¬ tions regarding the application of these tools.

Ten Essential Tools of the Trade We often go without a piece of equipment that saves time and energy simply because we never tried it or knew it existed. Therefore, in addition to your prized chain saw and the “must wear” PPE described on the previous pages, I have compiled a list of ten essential tools that I believe are indispensable for the type of tree work described in this book.

1. Felling Wedges

2. Single-Bitted Ax

Wedges are some of the most important felling and bucking tools you can own. They can help redirect a leaning tree and prevent your chain saw bar from getting pinched while bucking wood or when making a back cut when felling. You should have several wedges on hand ranging from 5" to 10" long and made of high-density polyethylene.

The single-bitted ax is an important tool for driving felling wedges into saw cuts. It can also be used to “sound” trunks for rot, strip off mud-caked bark, knock out deadwood from standing or felled coni¬ fers, or split firewood. A 3-lb. ax with a square flat end (to minimize wedge damage) and a 26” long handle is a good choice for meeting these needs.


Preparing for Work

3. Rope

4. Pulleys, Biners, & Slings

Trees with a significant back lean may require the additional leverage a prop¬ erly placed pull line can provide. A direct pull from a single worker may be ade¬ quate in most cases to fell the tree, but it may be necessary to attach a winch, come-along, or pulley system to the line for more pulling power.

This gear comprises the main ingredi¬ ents for assembling a pulley system to a pull line. Pulleys (or blocks) provide the means of gaining mechanical advan¬ tage, the carabiners (biners) are the connecting links, and the slings provide anchor points to which the pulleys can be attached.

5. Throw Line and Throw Bag

6. Cant Hook

This simple tool combination used by professional tree climbers has no equal for installing a rope at an effective height in the tree from the ground. The throw bag and line are tossed over a secure limb or crotch in the tree after which a rope is attached, pulled up into the tree, and tied off. This tool elimi¬ nates the need to climb the tree or use a ladder to attach a pull line.

At the end of the work day your body will thank you for employing this tool. The hook grabs hold of the wood while the long handle provides a mechanical lev¬ erage advantage making log rolling sig¬ nificantly easier. Cant hooks are also useful for “rolling” out a hung-up tree. Workers using two cant hooks in tan¬ dem can lift and carry logs to a more convenient location for cutting.


Preparing for Work

7. Logger Tape

8. Log Hauler (Log Arch)

The classic logger tape is 50 feet long and comes equipped with a swivel snap for clipping into a belt loop or other at¬ tachment point. This style of tape offers hands-free measuring for saw logs. The nail end is forced into the log butt as the cutter walks along the felled tree mark¬ ing or cutting it at the desired location.

This remarkable workhorse is invaluable for hauling small or mid-sized logs. The tongs are positioned over the center of a log and lifted between the wheels for transport by lowering the handle. The log hauler can be operated by a single worker or can be pulled with an ATV (all terrain vehicle).

9. Splitting Maul

10. Wheelbarrow

Unless your wood is frozen or of small diameter, your single-bitted ax won’t stand up to the rigors of splitting larger wood. A 6-8 lb. splitting maul is the ideal tool for splitting wood of all species in' all temperatures. A maul that is skillfully wielded eliminates the need for using splitting wedges and, if conditions are right (see pg. 154), can potentially outsplit a machine splitter while providing a better workout in the process.

A professional quality wheelbarrow with a good stout tire is indispensable for hauling wood chunks, firewood, and tree debris. Models with dual front tires can haul even heavier loads. It is equally useful for hauling your equip¬ ment to and from the work site. This tool even keeps working when you’re not, by providing you a comfortable chair with a backrest during break time.


Preparing for Work

Other Helpful Tools ■

Felling levers (p. 82) and push poles (p. 83) are both effective felling aids for persuading straight and slightly back-leaning trees to fall into the lay.

Come-alongs are mainly used to provide the extra force needed on a pull line when felling trees. Larger ones are capable of pulling out a stuck truck or hung-up tree if necessary.

Pickaroons (hookaroon, woodpick) are an ideal tool for repositioning or picking up small logs and firewood pieces without having to bend over. It is most commonly employed by driving the tool’s curved tip into the end of the wood where it can be dragged or lifted into position for cutting or splitting.

Log Tongs (log carriers) consist of a pair of large tongs mounted on a long wooden handle.

This tool is

operated by two workers and is used to lift and move large logs cradled on the tongs. With two log carriers, four people can haul a log completely off the ground.

Hand tongs are a miniature version of a log carrier but are used by one person using one hand. They minimize the amount of effort needed to lift and haul smaller logs and trees. They are especially useful for picking up wet and slippery wood.

Plastic tarps are an inexpensive way to drag brush or tree debris and to cover objects you may wish to protect. They are especially useful for protect¬ ing lawns from sawdust accumulation during bucking operations. Tarps are cheap and available at any hardware store.

Pole saws (hand-operated or gas-powered) are a safe way of removing tree limbs over your head, which could interfere with tree felling, while hand saws and loppers can be used for removing branches lower in the tree, clear¬ ing brush around the tree base and escape route, or limbing a downed tree.

■ Work clothes are a type of tool that helps protect your body. They needn’t be new, but should be serviceable. Just about any well-fitting, sturdy work pants and shirts without holes and tears (which can catch brush) are accept¬ able for work. Avoid wearing pants with cuffs which collect sawdust and hammer loops which can snag brush. Long-sleeved shirts can be warm during some parts of the year, but they can offer good protection for the arms against scratches and insects bites. As for jewelry—leave it at home.


Preparing for Work

First Aid Equipment You are going to need more than a box of Band-Aids if you want to treat the va¬ riety of injuries that periodically plague the tree cutter (see pages 12-15). Pur¬ chase a well stocked first aid kit that meets OSHA standards for logging opera¬ tions. Most kits sold by logging and arborist equipment suppliers do meet these standards. This kit must be well marked and stored in an accessible location that is known to all workers.

Repair and Maintenance Equipment This assortment of equipment comprises what some refer to as a “second aid kit.” It’s the stuff you need to fix things while out in the field. These tools and equipment parts are as diverse as the people who use them. Here’s a sampling of my kit: duct tape (hardly original but highly useful), spool of light gauge wire, a Leatherman® type tool, a basic wrench and screw driver kit, chain saw wrenches, files, and parts, vice grips, hammer, wire brush, W-D 40® or other lubricant, an assortment of important nuts, bolts, screws, and nails, wedges for ax handles, extra reading glasses, binoculars, lighter/matches, and headlamp for hands-free lighting in the dark. Custom-make your own kit to meet your needs.

Equipment Inspection Having the proper equipment at hand and knowing how to use it safely and effi¬ ciently is vitally important. It is just as important, however, that the equipment is in good condition. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that you thoroughly in¬ spect all equipment before using it. Equipment that is defective or damaged should be removed from service or, when acceptable, repaired before being put back into operation. The equipment inspection needs to be an ongoing process that occurs not only before you begin work but during and after as well.

Where to Get Gear Some of the equipment you need may be purchased from a local chain saw dealer or hardware store. However, much of the gear presented in this book is specialized and available only through arborist or logging equipment suppliers. An extensive list of such suppliers is found on page 163 of this book. Before purchasing a new tool make sure it will meet your specific needs. You may first want to talk with someone who has had experience with it, or better yet, ask them to loan it to you and get some firsthand experience with the tool before going out to buy it.


Preparing for Work


Equipment Checklist

HE FOLLOWING EQUIPMENT LIST is by no means exhaustive nor is all of it necessary—it’s just a good selection of stuff that saves lives, time, and backs. Use the list to help you remember what to bring to the work site or as a “wish list" for considering future gear purchases. Most of the equipment on this list is described, illustrated, or referred to at some point in the book.

Tree Felling Equipment

Wood Moving & Cleanup Tools

□ Work clothing & raingear

□ Cant hook

□ Personal protective equipment

□ Pickaroon

□ Chain saws (have an extra one to free stuck saws), extra gas & oil, maintenance tools, spare chain, owners manual

□ Log tongs (carrier) / Hand tongs

□ Felling wedges/felling lever

□ Wheelbarrow / sled (winter)

□ Push pole

□ Log dolly □ Wheeled log hauler/arch

□ Come-along

□ Single-bitted ax or hatchet

□ Electric or portable winch

□ Throw line and throw bag

□ Rakes, shovels, forks, & tarps

□ Rope for pull line / holding line

□ Gas leaf blower

□ Rigging gear: pulleys, carabiners (biners), and slings

□ Splitting maul □ ATV (all terrain vehicle)

□ Chains and chain binder or web¬ bing strap and ratchet for secur¬ ing split trees

Work Site Safety Equipment

□ Stick for estimating height

□ Whistle

□ Pole saw: hand or gas-operated

□ Safety cones, signs, & flags

□ Hand saw / loping shears

□ Colored flagging for marking trees and making barricades

□ Logger’s tape

□ First aid kit / fire extinguisher

□ Plastic barrels / plywood / tires for protecting lawn and property □ Field repair and maintenance tools (2nd aid kit) □ Cell phone / radios for communi¬ cation □ Wheel chocks


Preparing for Work

Working With Others Up to this point in the book I have repeatedly emphasized the risks and hazards involved with tree work. It stands to reason then, why it’s so vitally important that you work with a partner. Though having someone available to offer assis¬ tance during an emergency is a great reason for not working alone, it is by no means the only one. The saying, “teamwork divides the effort and multiplies the effect,” is a relevant principle you’ll soon discover when you perform the variety of tasks required of tree felling and woodcutting. Additional workers make work more efficient by providing the extra help neces¬ sary to manage certain tasks, such as operating a pull line, moving logs, fetching equipment, spotting hazards, stopping traffic, warning bystanders, or distracting the neighbor’s dog. Besides all that, it’s nice to have a companion to share sto¬ ries and tell jokes with during lunch.

Communicating the Work Plan Working with others is to cooperate in achieving a common goal. The essence of this cooperative or team effort can be distilled into one word—communication. And virtually everything that’s communicated revolves around the work plan. This plan, as it relates to tree felling specifically, is developed after the tree and site assessment is made and includes plans for protecting people and property, determining equipment needs, planning felling methods and sequence, determin¬ ing the lay (landing zone), and assigning work responsibilities. These are a few elements that need to be communicated consistently and clearly to all involved with the work effort. Consider each of the items that follow and how they can be communicated and employed by everyone involved.

1) Potential hazards. Everyone involved with the felling operation needs to be aware of the hazards and obstacles that exist and know what pre¬ cautions or action steps should be taken to avoid them.

2) Work methods and sequence. Be clear as to where the intended lay or landing area of the tree is, the methods that you will use to get it there, and the sequence in which you will perform them.

3) Work responsibilities. Work responsibilities range from fueling saws to guarding bystanders from entering the work area. Whatever the task, is however, it is absolutely essential that each person understands what his or her specific role is and how and when it is to be performed. Further¬ more, everyone should understand what the other worker’s responsibilities are, as well as where each person will be located while performing them.


Preparing for Work

4) Maintaining communication. Good communication is just as important during the felling operation as it is before it begins. You can accomplish this by using a well developed and routinely practiced command and re¬ sponse system. One example of this for felling trees is to use the verbal command “stand clear” to alert anyone who may still be working in the landing zone and wait for an “all clear” response before proceeding with the final felling cut. If you are not within hearing distance, use hand sig¬ nals to communicate your intentions. Universally, a held up clenched fist means “stop” or “hold your position” and a thumbs up signals “all is well” or “I’m ready.” In addition, I strongly recommend that each worker have a whistle to interrupt the work procedure if necessary, one that is loud enough to carry above the noise of a running chain saw. The use of radios for this purpose is also effective.

5) Changing the plan. Even after you begin the felling operation an unex¬ pected circumstance may develop, which could require you to change the work plan. This often happens when a hazard or obstacle is discovered that went undetected during the assessment process. Whatever the cause, make certain everyone is aware of the revised plan before proceeding.

6) Considering the client. When tree felling in residential areas it is wise to inform the homeowner and, in some cases, the neighbors about your work intentions. Tell them how they can help by staying indoors or watching from a safe distance away from the work area.

Choosing Your Help The people you select to help with the tree felling operation should be trained, experienced, and aware of the inherent risks involved with the work. They must be equipped with the necessary personal protection equipment and familiar with the work procedure and operation of the equipment being used. Teamwork de¬ velops from working together frequently and becoming familiar with each other’s work style. It’s a real joy when a coworker can anticipate your next move or equipment need by offering the help or the tool before you even ask for it. For the professional tree cutter, obtaining competent help is the responsibility of the employer. However, for the weekend lumberjack, procuring experienced help can be difficult. Though even the presence of an inexperienced person has its merits in the event of an emergency, the risks of that person becoming the victim or cause of the emergency are great. Sometimes “the obvious choice is usually a quick regret.” In other words—choose your help wisely.


Preparing for Work


Are You Ready to Work?

BEGAN THIS CHAPTER by stressing the importance of preparation, and I close it with the same message. Review this pre-work checklist before you start your chain saw and begin cutting. As you answer the following questions be honest with yourself and decide if you are physically and mentally up to the task at hand. If you are, may you be blessed with the enjoyment and satisfac¬ tion that comes from a job well done!

Pre-Work Checklist

□ □ □

□ □

□ □ □ □ □ □

V 34

Do you have adequate training and experience in chain saw operation and tree felling procedure? Are you physically and mentally fit enough to handle the rigors involved with tree work? Are you sick, fatigued, hung over, on medication, drugs, or alcohol? Did you remember to bring plenty of food (or healthy snacks), water, or sports drink (beverages, such as Gatorade®, designed to help athletes rehydrate, as well as replenish electrolytes, carbohydrates, and other nu¬ trients, which can be depleted during physical exercise)? Have you stretched out to avoid back injury and muscle strain? Are you familiar with the various work hazards that could potentially affect you and your coworkers? Are you prepared for an emergency? See the checklist on page 15. Are you aware of the hazards of operating a chain saw and do you know how to avoid them? Do you have the approved personal protective equipment (PPE) available to wear? Is it in good condition? Do you have the proper equipment available to safely and efficiently per¬ form the work you intend to do? Is it in good condition and running properly? Do you have sufficient help to perform the work safely? Are the workers trained and experienced in the work procedure and equipment? Have you clearly communicated the work plan to everyone involved with the work operation? Would it'be wise to inform the homeowner or neighbor of your work plans?


To Fell a Tree “Having a tree drop into the desired lay is not an accident but a calculated accomplishment. ” —D. Cook, The Ax Book


O FELL A TREE so it lands where you want it without injuring anyone or damaging anything is no small feat. Many things can go wrong. You could

underestimate the tree’s height, forget to consider wind direction, overlook the presence of an overhead electrical line, make an improper felling cut, misunder¬ stand the work plan, or fail to anticipate a curious neighbor wandering into the work area. These are but a few possibilities, any of which could result in

There are no

of tree felling. Instead, safely dropping a tree into

shortcuts to success in the

the desired lay requires the execution of a series of

art of tree felling.

disaster. There are no shortcuts to success in the art

steps that take time, effort, and skill to perform. Therefore, I begin this chapter by presenting a felling plan, or procedure, that should be routinely followed each time you fell a tree. On the following page is the tree felling procedure I use, which is described in detail throughout the re¬ mainder of this chapter. It is a plan that has emerged from my own experiences in the tree care profession for over 25 years. The methods that comprise the pro¬ cedure I’ve learned from others. They have been accepted, practiced, and refined by loggers, woodcutters, and tree care professionals for decades. Keep in mind that the felling procedure presented on the following page has limitations. For instance, the methods will not accommodate trees that have a significant back lean or are of extremely large diameter. Felling these trees re¬ quires more advanced methods which are presented in chapter 3. There may also be situations where it is not necessary to perform every step of the felling proce¬ dure either, such as estimating tree height when felling into an open area or pro¬ tecting property when felling trees in remote wooded areas. Regardless of the felling circumstances, the methods presented are foundational to them all and must be mastered. I recommend that beginners make their first felling attempts on small or medium-sized trees (equal to or smaller than the length of the chain saw’s bar) which are relatively plumb (vertically straight) or lean toward the in¬ tended direction of fall and in an area without hazards and obstacles. You can tackle larger and more difficult trees as you develop more experience and confi¬ dence in your skills. 35

To Fell a Tree

Basic Tree Felling Procedure The basic tree felling procedure presented in the flow chart below consists of three main steps—Assess, Prepare, and Execute. Each of these steps is subdi¬ vided into additional steps of execution, all of which are presented in detail in this chapter. As stated on the previous page, some felling situations may not re¬ quire carrying out every step of the procedure. It is essential, however, that you become familiar with and competent in performing all the steps of the procedure for the felling situations that do require them.

Identify tree and site hazards Estimate tree height Determine tree lean Determine the lav Establish escape route

Protect people Protect property Prepare the work area Prepare the tree Cut the notch Make the back cut Retreat from the work area




N ORDER TO CONSISTENTLY PERFORM each step of the felling procedure you should develop a means for remembering them. The method I use in¬ volves memorizing six key steps: hazards, height, lean, lay, escape, and exe¬ cute (HH-LL-EE). Notice that the first five of these steps are the same five that are in step 1 above (assess tree and felling site). The last step (execute) in¬ volves executing the felling cuts and retreating from the work area (same as in step 3 above). So what happened to step 2: prepare tree & felling site? It’s still there; I’ve just collapsed it into step 1. As discoveries are made during the tree and site assessment I make a point of taking the necessary steps of action to protect people and property, and to prepare the work area and the tree itself prior to felling the tree.

v_J 36

Step 1: Assess Tree & Felling Site

Step 1: Assess Tree & Felling Site What You’ll Do: 1.

Identify tree & site hazards


Estimate tree height


Determine tree lean


Determine the lay


Establish escape route

No two trees are alike. Each has its own uniqueness and personality. In step 1 of the tree felling procedure your goal is to discover the personality or characteris¬ tics of the tree being felled and its surroundings (felling site) by applying five essential assessment factors. What you learn about the tree and site will pro¬ foundly influence subsequent decisions such as determining your equipment needs, which felling methods to use, and which hazards and obstacles will need to be avoided, protected, or removed.

la. Identifying Tree Hazards Begin your tree assessment for po¬ tential defects and hazards from a distance, perhaps as you are first approaching it. Many hazards such as widow-makers (a lodged branch or treetop; see drawing on p. 39) or an overhead electrical line, may be hidden when viewed from directly below the tree. Upon reaching the tree, continue to inspect all “sides” of the tree starting with the base of the tree, along the trunk, and up into the canopy. Be attentive to any sounds as well that could indicate hazards such as the buzzing of hor¬ nets or other insects or animals. The tree hazard descriptions that follow on the next two pages will assist you in the tree assessment. Look aloft for tree hazards in the canopy. 37

Step 1: Assess Tree & Felling Site

Ground Hazards Identify any ground debris, logs, rocks, or saplings around the base of the tree that could interfere with making felling cuts, interfere with your retreat along the escape route, or cause damage to the tree being felled (a concern when saving logs for lumber). These should be cleared from the work area before you begin making any felling cuts (see page 53). Look for poisonous plants, such as poison ivy or nearby nests of stinging insects. Note any signs that could indicate root decay (or tree failure) such as mushrooms, cracks, or soil mounding at the base of the tree.

Trunk Hazards Rotten and decayed trunk wood can make for a hazardous felling situation especially if it is present in the area where the felling cuts will be made. Decay can be detected by the presence of mushrooms or conks on the trunk and bark that is loose. Other indicators include ant or boring insect activity along the trunk or base of the tree. Use the heel, or poll, of your ax head to “sound” for decay by pounding on the tree trunk. Listen for any hollow sounds which might indicate decay and feel for mushy, punky wood as you strike the tree trunk. Hollows or cavities on the trunk can also be a tip-off to decay and the presence of sting¬ ing insects or animals that live or make nests in them. The presence of cracks or splits along the trunk can be extremely hazardous if they extend into the area where the felling cuts will be made. Finally, note the location of any foreign objects in the trunk, such as nails, wire, or concrete, that could interfere with the felling and bucking cuts. Whenever possible remove these objects before felling.

Ground and trunk hazards.

A) wood¬ pecker and trunk cavity, indicating bird nest, decayed wood, or hollow trunk, B) mushroom (decay), C) cavity at base of tree, D) rocks (chain saw and escape route obstruction), E) saplings (interfere with the execution of felling cuts). The drawing above shows a sampling of five tree and ground hazards:


Step 1: Assess Tree & Felling Site

Tree Crown Hazards Continue your tree assessment by looking for any limbs that are dead, weakly attached, or completely broken off and hanging in the tree canopy. These “widow-makers” are the cause of many felling injuries and fatalities as they of¬ ten become dislodged as the tree falls, striking someone working below. Look for limbs or vines that may be entangled with neighboring trees inhibiting the tree from falling in the desired direction. Also consider the distri¬ bution and size of the limbs in the canopy. It is quite common for an especially long and sturdy limb to catch on the limbs or trunk of a nearby tree causing it to hang up or spin and roll off course. Be






wasps, and hornets, which fre¬ quently build exposed paper nests or ones hidden in a cavity high in the tree. Similarly, animals such as birds, raccoons, and squirrels often dwell in hollows in trees. Have a plan to deal with them when they land on the ground along with the tree. Any decay that is present in the canopy is a concern especially if you intend to use a pull line to help fell the tree. The forces ex¬ erted on the rope could be sub¬ stantial enough to break the top of the tree completely off at the point Lastly,





search closely for any

overhead electrical and communi¬ cation lines that might be hidden within the tree crown. This is a common hazard when working in residential areas.

Inspect the tree crown for “widow-makers” before felling the tree.


Step 1: Assess Tree & Felling Site

lb. Identifying Felling Site Hazards After you have inspected the tree for hazards, shift your focus to identifying haz¬ ards and obstacles in the vicinity surrounding the tree or trees to be removed. This area is referred to as the “felling site.” Most of the potential hazards and obstacles listed below pertain primarily to tree felling in residential settings. However, weather conditions and terrain features are also relevant when felling in wooded areas.

Weather Wind is perhaps the most hazardous weather factor that affects tree felling. Even a light wind blowing from an unfavorable direction can cause the tree to fall off course or to “set back” on your saw bar trapping it in the back cut. Deciduous trees with leaves on (seasonal) and conifers (all year) are especially susceptible to this effect as the canopy acts as a sail to catch the wind. I do not advise felling trees into the wind unless a pull line or other means of overcoming the forces of wind is employed. Windy conditions may mean postponing felling for a calmer day. Of course, wind can have a favorable effect too, when it is blowing in the direction of the desired lay. If the wind is strong enough and you have the ex¬ perience, you may even use it to overcome a tree with a back lean. Look for tell¬ tale signs of wind speed and direction by observing tree tops, flags, smoke from chimneys, or if near a lake, ripples and waves on the water. Weather conditions that are more hazardous to the workers themselves are ex¬ treme air temperatures of heat or cold and snowy or rainy weather. The former can cause adverse health conditions such as heatstroke and frostbite, the latter contributes to dangerous slips and falls. Hypothermia, which occurs when body temperature drops below 98.6° F, is a constant threat in cold or even mild tem¬ peratures (60° F). The potential for becoming hypothermic, as well as the sever¬ ity of its effects, increases as you become more wet and more fatigued.

Terrain Features Assess the terrain for any features that could cause you to lose your footing and fall such as steep slopes, uneven ground, heavy undergrowth, downed trees, steps, and muddy and wet areas.

Neighboring Trees It is just as important to assess the crowns of neighboring trees within the path of your tree’s intended lay. As your tree falls it can brush against hanging limbs in neighboring trees, releasing them to fall back toward the tree cutter. Any stand¬ ing snags should also be identified and, if necessary, carefully felled before pro¬ ceeding with felling the tree. 40

Step ±: Assess Tree & Felling Site


People and Pets Tree cutting is noisy and exciting work that often attracts spectators, along with their pets, to the felling site. This is a common occurrence when felling trees in residential areas. Though it may be fun for them to watch you work, they should be considered a significant hazard to you. People and their pets are unpredictable in their behavior (a dog running into the felling site followed by its owner) and unprotected from the work hazards. Therefore, before you begin cutting, scope out the area to make sure no people are in the vicinity and warn and advise the ones who are. See pages 49-50 for details on protecting people at the felling site.

Obstacles Any object you wish to avoid damaging, or which hinders your ability to fell or work on the tree, is considered an obstacle and thus a hazard. Some obstacles can simply be moved to avoid being hit. These include such items as cars, boats, lawn furniture, picnic tables, lawn ornaments, bird feeders, grills, signs, and bikes, etc. Immovable obstacles include houses, sheds, decks, patios, lawns, gar¬ dens, fences, dog kennels, play areas, lighting, underground sprinkler systems, propane tanks, septic systems, overhead lines, sidewalks, and driveways. Some of these objects may be successfully protected to some degree by covering them. Yet others, such as a house and other buildings, must be avoided completely and subsequent action must be taken to do so. The only way to know for sure if the tree will reach the obstacle is to estimate the tree’s height (see next page).

Felling site obstacles and hazards-how many do you detect? In which direction would you fell the tree? What precautions would you take? 41

Step 1: Assess Tree & Felling Site

2. Estimating Tree Height Knowing the height of the tree you are felling (as well as the width of the canopy or crown spread) is critical information for determining whether the tree will “fit” into the desired lay (landing zone) without hitting any hazards or obstacles that you will be unable to move or protect. Knowing the tree’s height is also im¬ portant when you set up a pull line and pulley system so you can avoid hitting the equipment used for it and, more importantly, the workers operating it.

Using the Stick Method for Height Estimation All you need to accurately estimate the height of a tree is your arm, your eyes, and a straight stick. This method is referred to by many as the stick method or “stick trick.” Lumberjacks have been successfully using this method for decades; yet, this is a procedure with which many modern day tree cutters are unfamiliar. Whenever I demonstrate this method to a student, new employee, or one of my clients, they react, almost without exception, with amazement at the accuracy such a simple procedure provides. The accuracy of this method is maximized when measuring trees that are vertical and where the ground is level. Make ad¬ justments for the difference of your height (at eye level) and the height of the felling cut. Practice the “Stick Trick” on trees that will be felled in a non-critical setting following the procedure below and the illustration on the opposite page. 1.

Begin by making a gauge stick approximately 32 inches long or a little longer than your outstretched arm. This may be a straight limb found at the felling site. When you find a good one save it for future use. Stand in a position, in line with the expected lay, at a distance that you estimate is close to where the tree would land. Grip the stick so the distance from your eye and your outstretched hand is the same as from your hand to the top of the stick.


Hold the stick vertically (plumb) so that it forms a 90-degree angle to your arm, which should be extended horizontally (level). It is important for measurement accuracy that the stick does not tilt toward or away from you. Keep your arm level and fully extended.


Sight the tree by aligning the bottom of the gauge stick (or the top of your hand) where the notch will be cut. While keeping your head stationary, move forward or backward until the tree appears to be the same height as the stick. When this happens you are standing at a distance equal to the tree’s height and in the lo¬ cation where the top will land if the tree is felled properly. It’s not a bad idea to get a second opinion from a coworker. Any woodworker knows that it’s a wise practice to “measure twice, cut once.” This is just as rele¬ vant, and possibly more critical, for someone felling trees. Ideally, you should always allow extra space beyond where the top is expected to hit to allow for error in height estimation and for broken tree limbs being tossed in the fall.


Step 1: Assess Tree & Felling Site

Making Height and Grade Adjustments To obtain accurate results with the stick trick, it is important to take into account the difference between your height at eye level and the height of the felling cut. For example, if the height to your eye level is 5V2 feet from the ground and the height to the notch is IV2 feet (a 4-foot difference), move backward 4 feet to compensate for the height difference. You must also compensate for trees with a back lean as they will appear shorter than they really are. For every foot of back lean the tree has, add at least an extra foot to your height estimation. When estimating tree height on sloping ground compensate for the grade differ¬ ence. Do this by estimating how many feet above or below the tree base you are standing. If, for example, you are standing 3 feet above the base move backward 3 feet. If you are standing 3 feet below the tree base move toward the tree 3 feet. This adjustment method is only effective if the grade difference is equal to or less than your height. If it appears felling the tree into the landing zone is a tightfit, but you are confident it can be done safely, make the notch and back cut higher on the trunk than you normally would (leaving a higher stump). This will shorten the distance to the landing point. 43

Step 1: Assess Tree & Felling Site

3. Determining Tree Lean The third of the five essential assessment factors is determining tree lean. This can be performed at the same time you estimate the tree’s height. Misinterpreting the tree’s lean could result in having the tree set back on your saw trapping it in the back cut, hanging up in a neighboring tree, or worse, landing on something you wanted to avoid hitting. It is critical therefore, to know exactly how much, and in which direction, the tree leans. The lean of a tree is its deviation from vertical. Your job is to discover two things concerning this lean: the direction of lean and the amount of lean the tree has. Both these factors will influence the tree’s lay (the path you want the tree to fall into), and the methods you use to get it there. Three terms are commonly used to describe the direction the tree leans—side lean, forward lean (“head lean”), and back lean. The direction of lean is always described in relation to the lay of the tree. In other words, if the tree leans 90 degrees to the lay, either to the left or the right, it has a side lean. If the tree leans toward the lay, it has a forward lean, and if it leans away from the lay, it has a back lean. Of course, trees do not always have just a side lean or forward lean. Sometimes they have a lean that is a combi¬ nation of both (see fig. at right). To determine lean, perform the following steps: 1.

Establish a starting point to assess the lean. Though it doesn’t matter where you start, pick a location where you would prefer the tree to land. Of course, not until the actual lean is determined will you know what lay is possible. Stand at a distance that offers you a view of the entire tree crown and trunk. Draw an imaginary circle with your finger around the outermost branches of the tree’s canopy. Next draw an imaginary line from the center of the imaginary circle straight downward to the ground. Traditionally, a plumb bob was used for this purpose and still is an accurate means to perform this step. A throwiine and weight also works well; see pages 85-86. If the location of the imaginary plumb line is to the left or right of the center of the tree as you are facing it, this indi¬ cates the amount of side lean the tree has. Mark this spot on the ground with a stick or rock (have a coworker mark or stand in the spot).


Move to a position that is 90° to your starting point (in either direction). Re¬ peat the sighting procedure performed in step 1. Mark this spot on the ground as well. If this location is in front of the tree, in relation to the intended lay, this indicates a forward lean. If it’s behind the tree, then it has a back lean. The dis¬ tance from this location to the center, of the tree indicates the amount of forward or back lean the tree has.


Locate the spot that is the middle of the two previous marks you made. The tree’s actual lean can now be determined by extending a line from the center of the tree’s base so it passes through the center mark. If the tree were to fall natu¬ rally, this is the direction it would fall.


Step 1: Assess Tree & Felling Site

Determining Tree Lean

STEP 2 Take 2nd sighting 90° from the starting point

STEP 3 Tree’s natural lean (line drawn between the location of the 1st & 2nd sightings)

STEP 1 Starting point for 1st sighting (desired lay)

Determine tree lean by taking sightings from two separate locations 90° to each other (this method was adapted from The Complete Guide to Chain Saw Safety and Directional Felling by Tim Ard and Mike Bolin; see Recommended Resources on page 162). 45

Step 1: Assess Tree & Felling Site

4. Determining the Lay Now that you have determined the tree’s lean you can make an informed deci¬ sion concerning the lay of the tree. The lay has already been defined as the direc¬ tion or path you intend the tree to drop into when it is felled. The lay is also re¬ ferred to as the landing zone or simply the “intended direction of fall.” Whenever possible the tree’s lay should be the same as its lean. This is the safest and easi¬ est option if the felling site permits it. Of course, this is not always possible or even desirable, because of the hazards and obstacles imposed by the site.

How Hazards, Height, and Lean Influence Your Decision Co-author Stephen Philbrick (The Backyard Lumberjack) states that “Felling is a negotiation between where the tree wants to fall and where you want it to land.”1 In other words, only after considering what the tree wants to do (the direction it leans) and what you want to happen (your preference of lay) can you come to a decision as to what direction the tree should be felled. What should not happen, however, is for the tree to make the decision without your approval and land where you don’t want it to. You must know exactly where you want the tree to land and do whatever is necessary to get it there. There should be no surprises

“Felling is a negotiation

where the tree lands after it is felled. The most important factors that will ultimately influence

between where the tree

your decision of the lay of the tree are the ones

wants to fall and where

you have already assessed: tree and site haz¬

you want it to land.” —Stephen Philbrick

ards, tree height, and tree lean. A fourth factor that will also influence your decision is the amount of tree felling experience you have.

If the felling site does not present any hazards, obstacles, or space limitations, then select a lay that is the same as the lean. On the other hand, choosing a lay other than the direction the tree leans can be difficult and dangerous, requiring more advanced felling techniques (see chapter 3). If the degree of unfavorable side or back lean is small it may be overcome with felling wedges, a felling bar, push pole, or by someone giving it a good push. Trees with a more significant lean will most likely require the extra leveraging force that a pull line and pulley system can offer. If the tree is especially difficult to fell, requiring methods beyond your experi¬ ence and training, turn it over to someone with more tree felling experience or to a professional arborist who can climb and remove the tree in sections if neces¬ sary. This is advised when felling trees that are too tall to “fit” into the felling site without damaging something or when felling trees with a lean too great to be overcome by conventional felling methods. 46

Step 1: Assess Tree & Felling Site

Other Considerations for Determining the Lay Selecting a lay that will avoid damage to neighboring trees, people, and property is a top priority. There are other things you may want to consider as well that affect work efficiency and safety, if the site conditions allow it. One such consid¬ eration is to choose a lay that is free of obstacles such as thick brush, wet areas, steep hills, or other terrain features that would make limbing and bucking the tree difficult or dangerous. In addition, select a lay that provides you with the best possible route for the disposal of the limbs and trunk wood from the felling site. Select the shortest access route possible for equipment you may need to use such as the work truck, trailer, log splitter, or wood chipper. If you are working in residential areas select a route for wood disposal that will have the least im¬ pact on the soil and surrounding vegetation. There may be instances when it will be more efficient to access the tree from a neighboring property. Never do so without first receiving permission from the property owner.


Step 1: Assess Tree & Felling Site

5. Establishing the Escape Route Establishing an escape route (or retreat route) is the final assessment factor you need to consider. This is a predetermined path of escape from the work area for the chain saw operator to use after the felling cuts are made and the tree begins to fall. An ideal escape route should be at a 45-degree angle away from the tree’s lay, or direction of fall, to either side (see drawing below). If the tree has a side lean however, choose the route on the opposite side, or good side of the tree. Do not retreat directly to the side (90 degrees to the lay) or directly behind the tree. Since most felling injuries and deaths occur within a fifteen-foot radius of the tree, it is critically important that you retreat to a distance well beyond that (20foot minimum). Clear the escape route of any brush or ground debris, including any equipment, that could inhibit a quick escape. This should be done before any felling cuts are made. If you plan to have another worker involved with the fell¬ ing, perhaps using a push pole to help leverage the tree over, an escape route must be established and cleared for that person as well. 48

Step 2: Prepare Tree & Felling Site

Step 2: Prepare Tree & Felling Site What You’ll Do: 1.

Protect people


Protect property


Prepare the work area


Prepare the tree

The second step of the felling procedure is to prepare the tree and site for tree felling using the information gathered from the assessments made in step 1, par¬ ticularly the hazard assessment. These preparations range from something as simple as moving a picnic table to clearing brush and small trees from around the base of the tree and along the escape route. Regardless of the precaution taken, the goal of step 2 is the same—to make the tree and felling site as safe as possi¬ ble for the people working and watching while preventing damage to property.

1. Protecting People Your first concern and top priority for preparing the felling site is to secure the area and make it safe for people—yourself, workers, spectators, pedestrians, and vehicular traffic. Begin by securing the area from people not involved in the tree felling process. They may be spectators, or pedestrians—people just walking in the nearby area possibly unaware of your activ¬ Your first concern ity. This is much less of a concern, of course, when felling trees in more remote areas. One and top priority for effective way of securing the felling site is to set preparing the felling up a barrier around the perimeter using bright site is to secure the flagging, safety cones, or signs. In addition to these safety precautions, it may be necessary to area and make it post one or more tree workers in strategic loca¬ safe for people. tions to ensure no one will accidentally enter the felling site at a crucial moment. As stated before, it is important that the customer and even affected neighbors are made fully aware that a tree felling operation is taking place. To varying de¬ grees of detail, they should be informed of what is going to happen and when it will occur. Encourage them to keep small children and pets indoors. If they do desire to watch the felling procedure show them where they can safely do so fol¬ lowing the guidelines described and illustrated on the following page.


Step 2: Prepare Tree & Felling Site

Spectators should stay at least 2 tree lengths away from the tree. Workers directly in¬ volved with the felling operation should stay 1 Vi tree lengths (or more) away.

Protecting People (continued) The distance from the tree that is safe for people and workers to stand can be determined by establishing the tree’s felling radius. This is the area enclosed by a circle in which the distance from the tree is equal to its height. You should have spectators and workers not directly involved with the felling operation stand at a distance that is at least twice this radius, or two tree lengths away. It would be wise to increase this distance when felling large dead trees to avoid injury from the “shrapnel effect” or flying debris that occurs when the tree crashes to the ground. Workers directly involved with the felling procedure, such as those operating a pull line, should stand well over one tree length away from the tree being felled to avoid being hit. Consider the distance of IV2 the tree’s height a safer distance to stand from the tree if space allows it. If it doesn’t, con¬ sider redirecting the pull line with a pulley (see page 100). If you are tree felling along a roadway, set out safety cones and post signs in suitable locations along with flaggers to keep traffic flowing smoothly or inter¬ cept any vehicles from entering the work area. In this case you should become familiar with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s specifications regarding traffic





( 50






Step 2: Prepare Tree & Felling Site

2. Protecting Property If you intend to fell trees in residential areas it is important to take precautions to avoid damage to the property. The term property in this discussion refers to both objects and structures of value as well as the land or grounds. You will be most concerned about protecting the obstacles you noted during the tree and site as¬ sessment. There are three basic ways to protect property from damage—move it, cover it, or avoid it.

a) Move it The easiest way to prevent something from getting damaged is to move it. Be realistic, things don’t always go as planned, so move even those objects you do not think will be in the way. Refer to page 41 for an extensive list of possible felling obstacles that can be moved. Some obstacles, such as fences, may be dis¬ mantled and reconstructed after felling is finished. You may want to cover the holes left from the posts so they can be reinstalled in the same loca¬ tion afterwards. This is a good trick for any object you remove from the ground: flag poles, bird feeders,



Safety cones

work great for this purpose. Obsta¬ cles such as overhead power and communication




moved or dropped by contacting the appropriate utility company. Finally, do not overlook moving your own gear. Place it in a safe and visible location.

Move obstacles to avoid damage.

b) Cover it If you can’t move something to avoid damage consider how you might protect it by covering it instead. Four excellent ways of doing that are by using plywood, tarps, tires, and cones. Plywood is great for covering walkways, lawns, decks, and windows, offering protection mainly from smaller tree debris that may be thrown from the tree when it lands. Hinged plywood propped up over plants and garden areas is an effective means of protection. Large tarps can also be used to cover the same items along with a variety of other objects, though the protection it offers is considerably less. Tarps are also useful for cleanup when used to drag out brush and debris and when used to protect lawns from sawdust accumulation while bucking wood. 51

Step 2: Prepare Tree & Felling Site

Protecting Property (continued) Bright orange safety cones are very useful for covering or identifying smaller objects you wish to protect as well as their intended purpose of warning pedestri¬ ans and drivers of vehicles that work is being performed in the immediate area. Objects that are most commonly protected with cones are small plants, young trees, sprinkler heads, and landscape lighting. Finally, stacked car tires (without the rims) make a great cushion for the tree to land on in order to protect sidewalks, lawns, and other landscape features. You may also use cut log sections from a previously felled tree for the same purpose. When using log sections to protect sidewalks for instance, place one on each side of it and not directly on it.

Four ways to protect property: plywood, tarps, tires, and cones.

c) Avoid it Third, if you can’t move an obstacle or adequately protect it by covering it, which is always the case for such obstacles as driveways, homes, sheds, and sep¬ tic systems, then you are left with no alternative but to avoid it completely. Unless you can change your felling plans regarding the tree’s lay, this will most likely mean you should turn the job over to a professional who can climb and remove the tree in smaller sections to avoid any property damage.


Step 2: Prepare Tree & Felling Site

3. Preparing the Work Area Continue preparing the felling site by clearing an adequate work area approxi¬ mately six feet surrounding the base of the tree. Remove any hindrances and ob¬ structions such as logs, rocks, and brush that could interfere with your work fell¬ ing the tree. Cut brush as low to the ground as possible, using lopping shears or a chain saw, to eliminate leaving trip hazards. When using a chain saw for this purpose make sure the chain is tightened enough to prevent fine brush from get¬ ting caught between the chain and the bar causing the chain to derail. When clearing around the tree you need to be especially careful that the tip of the chain saw bar does not make contact with the trunk and cause a kickback situation. Clear the escape route in the same fashion. Remember, the escape route should be cleared to a distance well over 20 feet from the tree in the opposite direction of the lay at a 45-degree angle (see page 48). Also clear any objects from the ground that could cause the tree to jump back or sideways toward you or another worker causing injury or damage to property. Objects such as stumps can be cut closer to the ground and logs and rocks of manageable size can be moved away. This also lessens the chance of damaging the trunk of a potential saw log. Finally, look up into the canopy and note any trees that lean into the lay that could potentially hang up your tree as it falls. Whenever possible fell these trees first and clear them out of the landing zone. If there are trees which must be protected, and they are small enough, temporarily pull them back out of the way using a throwline and rope (see pages 85-89).

Clearing the base of the tree.

Fell interfering trees first. 53

Step 2: Prepare Tree & Felling Site

4. Preparing the Tree Lastly, prepare the tree being felled by removing anything from it that could get damaged such as bird feeders, thermometers, clothes lines, flags, etc. Likewise, remove anything that might cause damage to equipment (chain saw, wood chip¬ per) such as nails, wire, rock, concrete, or any other imbedded objects. Don’t wait until the tree is felled and lying on the ground to do this. At that point the object is often hidden from view and overlooked until it is too late. If certain objects cannot be removed before felling, mark their location with spray paint, flagging, or even with the chain saw, to avoid cutting into them later. Remember, most nails or other objects hidden in the tree are often found in the bottom seven feet of the trunk. Take care when bucking wood from this section of the tree.

Remove objects attached to the trunk.

Prune lower limbs to clear obstacles.

With some trees it may be necessary to remove the lower branches to give your¬ self room when making the felling cuts. Sometimes limbs (or vines) higher up on the trunk may need removing as well, so the tree will clear another tree or obsta¬ cle when felled. A pole saw is a useful tool for this task. If the tree has any trunk cracks or splits it may need to be chained or strapped to keep the trunk from fur¬ ther splitting (p. 106) or “barber chairing” (p. 70) when the back cut is made. Be especially alert for any large limbs you discovered hung up in the crown dur¬ ing the tree hazard assessment. Though not a common practice, you might con¬ sider dislodging any of these hangers if they present a particularly dangerous situation to you or any surrounding objects you wish to avoid hitting. One method of doing this involves securing a rope around the hanger using a throwline and pulling it to the ground. Using a throwline and installing a pull rope for this purpose is described beginning on page 85. 54

Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat What You’ll Do: 1.

Cut the notch


Make the back cut


Retreat from the work area

You have finally arrived at the step that is the most dangerous to perform and most thrilling to watch—executing the felling cuts that will bring down the tree. In a matter of seconds, though, you can undo all your efforts to safeguard against accidents if you fail to make these cuts correctly. Proper execution begins with a thorough understanding of how the notch, back cut, and hinge work in unison to guide the tree into the lay. Step 3 begins by defining each part of the felling cut trio, followed by the mechanics of proper execution.

The notch, also referred to as a face-cut or face notch, is a wedge-shaped opening made by making two cuts on the side of the tree facing the lay. This opening allows the hinge to work and enables the tree to fall freely in the direction it was made. The size and depth of the notch opening will affect how the tree will fall while the position of the notch on the trunk will determine where the tree will fall.

The back cut is a single horizontal cut made on the opposite side of the tree from which the notch is made (there are instances when the back cut is made in several stages; see the felling methods described on pages 102-104). The






The notch, back cut, & hinge.

amount of wood fiber thereby establishing the thickness (width) of the hinge.

The hinge is the strip of wood left uncut between the notch and back cut. The primary function of the hinge is to “steer” and control the direction the tree will fall and prevent it from twisting or jumping off the stump. The length and thick¬ ness of the hinge are determined by several factors, but the most important is the tree’s trunk diameter. The longer the tree stays attached to the hinge, the greater the degree of support and control you will have in guiding the tree into the lay. 55

Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

1. Cutting the Notch The notch is always made before the back cut. A well prepared notch is essential for the proper functioning of the hinge in guiding the tree to the ground (if the tree is under 5 inches in diameter, a notch is not always necessary). There are four factors to consider when cutting the notch: a)

the notch placement on the trunk


the sequence in which the notch cuts are made


the size (or angle) of the notch opening


the depth of the notch

a) Notch Placement The first step in cutting the notch is to position it on the trunk in the exact direc¬ tion you want the tree to fall. Even a slight error in notch placement can have a dramatic effect on where the tree will land. For instance, a notch that is cut only 5 degrees off from the intended direction of fall will cause a 60-foot tall tree to land 6 feet off target. This distance increases to 12 feet off target when a 10degree error is made. If you are felling trees in open areas this might not matter much. However, in residential areas, a 6-foot felling error could be disastrous. The easiest way to position the notch is by using the felling or “gunning” sights marked on top of the shroud and housing of your chain saw. These sights may be a painted raised line or decal. They are arranged so they run perpendicular (90 degrees) to the bar of the saw (and the notch you are about to make). “Aim” the saw by sighting along this line directly toward the intended lay. This will be the location on the trunk where you will make your first notch cut. While sighting the notch, you should be standing on the right side of the tree as you face the desired lay. Brace your body against the tree as you do this to bring your eyes in better alignment with the sights on the saw. It may be necessary to raise or lower the notch placement on the trunk to avoid any obstruc¬ tions (nails, wire, etc.), cracks, or areas of de¬ cay. Whenever possible, select a notch position on the trunk that offers you a comfortable cut¬ ting position. If you intend to use the trunk for a saw log, maximize its useable length by cutting the notch as low as possible. Doing so may re¬ Aiming the saw toward the lay. 56

quire the use of a longer saw bar, however.

Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

b) Notch Cutting Sequence You should always make the top cut of the notch first and the bottom cut second. The reason for this is that the saw kerf created by the top cut func¬ tions as a “window” you can sight down to watch for the emerging chain teeth when the bottom cut is made. As soon as they come into view, and the bottom cut meets the top cut, it is very important that you stop cutting. If the two cuts do not meet cleanly and one of the two cuts overshoots the other it creates a by¬ pass notch or “Dutchman” (see the illustration below). If the bypass is more than 3/8 of an inch, one of sev¬ eral serious and potentially danger¬ ous problems can occur. The tree could “stall” (falling partway and then stopping), split part way up the trunk (barber chair, see page 70), or fall out of control (possibly in the wrong direc¬ tion) if the hinge were to break when the bypass cut closes. Bypass cuts must be corrected before making the back cut to avoid these situa¬ tions. In the figure below, the correction is made by cutting downward from the original position of the top cut at

Angle of ^ corrective cut on a bypass


an angle that meets the back po¬ sition of the bypass cut. The two cuts should now match evenly. Of course,




notch in this way will create a deeper notch than you originally intended.




notch is better than a bypass notch in most instances. With practice


notch cuts


meet evenly every time. Practic¬ ing on tall tree stumps and small trees is a good way to perfect Bypass cut made on a common notch.

your notch cutting skills.


Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

c) Notch Size (notch opening) The size of the notch opening is determined by the notching method you choose. The common notch is probably the method tree cutters are most familiar with and therefore use most frequently. It is fast and easy to cut and suitable for simple tree felling situations. The open-face notch is another method, which is rapidly becoming popular in North America since first introduced by Swedish logging instructor Soren Eriksson in the 1980s. The difference between the two methods is primarily in the size of the notch opening. The common notch has a notch opening of 45 degrees and the open-face notch has a 70-90 degree notch open¬ ing. It is important that you understand what happens as the tree falls and the notch closes when you use these two methods. The common notch, with its 45-degree opening, closes when the tree has only fallen about half way to the ground (below left). The resulting resistance from the closed notch causes the wood fibers of the hinge to break and the tree to separate from the stump before it has reached the ground, thereby falling poten¬ tially out of control. The open-face method features a larger notch opening (7090 degrees), which allows the tree to remain attached to the hinge longer, closing when the tree has reached, or almost reached the ground (below right). Conse¬ quently, the tree remains under control the entire time the tree falls. For this rea¬ son it is considered a better notching method. I use and promote the open-face method for most felling applications.

A 45° notch opening closes when the tree has only partially fallen. 58

A 90° notch opening closes when the tree reaches the ground.

Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

d) Notch Depth (and hinge length) Cutting the notch to a depth that is one-third the diameter of the tree has been the traditional rule of thumb for decades (fig. A). You can make this estimation quickly and easily from visual inspection alone. Though it is generally a reliable method of determining notch depth suitable when felling “easy” trees, it does have limitations as you will soon see.

Two Methods of Determining Notch Depth Traditional 1/3 Diameter Method (15” dia. X 1/3 = 5” max. notch depth)

80% of Diameter Method (15” dia. X 80% = 12” hinge length)

1/3 tree diameter (5” deep)

12” hinge length


Less than 1/4 tree diameter

Figure A

Figure B

Another way of determining notch depth is by using the percentage of diameter method (fig. B). This method produces more accurate results than the traditional method over a greater diversity of felling conditions. With this method notch depth is determined by hinge length. So how long should the hinge be? The rule of thumb for hinge length is a minimum of 80% of the tree’s diameter at the height where the notch will be made. You can determine the tree’s exact diame¬ ter by measuring the tree’s circumference (at the cut) and dividing this number by 3.14 (or Pi). If you were to fell a 15-inch diameter tree, for instance, and ap¬ ply the 80% of diameter formula you would have a hinge that is 12 inches long (15” diameter tree X 80% = 12”). A hinge of this length will provide adequate support and control for the tree in most felling situations. You can see from the illustration above, this creates a shallower notch (less than 1/4 the trunk diame¬ ter) than the one using the traditional method. A shallow notch can be advanta¬ geous as it takes less time to cut than a deeper notch (less wood to remove), it positions the hinge in the sapwood where better control fiber is located (rather than in the heartwood), and provides more room for felling wedges on small di¬ ameter trees. 59

Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

d) Notch Depth (continued) Sometimes a deeper notch and a longer hinge is more desirable. This is often the case when felling trees that have a significant side lean. A longer hinge (as much as 100% of the trees diameter) will provide greater support and control for the tree than will a shorter one. Achieving a hinge of this length might require cut¬ ting the notch almost halfway into the trunk (depending on the trunk’s shape). If you adhered solely to the traditional method (1/3 trunk diameter) the hinge would probably not be long enough. Be careful you don’t cut too deep a notch— one deeper than 50% of the trunk diameter should be avoided.

Trunk Shape and Notch Depth Another reason why a hard and fast rule for notch depth is inadequate can be seen in the figures below. The tree with the oblong-shaped trunk (fig. A) will require a deeper notch in order to obtain the proper hinge length (80% of diameter) than one made in the trunk that has a flat side facing the lay (fig. B). Applying the traditional one-third diameter method to the first example would produce a shal¬ lower notch than a notch made using the percent of diameter method and, in the second example, a notch that is deeper.

Notch Depths Using: 80% of diameter method (solid line)



1/3 diameter method (dotted line)

Figure A The shape of the trunk will affect how deep the notch will be. It takes practice to become adept at visualizing and cutting the notch at the proper depth in order to obtain the desired hinge length. If the notch is too shal¬ low, it’s likely that the hinge length is too short as well. The notch can always be cut deeper to attain the proper hinge length, but you can’t “do over” a notch that is cut too deep. Though it would be impractical to measure every tree to apply the 80% of diameter calculation, it would be wise to do so periodically, espe¬ cially as you are learning this method and until you become proficient at “eye balling” proper notch depth. 60

Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

Cutting the Common Notch First Cut. Make the top cut first by cutting at a downward 45-degree angle to a point that is approximately one-third the diameter of the tree or that provides a hinge length 80% of the trunk diameter where the cut is made. Second Cut. Make the second cut horizontally toward the bottom of the sloping cut. The two cuts should meet cleanly and the resulting wedge should slide out easily. The back, or apex, of the notch should be level.

Cutting the Open-Face Notch 1st (60-70°)

2nd (20-30°)

First Cut. Make the top cut first by cutting at a downward angle of 60-70 degrees to a point that is approximately one-third the diameter of the tree or that provides a hinge length 80% of the trunk diameter where the cut is made. Second Cut. Make the bottom cut, so that it angles back and upward to meet the first cut. If the top cut is made at a 60-degree angle the bottom cut should be made at a 30-degree an¬ gle to achieve a total notch opening of 90 de¬ grees (90° is optimal, 70° acceptable). As you make the bottom cut sight down the top cut so you can see when the two cuts meet perfectly.

Inspecting and Adjusting Notch Placement After the notch has been cut and the wedge removed, double-check the notch placement to see if it is still “aimed” directly toward the lay. Do this by placing the bar flush against the back of the notch while looking down the felling sights of the saw. You may have to adjust the notch slightly by making further cuts if it is off target. Remember, just a small degree of positioning error at the tree is dra¬ matically increased at the point where the tree lands. Now is the time to make the correction. Be careful when making these corrective cuts that the notch does not become too deep. Another way to get a good visual perspective of the notch placement is by standing back away from the tree and sighting it from the loca¬ tion you expect it to land. If a coworker is available have him or her make the inspection instead and signal to you which direction the correction must be made. Make any other necessary corrective cuts to the notch at this time (such as bypass cuts, notch angles, or cuts to level notch openings). 61

Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

2. Making the Back Cut Making the back cut is the final step of action in the felling procedure, which determines how and where the tree will land. Unlike the notch, which allows you to make corrections for cutting errors, the back cut is unforgiving. Therefore, give careful attention to the four steps that follow so that your only regret might be having no audience to witness a job well done.

a) Get into Position Begin making the back cut by positioning yourself on the “good” side of the tree—that is, the side of the tree opposite the side lean, if it has one. The “bad” side of the tree is the side the tree leans toward. Doing so will lessen your chance of injury should the tree prematurely fall in the direction of the lean. If the tree is larger than the length of your bar, begin your back cut on the bad side but make your finishing cuts on the good side of the tree.

If the tree has no significant side lean I prefer to make the back cut from a posi¬ tion where my left shoulder faces the lay (left side of saw facing up; figure A above). This position feels most natural, comfortable, and offers the best cutting leverage since it utilizes the bottom of the guide bar in the cutting process. It may be necessary, however, in order to cut on the good side of the tree, or to avoid obstacles, such as another tree close to the one you are felling, to position yourself with your right shoulder facing the lay. In this case the cut is made us¬ ing the top of the guide bar (fig. B). Prepare for the resulting push force of the saw by bracing your right wrist against your right knee. One advantage of this position is that there is no need to switch positions from the one you made the notch from. For this reason alone many prefer this position, especially when fell¬ ing small diameter trees. Another option, when cutting from this position, is to make a higher notch (or crouch lower; fig. C) and hold the saw so the bottom of the guide bar is used to make the back cut. 62

Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

b) Give a Warning Before you begin making the back cut, announce loudly a clear warning of “stand clear!” to all workers or watchers within the felling radius. Listen for a response of “all clear” or look for a visual signal, such as a “thumbs up,” before proceeding. Don’t wait until the tree is falling before warning others. This same warning signal or one like it (“timber!”), should be given again as you are actu¬ ally making the back cut (review the communication tips presented on page 33).

c) Execute the Back Cut Begin the back cut by determining the height the cut should be made in relation to the notch. The common notch requires the back cut to be made 1-2 inches above the apex of the notch to provide a small ledge for the tree to rest against when it falls (fig. A below). This will help prevent the tree from kicking back¬ ward toward the chain saw operator. When using the open-face method the back cut is made even with the apex of the notch since the larger notch opening allows the tree to stay attached to the hinge longer (fig. B below). The goal of either method is to cut inward evenly so the finished back cut runs parallel to the back of the notch creating a hinge that is of equal thickness throughout its length. Check the orientation of the saw bar in relation to the notch just as you begin making the back cut while there is still time to make any height or level adjustCut 1-2” above apex of notch

10% of trunk diameter (hinge)

Figure A


Cut even with apex of notch

10% of trunk diameter (hinge)

Figure B

Making the back cut using the common notch (fig. A) and the open-face notch (fig. B).

You may have noticed stumps with an angled back cut (see page 66). This is a dangerous practice which you will never see promoted as an acceptable method of felling trees (OSHA restricts it use) as it greatly reduces the effectiveness of the hinge. They are usually made by uninformed, beginning tree cutters who believe the angled cut will help prevent the tree from falling backward off the stump.


Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

c) Execute the Back Cut (continued)

Determining Hinge Thickness:

How thick (or wide) you leave the hinge is just as important a concern as hinge length. Though the hinge thickness has no bearing on determining notch depth, since it is established when the back cut is made, it can be calculated the same time you determine hinge length. The hinge thickness should be no more than 10% (l/10th) of the trunk diameter at the point where the back cut is made. Using our 15inch diameter tree again as an example for calculation, would yield a hinge thickness that is about 1.5 inches thick (see illustra¬ tion at right).

Tree diameter (at the cut) X 10 % (or l/10th) = Minimum hinge width

As with hinge length, hinge width is also variable and dependent on a variety of tree conditions. Trees that have strong (or fro¬ zen) wood fiber or are of large diameter, for instance, may require a thinner hinge to allow the tree to fall. Conversely, felling a tree with a trunk cavity or decayed trunk wood requires a thicker hinge. As you make the back cut it is extremely important that you avoid cutting too far—leaving a hinge that is too narrow or cutting entirely through the hinge causing the tree to fall dangerously out of control. This is a common and some¬ times deadly mistake. Know the position of the saw bar at all times and how much wood is being cut on both sides of the back cut. It is easy to focus your cutting attention on only one side of tree and overlook what the bar is doing on the other side. As the chain teeth begin to approach the designated hinge area cut slower to avoid cutting too much hinge wood. Remember, you can always cut more wood if the hinge turns out to be too wide.

d) Utilize Felling Aids If the tree shows no sign of movement after leaving the predetermined amount of hinge, you have two options to consider. First, if the tree has a slight forward lean, you can remove more of the hinge wood. Second, if the tree is relatively small, straight, or has a slight back or side lean, use a felling aid such as a wedge, push pole, or felling bar to get it to fall. It may be necessary to perform both options simultaneously. In chapter 3 you will learn how to use felling aids to remedy some common felling problems such as lodged trees and pinched bars. 64

Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

3. Retreating From the Work Area When you have nearly finished the back cut and are approaching the predeter¬ mined hinge thickness, look up at the top of the tree for the first signs of move¬ ment. Don’t expect to see any movement by observing the butt—not yet anyway. Only when the canopy is viewed against the sky or in relation to neighboring trees will the early signs of movement be evident indicating the tree is beginning to fall. When this happens, begin retreating along the escape route for at least 20 feet from the tree opposite the lay at a 45-degree angle (pg. 48). Make sure you take the chain saw with you (unless the tree begins to fall unex¬ pectedly or the bar is pinched) after shutting off the engine or activating the chain brake. As you retreat watch the tree, as well as where you are going, to make sure it’s falling in the right direction, or at least not toward you. It is not uncommon for the tree to catch on and roll off another in its path and then fall in the wrong direction. This is also a critical time to watch for falling debris and the tree itself, should it kick back or bounce when it lands. Once the tree is on the ground, look up into the canopy for any broken or hanging branches that could be hazardous to work under. Here is a final word of advice: do not become so focused on your felling efforts that you can’t manage a moment of time to enjoy (from a safe distance) the awe¬ some sight and sound of a big tree falling and crashing to the ground—it’s one of the rewards of your work. Wilson Rawls eloquently describes the suspense of this event in his classic book Where the Red Fern Grows: I held my breath. The top of the big sycamore rocked and swayed. There was a loud crack that seemed to come from deep inside the heavy trunk. Fascinated, I stood and watched the giant of the bottoms. It seemed to be fighting hard to keep standing. Several times I thought it would fall, but in a miraculous way it would pull itself back into perfect balance. The wind itself seemed to be angry at the big tree’s stubborn resistance. It growled and moaned as it pushed harder against the wavering top. With one final grinding, creaking sigh, the big sycamore started down. It picked up momentum as the heavy weight of the overbalanced top dove for the ground. A small ash was smothered by its huge bulk. There was a lightning-like crack as its trunk snapped. In its downward plunge, the huge limbs stripped the branches from the smaller trees. A log-sized one knifed through the top of a water oak. Splintered limbs flew skyward and rained out over the bottoms. With a cyclone roar, the big tree crashed to the ground, and then silence settled over the bottoms.2 65

Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

Uneven hinge thickness

Hinge completely removed during the back cut

Reading the Stump Once the tree has landed safely and the dust has settled, give thanks that you are still alive, that nothing is damaged, and that everything went according to plan. After that, take advantage of the free education you get from “reading the stump.” The top of the stump will reveal such things as how deep your notch was made, the height of the back cut in relation to it, the size of the hinge and whether it had a uniform thickness along its length. It will also show if a bypass cut or an angled back cut was made or if fiber pull occurred (p. 70). Reading the stump allows you to see any cutting errors you might have made so that you can make the necessary adjustments next time and become more skilled in the proc¬ ess. If you see a stump with the top cut flush, there’s a good chance that the tree cutter was well aware of his felling mistakes and was trying to hide the evidence.


Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

Cutting the Stump (Flushing the Stump) Cutting the stump flush to the ground is what many tree cutters consider to be the finishing touch to tree felling. There are several reasons why you might take the time to do so. First, when stumps are cut low enough, you can drive over them with vehicles and equipment. They also help eliminate the risk of trunk breakage as other trees are felled over the stump. If you are concerned about aes¬ thetics, flush cut stumps are less conspicuous, decay faster, and are quicker to grind out, if that is an option. Finally, the stump provides you with one more precious piece of firewood to burn (though it’s usually a beast to lift). A word of warning when cutting stumps: watch out for mud and grit embedded in the bark. Use an ax to remove the bark in the affected area and you will save at least one filing job on the chain. Because the diameter of the stump increases as you cut lower, it may be preferable to use a chain saw with a longer bar (along with a sharp chain—it will cut straighter, quicker, and more easily). As you fin¬ ish the cut, insert felling wedges, or even small sticks of appropriate thickness, into the back cut to prevent the stump from pinching the saw bar. The felling lever is a particularly useful tool for prying off stubborn stumps. Cut-off stumps are efficient and tidy, but do not overlook the usefulness of high stumps. They make a great place to set flower pots and bird feeders, attach a thermometer, or stack wood between (when there are two). They also offer an opportunity to test your skills as a chain saw carver (eagles, owls, and bears are currently the most popular figures to carve). Finally, stumps provide a perfect place for the weary woodcutter to simply sit and rest. Just watch out for sap!



When to Sharpen (or Change Out) Your Saw Chain

UTTING DIRTY WOOD will quickly dull your saw chain. In many cases you will probably not even notice the signs on the chain tooth that would indicate it has been damaged or the dirt on the wood that caused it. You should, however, notice a significant loss of cutting performance. As the chain’s appetite for wood decreases the amount of pressure you exert on the bar to get it to cut will no¬ ticeably increase. This is the best indicator that your chain is dull and that you should stop to sharpen it or change it out with another one that is sharp. It really doesn’t take too much to dull the chain and one that is even slightly dull will dra¬ matically decrease your cutting efficiency and productivity. And, as stated before, a poorly cutting chain saw is a dangerous chain saw. V___/


Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

Putting it All Together (Using the Open-Face Notch)


Position the notch on the trunk by sighting, or “aiming” the saw, in the exact direction you want the tree to fall. ■

“Aim” the saw using the “gunning” sites marked on the top of the shroud or housing of the chain saw.

It may be necessary to raise or lower the notch placement on the trunk to avoid obstructions (nails, etc.), cracks, or areas of decay.

Make the top cut of the notch by cut¬ ting at a downward angle of 60-70 degrees (when using the open-face notch) to a point that is approximately one-third the trunk diameter or that provides a hinge length of 80% of the trunk diameter. ■



Use the kerf created by the top cut as a window to sight down to watch for the emerging chain teeth when the bottom cut is made.

Make the bottom cut of the notch so that it angles back and upward to cleanly meet the first cut. ■

If the top cut is made at a 60degree angle, then make the bot¬ tom cut at a 30-degree angle in order to obtain a 90-degree notch opening.

Stop cutting as soon as the two cuts meet evenly. Avoid cutting beyond the top cut creating a po¬ tentially dangerous bypass notch.

Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat




Inspect the notch placement on the trunk to ensure that it is still aimed directly toward the lay. Make any nec¬ essary corrections. ■

Check notch placement by setting the bar flush against the back of the notch while looking down the felling sites of the saw.

Check notch placement by stand¬ ing back away from the tree and sighting it from the location you expect it to land.

Make the back cut even with the apex of the notch opening (with the openface notch) leaving a hinge width 10% of the trunk diameter. ■

Give a loud and clear verbal warn¬ ing to others as you begin to make the back cut and again as the tree begins to fall.

Cut inward evenly so the finished back cut runs parallel to the back of the notch creating a hinge that is of equal thickness along its length.

Retreat from the work area along the planned escape route to a minimum of 20 feet away from the tree. ■

Retreat as soon as the tree shows the slightest forward movement.

Make your retreat opposite the lay at a 45-degree angle to the left or right side of the tree.

Shut off the engine or engage the chain brake of your chain saw be¬ fore taking it with you as you re¬ treat from the work area.


Step 3: Execute Felling Cuts & Retreat

Additional Felling Concerns and Precautions Fiber Pull Sometimes fibers




of each side of the

hinge (or along the entire length of the hinge) will pull out as the tree falls. This occurrence, known as “fiber pull,” can adversely affect the directional control of the hinge and do damage to the butt if used as a saw log (fig. A). Fiber pull occurs more frequently when the notch is positioned low on the trunk where some of the toughest wood fiber is located. You can reduce the occurrence and effects of fiber pull by simply making two small “comer cuts,” one on each edge of the hinge, after the notch is made (fig. B). Make these cuts at a 45-degree angle to the back of the notch to a depth that cuts the last 2-7 growth rings. Keep in mind, that making these comer cuts will shorten the length of the hinge slightly which could reduce the control and sup¬ port it provides. Fiber pull may also occur when leaving too thick of a hinge. Consider reducing hinge thickness, especially when felling large diameter trees.

Barber Chairing “Barber chairing” is the term used to describe a tree that splits from behind the hinge and upward along the trunk as the back cut is being made, but usually be¬ fore it is completed. As the tree splits, the back section will often lever upward and backward with tremendous force, which can potentially kill or critically in¬ jure the saw operator if he or she is struck. Perhaps the leading cause of barber chair¬ ing occurs when felling trees with a heavy forward lean or that have structural defects such as decay and cracks. Barber chairing can also occur when excessive force is ex¬ erted on a pull line and from poor notching technique (bypass cuts). Barber chairing can often be prevented by strapping or chaining the trunk above the notch when cracks are present (p. 106), and by using appropriate felling techniques, such as the Barber chairing is a deadly threat!


bore cut method ( pages 102-103).


Felling Difficult Trees “It was not without infinite labor that I felled this tree. I was twenty days hacking and hewing at it at the bottom; / was fourteen more getting the branches and limbs, and the vast spreading head of it cut off, which I hacked and hewed through with axe and hatchet, and inexpressible labor. ” —Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe


XPERIENCED TREE CUTTERS are very familiar with the diverse felling challenges trees present. Many trees, if not most of them, are stubborn and

problematic, testing the tree cutter’s patience, knowledge, and skill. Fortunately, there are specialized methods for felling difficult trees. Bear in mind that felling difficult trees is inherently dangerous work with significant risk of injury and property damage. Most of the methods presented in this chapter should be per¬ formed only by experienced cutters who have already mastered the basic tree felling procedure presented in chapter 2. Listed below is a partial list of the types of trees and situations you are most likely to encounter, which might require the use of the special felling methods described in this chapter. Whenever you try a new technique I recommend you practice on trees that are small and growing in areas free of site hazards and obstacles. ■

Back and side-leaning trees (using felling aids).page 72-99

Trees to be felled in confined 100

Heavy forward leaning 102

Large diameter 104

Dead, decayed, and defective 105

Multi-stemmed 107

Entangled 108

Set back trees (and stuck chain saws).page 109

Hung-up (lodged) 111

Storm damaged 115

Additional felling 119

To make things even more challenging, many felling situations present a combi¬ nation of difficulties. For instance, imagine felling a large diameter tree with a heavy, side-leaning, decayed trunk, and limbs that are entangled in the canopy. Tackling a beast like this requires the use of several specialized felling methods. It also requires the use of common sense and keen discernment: when to say “no” and leave these types of trees for the experts. 71

Felling Difficult Trees

Felling Aids: Wedges, Levers, Poles, & Ropes Felling aids are the special tools and techniques that enable you to fell trees that have an unfavorable lean (back or side lean) or fell trees into the wind. All four aids described in this section—felling wedges, felling levers, push poles, and ropes, utilize the mechanics of leverage to overcome these resistant forces, but they do it in different ways. Wedges and felling levers lift the tree forward, push poles push the tree forward, and ropes pull the tree forward. All four methods ultimately produce the same desired effect—to force the tree into the desired lay.

1. Felling Wedges Despite and







wedges are an amazingly ef¬ fective felling aid. No tree worker should be without one (or several) of these inexpen¬ sive tools. Its function is two¬ fold: first, to prevent the tree from settling back on the saw bar while making the back cut (see set back trees, pages 109110) and secondly, to force the tree to overcome an unfa¬ vorable lean and fall into the desired lay. For such a small tool, felling wedges



results. For example, when a standard 1-inch thick wedge is driven flush in the back cut of a 12-inch diameter, 70-foot

Despite their compact size and light weight, felling wedges are an amazingly effective felling aid.

tall tree, the top will move forward a distance of almost 6 feet. This is sufficient to fell a tree that has a back lean slightly less than that. Trees with a back lean greater than this may require advanced wedging techniques (stacking wedges), or more likely, the extra lever¬ aging force a pull line provides. Felling wedges have other uses as well. They prevent saw bars from getting pinched when bucking wood and cutting stumps, and help free a saw when it does get stuck.


Felling Difficult Trees

Along with most tree cutters, I prefer to use wedges made from high-density plastic in order to cut down on weight and to prevent damage to chain teeth should contact be made—which happens frequently. The most common wedge sizes range from 5.5 to 12 inches in length and 3 inches in width. Another thing to consider when purchasing wedges is the type of surface and taper they have. Some wedge styles have a textured finish to help keep them in the saw kerf while they are being driven in. Other styles have a “rifled” surface—shallow grooves that run the length of the wedge—intended to keep the wedge “on course” as it is driven in. Yet other wedge styles have a smooth surface that al¬ low it to drive easier in hardwood species or frozen wood. Finally, wedges are available with a single, double, and even a triple taper. The double-tapered variety is the one most commonly available and used. Since wedges are so inexpensive ($5-$12 each), and useful, I recommend you purchase a variety of lengths and styles to discover for yourself which ones work best for the felling situations you encounter most. Though wedges can be stuffed in your back pockets for storage, carrying three or more becomes an uncomfortable and bulky burden. Tree cutters who have discovered the usefulness of wedges use a tool belt to carry several wedges, along with a short-handled ax to drive them.


The Wedge: A Simple Machine

HOUGH NOT a VERY IMPRESSIVE LOOKING TOOL, the wedge is a remarkable machine, which like its cousin the inclined plane, makes it possible to move heavy objects and overcome great resistance with less effort. But while the in¬ clined plane remains stationary, the wedge moves. In either case, a mechanical advantage (MA) is obtained when these simple machines are employed. Figure A

Figure B

8" of travel -►

5.5" of travel -►

Determining the MA of a wedge is easy. Just divide the length of the slope (S) by the thickness (T) of the wedge. The greater the number, the greater the MA will be. All you really need to remember is the longer the wedge is, generally the greater the taper, and the easier it is to drive into the back cut. The trade off of using a longer wedge however, is that it will need to travel a greater distance (8” in fig. A) in order to achieve the same lift as a shorter wedge (5.5” in fig. B) of the same thickness. Longer wedges are also more likely to be driven into the hinge or saw chain (especially in small diameter trees) before it has reached its maximum lifting potential. So choose your wedge wisely.

J 73

Felling Difficult Trees

Basic Wedging Principles The goal of wedging is to create enough lift in the back cut to move the tree for¬ ward past the tipping or pivot point so it will fall into the lay. This is perhaps the most basic and important wedging principle to understand. The three factors which influence this movement are 1) the amount of lift created by the wedge(s), 2) the tree’s height, and 3) the tree’s diameter (measured to the front of the hinge position or back of the notch). You can calculate how much forward crown movement, or crown displacement, as I refer to it, you can expect when wedging trees by using the formula below. Crown Displacement Formula: (WL X H) WL H D CD

= = = =

D = CD

Wedge lift (in inches) Tree height (in inches) Tree diameter (in inches—to the front of the hinge position) Crown displacement

Consider for example, felling a 70-foot tall tree (H), having a 12-inch diameter trunk (D), using a single 1-inch thick felling wedge (WL). After plugging these factors into the equation, you can see from the results below, and in the illustration (right), the crown movement, or crown displacement (CD), is just over 5 V2 feet: (1" X 840") -5-12" = 70" (5.8 feet) In theory, if the tree had a back lean slightly less than this amount (5 feet or less—to be safe) it would be a good candidate for wedging. As you apply this formula on the trees you wedge you will notice that as tree height increases and diameter decreases the amount of crown displacement becomes greater. Of course the opposite is also true—as tree height decreases and diameter increases crown displacement becomes less. In some instances you may need to stack wedges to increase crown displacement or, if that isn’t sufficient to overcome the back lean, use a pull line (see pages 84-99). A simple way to determine crown displacement on trees which have a trunk di¬ ameter of about 12 inches (measured at the front hinge position) is to remember the 1:1 rule. For every one-inch of lift (the average thickness of a single wedge) there is a corresponding one-inch of forward crown movement per foot of tree height—as was seen in the example above (70’ tall / 70” crown displacement). Remember, this ratio decreases as the trunk diameter increases. For example, a 70-foot, 16-inch diameter tree would have a crown displacement of about 52 inches and a 20-inch diameter tree of only 42 inches. As tree diameter increases I would advise that you revert back to the formula for more accurate results. 74

Felling Difficult Trees

70" Crown Displacement -—Nil. _

! (5-8‘) f

Three factors that effect crown displacement: wedge lift, tree height, & trunk diameter. 75

Felling Difficult Trees

Additional Wedging Principles & Recommendations ■

Trees between 6-12 inches can be wedged using the method presented on pages 80-81. Trees with a trunk diameter of 12 inches (but less than the bar length) can be felled using the basic wedging procedure described on page 77. Trees that have a diameter greater than the saw bar length can be cut and wedged using the method described on page 104.

Even straight trees should be wedged. At first glance, straight trees appear easy to fell, but a gust of wind, or even a slight breeze, can cause the tree to sit back on your saw. At this point it becomes more difficult to insert a wedge into the back cut. When in doubt, wedge.

It is a good practice to remove the bark from the area the wedge will be posi¬ tioned using an ax or chain saw. This will allow the wedge to make wood contact immediately and be effective sooner. This is particularly important in winter, as frozen wood tends to “spit” out plastic wedges.

Using two wedges close together lifts the tree more easily and efficiently than using just one wedge. As the wedges are alternately driven in, pressure is momentarily taken off one of them, making it easier to drive in the other.

Hinges that are placed more forward on the trunk (less than 1/3 trunk diame¬ ter) allow more room for setting felling wedges. This is important when fell¬ ing small diameter trees. Also, the leveraging potential of wedges increases the further the hinge is from the point of wedge insertion on any given diame¬ ter tree.

Do not drive plastic wedges into a closed back cut. Doing so could cause the wedge to crack, shatter, or fly back toward the operator, possibly causing face and eye injury. Always wear eye protection when driving wedges. See pages 109-110 for a description of how to free a stuck saw using a felling wedge.

If you need to stack wedges to increase crown displacement, do so by stack¬ ing them at approximately 90 degrees to each other, alternately striking each one. Driving in a wedge that is stacked directly on top of another will “spit” the other one out. Stacking more than two wedges in not recommended.

Drive wedges by hitting them squarely on the head in order to keep them from flying out of the back cut and to minimize deforming the heads. You can easily reshape the heads and the tapered ends of wedges when damage does occur by using a wood rasp or coarse file. A grinder will also work, though it’s a bit dustier, noisier, and smellier. Wear eye protection and a dust mask if you use the latter method.

Felling Difficult Trees

Basic Wedging Procedure The basic wedging procedure is best suited for straight or slightly back-leaning trees over 12 inches in diameter (allows enough room for both the saw bar and felling wedges in the back cut at the same time), but less than the bar length (this will allow the back cut to be made while standing from a single position). The first thing to do before executing any felling cuts, or wedging, is to determine how much the tree leans, and in which direction (see page 44). Next, determine if wedging will overcome the amount of back lean the tree has (assuming it has one) using the formula presented on page 74. Finally, wedge the tree by follow¬ ing the procedure described below.

2. Begin making the back cut cutting deep enough to allow the wedge to be in¬ serted without hitting the saw bar, yet leaving adequate hinge width. 3. Set the wedge into the back cut at the 6 o’clock position, and drive it partially in using an ax or other suitable tool, while leaving the saw in position. On larger trees consider using two wedges, one set in the back cut at the 4 or 5 o’clock position and the other at the 7 or 8 o’clock position (you will also gain slightly more lift from this position as the wedges are closer to the hinge). 4. Continue making the back cut while stopping periodically to drive the wedge in further to keep it tight in the back cut and start lifting the tree. 5. Remove the saw from the back cut after the proper hinge size has been ob¬ tained. Continue driving in the wedge further until the tree falls. Retreat from the work area along the escape route. 77

Felling Difficult Trees

Wedging Side-Leaning Trees Felling trees with a side lean is tricky and dangerous. Attempts often fail result¬ ing in a tree landing 45 degrees away from the intended lay. Typically when this happens a combination of four things was the cause. The lean was too great to be overcome by wedging, the hinge wood could not support the tree (weak, de¬ cayed, or too small), the notch placement was not properly aimed to compensate for the lean, or the felling (wedging and cutting) was poorly executed. Proceed with extreme caution, and exercise good judgment when using the fol¬ lowing felling method. If in doubt, consider using a pull line and holding line combination (a felling procedure for “swinging” heavy, side-leaning trees into the lay using two lines) described on pages 98-99, or have it removed by a quali¬ fied tree climber. 1. Determine the amount of side lean by using the method described on page 44. The amount of lean will de¬ termine how much to adjust the notch position. 2. Cut an open-face notch placed to compensate for the side lean. If the tree leans 4 feet to the left of the lay (as you are facing the lay) it will be necessary to position the notch as if you wanted the tree to land 4 feet to the right of the lay. Good side

Direction of notch placement to compensate for side lean.


Felling Difficult Trees


3. Cut the notch to a depth that provides a hinge length that is at least 80%, and as much as 100% (for maximum hinge support), of the tree’s diameter. 4. Begin the back cut level with and parallel to the notch. Stand on the “good” side of the tree (the side opposite the lean) while making the cut. Doing so, using the example above, will require using the top of the bar to make the back cut. 5. Set a wedge into the saw cut just behind the hinge on the leaning side before completing the back cut. Do not drive the wedge in, but tap it so it is firmly seated. Its function is to support the tree on the weighted side of the tree, not lift it, as with other wedging situations. 6. Finish the back cut leaving a hinge of uniform thickness. After removing the saw it may be necessary at this point to drive a second wedge at the 6 o’clock position to force the tree over. Retreat along the escape route as the tree begins to fall.


Felling Difficult Trees

Wedging Small Diameter Trees Small diameter trees (between 6-12 inches in diameter) present three problems for wedging. First, the tree often sits back on the saw bar before the back cut is deep enough to permit a wedge. Second, small trees do not allow enough room for both the saw bar and a wedge. The third problem occurs when the wedge hits the back of the hinge thereby preventing it from reaching its full lift potential. The unique feature of the following felling and wedging method is the wedge slot bored through the face of the notch (see step one on the opposite page). This slot allows the felling wedge to project through the hinge and beyond the notch opening if necessary. What’s more, the wedge may be set and driven in without interfering with the back-cutting procedure. This method is best suited for small diameter trees with no lean or only a slight back or side lean. Using this wedging method is, however, potentially dangerous as it requires us¬ ing the tip of the saw bar which could cause a kickback situation. Before at¬ tempting this method be certain you can make bore cuts confidently and skill¬ fully using the technique described on page 101. 1. Cut an open-face notch on the trunk. On small trees make the notch as low as possible to maximize trunk diameter. Make a bore (plunge) cut in the center of the face of the notch, just slightly above the apex of the notch, so it comes out the back of the tree. Make the cut about 2 inches wider than the wedge to provide ample space for removing the side wood (step 3) without cutting into the felling wedge. Of course the slot must not be so wide that it almost eliminates the hinge. 2. Insert a large felling wedge into the slot on the back side of the tree, setting it firmly into position with your ax. It’s important that the wedge is centered in the slot. 3. Remove the wood on both sides of the tree between the slot and the desired hinge thickness. Try to avoid cutting the felling wedge while making these cuts (this is why a wider slot is made, and in the event saw contact is made, plastic wedges are used). Again, be aware that using the tip of the bar to make these cuts could potentially cause the saw to kickback. The side cuts can be made in stages—alternately cutting each side and driving the wedge deeper as you go. Notice that you will also be alternating from using the bottom of the bar, to the top of the bar, to make these cuts (as in the illustration on page 81, step 2 & 3). It may be necessary to leave a thicker hinge than usual because of the extra hinge wood removed when the wedge slot was made. If the tree has a side lean, finish your cutting while standing on the “good” side of the tree (the side opposite the lean). 4. Finish driving in the wedge until enough wedge lift has occurred and the tree is forced beyond the tipping point and begins to fall toward the lay.


Felling Difficult Trees

STEP 4 Drive the wedge

Finished hinge and back cut


Felling Difficult Trees

2. Felling Levers The felling lever is another excellent felling aid, especially when felling small to medium-sized trees, which are straight or have a slight back lean. It is also an invaluable tool when felling conifers growing in crowded plantations. In these settings hang-ups are common, and the extra muscle offered by the felling lever is usually enough to leverage the tree through the tangle of other trees so it can fall to the ground.

The tool resembles a pry, or crow-bar, and functions much like a felling wedge in that it lifts the tree when inserted in the back cut. Unlike wedges, however, felling levers rely on the lifting force provided by the operator’s leg muscles. Felling levers are also useful for breaking free stubborn stumps. Most models of levers come equipped with a cant hook attachment making them more useful and versatile in the woods. Follow the basic wedging procedure described on page 77, substituting the fell¬ ing lever for the wedge. The proper method for using this tool after it is set in the back cut is to take hold of the lever, with your legs slightly bent and comfortably spaced, and lift using primarily the legs. Keep your eyes aloft to spot any move¬ ment and falling debris as you lift.


Felling Difficult Trees

3. Push Poles Lumberjacks have utilized the push pole extensively over the years to push straight and small back-leaning trees into the lay or to free a stuck chain saw from a set back tree (a tree that settles back on the stump opposite the lay and closes the back cut; see pages 109-110). The leveraging force comes from placing the pole as high on the tree as possible while the operator applies forward pressure. Push poles can be made in the field by cutting a 12 to 16-foot long section from a small tree. Though not necessary, it is especially helpful if the working end of the pole is forked. Some lumberjacks made more permanent poles, called “pickpoles,” by driving a spike in the end of the pole and securing it with wire. Either way, the longer the pole the better, because it can be set higher in the tree allow¬ ing you to apply more leverage. It must be light enough to carry around, yet sturdy enough not to break when pressure is exerted against it. To properly use the push pole, follow the procedure below. 1. Make an open-face notch and back cut leaving the proper hinge size. Set a wedge to keep the tree from settling back on the saw bar. Then remove the saw from the back cut. 2. Prop the pole firmly against the tree at a 45-degree angle under a limb or trunk protrusion to prevent it from slipping up¬ ward or off the tree trunk. 3. Hold the pole at about waist height and push the tree for¬ ward in the desired direction. For extra leveraging force set the pole on your thigh or against your hip while pushing forward. If help is available from a another worker, have the person provide the push as you make the back cut to prevent a stuck saw and allow you to cut until the proper hinge size has been established. When work¬ ing unaided, it is possible to wedge the pole in the ground which holds the tree in position while you cut.

The push pole is another great felling aid for leveraging a tree into the lay.


Felling Difficult Trees

4. Pull Ropes (Pull Line) Though the felling aids previously discussed are very effective in felling leaning trees, they cannot compete with the superior leveraging force that a properly po¬ sitioned pull line (or cable) and pulley system offer. The drawback of “roping a tree,” or “back-pulling a tree,” however, is that it takes extra time and labor to set up and requires more equipment to purchase, carry, and maintain. It is worth the extra effort and expense though, when you consider your options for felling large trees with a heavy back lean. Whenever a rope is employed, or put to work to perform a specific task, it be¬ comes a “line.” Using a rope to pull a tree over, as is discussed here, is referred to as a “pull line.” The method that follows, enables you to install and secure a pull line to the tree without having to climb it. After it is secured, the tree can be felled by having one or more workers pull directly on the rope or by adding a mechani¬ cal advantage (MA) system to the line (see page 92) using blocks (pulleys) and tackle (rope). These two methods will be the focus in this section, though a winch or come-along can also be incorporated with a pull line, offering effective results. Though pickup trucks are a convenient means of pulling a roped tree, it is not recommended. Tremendous loading forces are exerted on the rope, which are hard to gauge when pulling with a vehicle. And a snapped rope could cause a tree to fall dangerously out of control and hit somebody or something.

Rope Selection What type, size, and length of rope is appropriate for the task of pulling trees? In short—the healthiest, largest, longest, and strongest one you have. Tree cutters who frequently utilize ropes as felling aids use modern synthetic ropes made from polyester of a 3-, 12-, or 16-strand variety, which has low stretch and high strength. A 1 /2-inch diameter rope should be considered a minimum size to work with. Rope strength is more important than diameter. Most modern 1/2-inch di¬ ameter synthetic ropes have a tensile strength of roughly 7,000 pounds; 5/8-inch rope, 9,000 pounds; and 3/4-inch rope, 12,000 pounds. A rope must be long enough to allow the pull line operator to stand at a distance beyond the height of the tree. A 150-foot rope should be considered a minimum length when felling trees up to 60 feet tall. A rope of over 200 feet in length is a wiser and safer choice, not only for pulling taller trees, but when adding rope gobbling MA pulley systems. To get a clearer understanding of how tree height, the method of securing the rope to the tree, and the method of pulling determines the amount of rope length needed, see the illustration on page 91. Finally, inspect the rope regularly for cuts and frays, and remove it from service if it becomes excessively worn or damaged. 84

Felling Difficult Trees

Installing & Securing a Pull Line The height at which the pull line is installed in the tree will determine its effec¬ tiveness. The higher in the tree the rope is secured, the more leverage you can potentially gain, making it easier to pull the tree into the lay. The ideal height of rope installation is about 2/3-3/4 the height of the tree. A rope installed lower than this will lessen the leveraging potential, but may still be satisfactory for small trees with only a slight back lean. It is possible to install the rope too high in the tree. If the tree is especially tall and spindly, a high rope installation could cause the tree to flex excessively at the mid-point of the trunk and break. If a trunk defect such as a cavity has been detected in the upper canopy, secure the rope below the defect to prevent the tree from breaking off at this point. The most efficient method of installing and securing a pull line from the ground is accomplished by using a throwline and attached throwing weight (throwbag or shot pouch), which is thrown over a sturdy limb or crotch. After retrieval, the pull line is attached to the throwline and pulled back up through the crotch and secured to the tree with a running bowline knot.

The Throwline and Throwbag Combo Though just about any small diameter cordage will work as a throwline, the most popular is constructed of 1 /8-inch poly¬ propylene. It is available from virtually all arborist equip¬ ment suppliers (as are throwbags). Most local hardware stores sell some version of this line as well. The length of the line must be double the rope installation height (120’ line for a 60’ shot) to allow for retrieval (I recommend a line of at least 150 ft. in length). Throwbags are constructed of a tough nylon fabric filled with BB shot. Bags of 14-18 oz. are ade¬ quate for the task—they just need to be heavy enough to overcome the friction of the line on the limb and pull it back to the ground. You can make a serviceable throwbag by partially filling an old sock with sand, or small rocks, and securing the end with the throwline. Throwbags get stuck on occasion, so have extra ones, along with line, on hand. Accurate shots of 60 or more feet are possi¬ ble with just a little practice—it’s all about tech¬ nique. Refer to The Tree Climber’s Companion for a more complete presentation of this topic.

Using a throwline to install a rope high in the canopy.


Felling Difficult Trees

Installing the Rope: Throwing Procedure & Technique Step 1. Tie the throwline to the throw weight with a slipped figure eight knot or clove hitch. Though any good knot will suffice, these two provide a secure attachment and yet untie quickly when you are ready to tie on the pull rope after the throw.

The slipped figure eight knot

Step 2 Aim for a suitable crotch or sturdy limb 2/3 up in the tree that can support the pull¬ ing forces that will be exerted on the rope. Select wide, u-shaped crotches whenever possible to allow the throwline (and attached rope, step 4) to pass through easily. Throw the line and weight using the single-hand toss method illustrated below. Make sure the line is free of tangles, ground litter, and your own feet. Tying a slip knot 2-3 feet up on the line helps you to grip and release the line better. The knot can be easily pulled out afterward. Alert others nearby that you are about to throw by shouting “Stand clear!” Aiming & throwing the bag.



Felling Difficult Trees

Step 3 Allow the bag to fall back to the ground after a successful shot has been made. It may be necessary to first manipu¬ late the bag over interfering limbs so the throw line runs nearly vertically along the back of the trunk. Remove the throwbag from the line and attach the pull rope using a pile hitch (fig. A). For a more streamlined effect, to facilitate rope installation in narrow crotches, add a series of half hitches and finish with a clove hitch (fig. B).

Figure A

Figure B

Securing the throwline to the rope.

1 Step 4 Pull down on the throwline until the rope passes over the branch crotch and back down to where you can reach it and secure it to the tree (see page 88-89).

Pulling the rope over the crotch


Felling Difficult Trees

Securing the Rope to the Tree Once you have retrieved the “working end” of the rope (the end attached to the throwline) it may be necessary to flip the line, or yank it, so it is properly posi¬ tioned in the crotch and as close to the tree trunk as possible. This helps prevent the rope from breaking or sliding off an anchoring limb once tension is applied to the rope. There are two methods to secure the rope to the tree, depending on how the rope is positioned in the tree after the throw is made. To the tree crotch

Pulling the bowline up to the crotch using the direct tie-off method.

OPTION 1: The direct tie-off method is used when the rope is isolated around the main trunk or central crotch of the tree without any interfering branches. This arrangement offers the most secure tie-off, and uses the least amount of rope. This being the case, tie a running bowline (see illustration above) and pull the knot up to the anchor point in the tree. If any small branches interfere with the knot’s ascent, yank hard on the rope to break it free. Set the knot in place by giv¬ ing it a firm tug.


Felling Difficult Trees


Setting the knot using the trunk tie-off method.

OPTION 2: The trunk tie-off method is used when the rope passes over interfer¬ ing limbs, which prevent a direct tie-off to the tree. This is often the case with conifers and thickly crowned deciduous trees. Here, the running bowline is tied around the base of the tree, but above the notch and back cut. This method al¬ lows for higher tie-in points and helps distribute the loading forces that are ex¬ erted on the pull line, along the length of the tree. It does, however, require more rope length than with the direct tie-off method (see the illustration on page 91).


Felling Difficult Trees

Operating the Pull Line If you have not done so already, estimate the tree’s height so that the workers operating the pull line will know where they can safely stand. Standing more than one tree length away from the tree should, in theory, be a safe distance to avoid being struck by the tree—provided your calculations are correct. To elimi¬ nate any uncertainty, and lessen the possibility of you or the pulley system hard¬ ware from being struck by the tree, or limbs and debris thrown from impact, stand at a distance of IV2 tree lengths (or more) away from the tree. There is another basic principle of physics that you should be aware of when deciding how far back to stand when pulling on the rope—as the angle of the pull line increases (becoming more perpendicular to the tree), the efficiency of the pull line also increases. If there is enough room at the felling site and your rope is long enough, step back a few more steps to take advantage of this fact. Before the felling cuts are made, take up the slack in the rope and apply enough tension to hold the tree in position. Care must be taken that excessive force is not exerted on the line too early, stressing both the rope and the tree. Notch and back cut the tree in the normal manner, leaving an adequate hinge. Increase the pulling force on the line and the speed at which the line is taken up as the cutting pro¬ gresses. Avoid any erratic jerking on the line that could cause the tree to start rocking and unexpectedly break free from the stump. Instead, maintain an even and steady pull while keeping the line taut at all times. Insert wedges in the back cut to capture the pulling progress, if necessary. Verbal and visual communication between the cutter and puller, regarding how much tension is needed on the line and when to apply it, is critical at this point. It is especially important when using a mechanical advantage (MA) pulley system that the operators know when to pull, as they can easily exert pulling forces be¬ yond what you could ordinarily pull only by hand. And, as was stated before, this pulling force could be substantial enough to break off the top of the tree, if defects are present in the trunk wood, or cause the tree to barber chair. To keep your hands from slipping while pulling on the line, consider wearing latex covered “gripper gloves,” or tying a slip knot just behind the rear pulling hand. Never wrap the rope around your hand or any other part of your body, to avoid being dragged away should the tree fall out of control! And, for the same reason, keep the rope clear from your feet. You can also increase your pulling performance by bracing your feet against a stump or pull from behind another tree. It is not a bad idea to secure the pull line to an anchor, such as another tree, to help maintain control of the tree should you lose grip of the rope or if it is nec¬ essary to make adjustments midway through the pulling procedure. 90

Felling Difficult Trees

The tree’s size and amount of lean dictates the number of people needed to pull on the line or if a MA pulley system should be added. When the tree cutter an¬ nounces the final warning that the tree is beginning to fall, or when it becomes plainly obvious, the pull line operator(s) should retreat along a planned and


cleared escape route—one for each person pulling on the line.

IV2 tree lengths away

Rope length needed when felling a 60-ft. tree using the trunk tie-off method: 100 ft. (from tree workers to tree crotch) plus 50 ft. (from tree crotch to lower trunk area; includes 10 ft. for securing rope to trunk). Total length—150 ft.

Determining Rope Length The length of rope you need to safely pull a tree into the lay depends on three things: 1.

The distance the pull line operator(s) stands from the tree.


The height at which the rope is secured in the tree (or passes over a limb).


The method used for securing the rope (direct tie-off or trunk tie-off method).

In the example above, 150 feet of rope is needed to safely pull over a 60-foot tall tree using the trunk tie-off method. This calculation is determined by the fact that 1) the pull line operators are standing 90 feet away from the tree (11/2 tree lengths away), 2) the rope passes over a limb 40 feet high in the tree (2/3 the way up), and 3) 10 feet of rope was used to secure it to the trunk. If the direct tie-off method was used instead, only 100 feet of rope would be needed to accomplish the same task (plus the amount needed to tie the knot). 91

Felling Difficult Trees

Adding Mechanical Advantage (MA) to the Pull Line Large, tall, and heavy back leaning trees often require a pulling force beyond that which one or two workers pulling directly on the rope can muster. In this case you will benefit greatly from utilizing the forces of physics referred to as me¬ chanical advantage (MA). Simply put, MA is the factor by which a mechanism (ropes and pulleys) multiplies the force, or effort, put into it. Or, more specifi¬ cally as it applies to the application discussed here, MA is a measure of how hard you need to pull the rope to move a load, such as a back-leaning tree. Though it is not usually necessary to calculate the MA, it is enough to know by simply us¬ ing blocks (pulleys) and tackle (rope) you can create a MA, which radically in¬ creases your pulling force on the roped tree and yet decreases the amount of physical effort required to move, or pull it over. To effectively utilize a MA pulley system you will need four basic ingredients— pulleys, carabiners (steel), Prusik loops, and an anchor strap or sling, and an un¬ derstanding of how they are assembled. How the pulley functions is determined by its location in the system. If it is attached to the load (the line leading to the tree being felled) it is referred to as a load pulley. When attached to the anchor (tree or vehicle) it is referred to as an anchor, or change of direction pulley. Load pulleys provide and determine the amount of MA the system offers. Anchor pul¬ leys contribute to the system by redirecting the rope, but do not provide increased MA. The remaining hardware—carabiners, Prusik loops, and anchor straps are the means by which the pulleys are attached to the rope or the anchor. How the system components are assembled will determine how much MA you experience. In a three-to-one (3:1) MA system, only one-third the effort is re¬ quired to move or lift an object as would be otherwise be needed. For instance, if a tree requires an estimated 600 pounds of input force (pulling force) to pull it over without any MA, only 200 pounds of input force will be needed to accom¬ plish this in a 3:1 MA system. If, however, only an anchor pulley is used to redi¬ rect the line, 600 pounds of input force will still be needed to pull the tree over since there is no MA gained. This is, in effect, a 1:1 pulley system. When using a 5:1 MA system with the same tree, only one-fifth, or 120 pounds, of input force is needed to pull it over. In both instances, you exert considerably less force (and effort) to pull the tree over. There is a tradeoff, however. In a 3:1 MA, for every foot you move the load, you have to pull three feet of rope. When you have a 5:1 MA, you must move five feet of rope to move the load one foot. Consequently, the length of your rope can be gobbled up quickly in a MA pulley system. This is another good reason to purchase a longer rope or use a separate, pre-rigged MA pulley system designated specifically for this purpose.


Felling Difficult Trees

Putting it Together On the following two pages are the “recipes” for setting up the two most fre¬ quently used MA systems (the 3:1 and 5:1). You will need to obtain the “ingredients” (equipment) listed and use a suitable “rope grab” knot (Prusik hitch or French Prusik; see pages 96-97) for attaching biners and pulleys to the pull line. Using either of these knots are a better option than tying knots directly into the rope because they are much easier to untie afterward.

The 3:1 mechanical advantage (MA) system.

Setting Up a 3:1 MA System What You Will Need: ■

1 anchor strap

2 steel carabiners (or clevis or screw link)

2 single pulleys

1 Prusik loop

Assemble the system with the appropriate equipment according to the illustration above. Make sure the anchor is strong enough to handle the pulling force exerted on it. In most instances the loading forces exerted on the anchor are double (or more) what the pulling force is (see also page 100). After tying the Prusik loop to the pull line make sure it doesn’t slip, but grabs the rope firmly. To prevent “two-blocking” (p. 95) spread the pulleys far enough apart—taking into account how much back lean the tree has and how much rope will be used in the MA system to overcome it. Remember, just pulling the slack out of the system and the stretch out of the rope will bring the pulleys closer together.


Felling Difficult Trees

Setting Up a 5:1 MA System Anchor pulley (double block)

t0 the load (tree)->

Prusik loop & hitch Load pulley (double block) Anchor strap

What You Will Need: ■

1 anchor strap

2 steel carabiners (or clevis or screw link)

2 double-block pulleys

1 Prusik loop

Assemble the system according to the illustration above, following the same guidelines described for the 3:1 system. Keep in mind that a 5:1 system will con¬ sume significantly more rope than the 3:1 system. For this reason you might con¬ sider using another rope to rig a permanent 5:1 MA system designated specifi¬ cally for this task. It can be stored in a separate rope bag and quickly employed by simply attaching it to the main line with a Prusik loop.

The Trucker’s Hitch The Trucker’s hitch is illustrated above. It’s a simplified version of the 3:1 MA system (though not nearly as efficient because of the increased friction) and can be set up without the use of pulleys or anchor strap. Instead, the rope is wrapped around the tree (the smoother the bark, the less the friction) and through a biner attached to a slip-knot tied in the pull line. Another option is to thread the pull line through the knot, omitting the carabiner. This creates excessive friction, however, which could potentially cut the rope at the knot if too much force is exerted on the line. Another option is to use a Prusik loop and carabiner, but forego the pulley. 94

Felling Difficult Trees

“Two-Blocking” and the “Progress Capturing Device” (PCD) Two-blocking occurs when the load block comes in contact with the anchor block while pulling on the MA system. This can be a serious problem if the tree hasn’t fallen yet, as no more line can be taken in on the system. The best way to prevent two-blocking from happening in the first place is to spread the two pul¬ leys far enough apart when assembling the system.

The Prusik hitch used as a progress capturing device (PCD).

When two-blocking does occur, the best remedy is to utilize a rope grab, such as a Prusik hitch, to hold the pull line in place while you to reset the load pulley. When used for this application it is referred to as a progress capturing device (PCD). The PCD does not hinder the operators effort of pulling in line (as it slides freely in this direction), yet it will grab the rope securely when the line is released, and captures the pulling progress up to that point. Though the PCD can be added after two-blocking has occurred, it is better to install it during the initial setup. Attach the Prusik loop (PCD) to the pull line with a triple-wrap Prusik hitch and to the anchor carabiner as shown in the illustration.


Felling Difficult Trees

Rope Grab Knots (Friction Hitches) For MA Systems The two most commonly used rope grab knots, or friction hitches, used for se¬ curing a pulley to the pull line, or as PCD, is the Prusik hitch and French Prusik. These knots slide smoothly along the length of the rope making for easy pulley positioning, and hold fast to the rope when a load is applied.

The Prusik Hitch The Prusik hitch is nothing more than a series of Girth hitches—one wrapped inside the other. The gripping potential of this hitch is increased as more wraps are added. In most cases three wraps will be adequate. The number may vary however, depending on the stiffness and diameter of the Prusik cord.

The Double-Fisherman’s Knot Use this knot to form the Prusik loop. Figure 1

Using a cordage eight feet long will produce a three-foot long loop. This cordage should be slightly smaller in diameter and more supple than the pull line to maximize the gripping potential. Tie and secure each end knot separately by pulling on the end and the standing part (fig.l). Join the two knots by pulling both standing parts located outside the knots (fig. 2).


Felling Difficult Trees

The French Prusik The French Prusik consists of a series of wraps (the upper portion of the knot) and braids (the lower portion of the knot). As with the Prusik hitch, the amount of wraps (and braids) will be determined by the diameter and stiffness of the cordage used. The knot illustrated below consists of 4-wraps and 3-braids. Both the Prusik hitch and the French Prusik work equally well as a rope grab but have some features unique to each. The Prusik hitch is easier and quicker to tie than the French Prusik and has the ability to grab the main line from either direc¬ tion when a load is applied. The French Prusik boasts the ability to distribute the load over a greater distance on the pull line and release easier after it has been loaded allowing it to be repositioned on the pull rope with less effort.

The Double-Fisherman’s Loop This knot is simply one half of the



Use this knot to tie two carabiner attachment points, one on each end of the cordage used for tying the French Prusik. Using cordage that is between 48 and 60 inch long (5/16” diameter when tied on a 1/2” pull line) will yield a length satisfactory for securing it to the pull line.


Felling Difficult Trees

Using a Holding Line to Swing Heavy Side Leaners Perhaps the most difficult trees to fell are ones with a heavily weighted side lean. As the amount of lean increases, the effectiveness of wedges and pull lines di¬ minishes. One effective remedy is to add a second rope, in addition to the pull line, as a holding line. When properly positioned, the holding line functions as a pivot point, allowing the tree to stay attached to the stump long enough to be pulled and essentially swung into the lay. This is an advanced method that works astonishingly well, though it’s tricky to master. It’s also a potentially dangerous technique for experienced tree cutters only. There are many variables that factor into the correct positioning of the holding line and determine how it is managed by the operators during the felling operation. It involves the effort of at least two, and often three, workers—one to cut, one to pull, and in most instances, a third person to control the holding line. Assuming that the pull line is already secured to the tree, the holding line can be set up and operated following the procedure below. Study the illustration on the next page as you read through the procedure. 1. Install and secure the holding line to the tree in the same fashion as the pull line and at about the same height in the tree. 2. Anchor the holding line to a solid anchor (ie. stump or tree) 180 degrees to the tree’s lean using one of the quick-release methods illustrated on the opposite page. An anchor forward of that point (toward the lay) can help lead the tree into the lay but will cause the line to slacken at some point during the felling process. An anchor aft (away from the lay) can be helpful in swinging the tree into the lay, as it provides constant tension on the line. However, a line too far aft can cause the tree to over swing the lay unless it is released at the proper time. 3. Tighten the holding line using a MA pulley system or come-along if necessary. If the rope is not tight enough and stretches or slackens at any point during the operation, the tree can drift and fall short of the lay. 4. Execute the felling cuts using the open-face method with the notch positioned toward the desired lay. It is usually not necessary to adjust the notch placement to compensate for the lean, as you ordinarily would when felling side leaning trees (see page 78), for the role of the second line is to keep the tree on course. 5. Apply tension to the puli line as the back cut is being made, slowly drawing the tree over toward the lay. Insert and drive wedges at this point if necessary. 6. Release the holding line once it becomes evident that the tree is falling toward the lay. Not doing so can cause a number of problems, such as the holding line wrapping around or breaking obstacles (usually other trees) in its path. In some instances the rope itself can break if the tree or obstacle encountered is large and stout enough. Any of these possibilities can cause the tree to fall or swing dangerously off course. If no obstacles lie within the path of the holding line, it may be possible to leave it anchored for the duration of the felling operation.

Felling Difficult Trees

Holding Line Anchoring Options The three most common means of anchoring the holding line to the tree, all of which allow for a quick-release when it is necessary to do so, are: 1) wrapping the holding line around the trunk of a tree (trunk wraps), 2) a figure-8 friction device, or 3) a PortA-Wrap friction device. To maximize the effectiveness of the holding line it will be nec¬ essary to tension first, either by hand (smaller trees with less lean) or with a comealong or MA system (larger trees with more extreme lean). Note: The figure-8 and Port-A-Wrap tools are available (along with operating instructions) from most arborist equipment suppliers (see page 163 for a sampling of some). 99

Felling Difficult Trees

Felling & Pulling Trees in Confined Spaces Some felling sites present certain size or topographical features that make pull¬ ing trees with a rope from a safe position impossible. This is often the case when felling trees near roadways, lakes, or along steep banks. A common solution to this problem is to utilize a pull line that is redirected away from the tree’s land¬ ing zone using a pulley attached to an anchor such as a work vehicle, stump, tree, or even a boulder. This technique allows you to pull from a more convenient angle and avoid being struck by the falling tree. Whatever your choice of an¬ chor is, make sure it is appro¬ priate for the task, because the loading forces being ex¬ erted on it could be as much as double what the pulling force is if the two legs of the rope





other. The force on the block lessens, as the rope angles increase. When an angle of 120 degrees is reached, the force on the anchor will be the same as the pulling force. Of course, pulling from this angle may not always be pos¬ sible. Notice in the illustration (right),

that redirecting the

pull line at a 120-degree angle to the tree being felled would cause it to cross the roadway. This




only if both lanes of traffic

Never redirect the pull line across roadways unless both lanes of traffic can be securely closed off.

were securely closed off. Redirecting the pull line with a pulley is also useful to “snatch,” or pull out downed trees and logs to be bucked up and loaded in a more convenient location. For this application, winches and work trucks provide the pulling force much more quickly and efficiently than MA pulley systems. Use the illustration above to assist you in setting up a system that redirects the pull line and follow the cut¬ ting and pulling procedure previously described on pages 90-97.


Felling Difficult Trees

How to Safely Make a Bore (Plunge) Cut I have repeatedly stated throughout this book that using the tip of the saw can be extremely dangerous as it can result in chain saw kickback. However, the nose of the saw bar is an extremely useful part of the saw as well, and an absolute neces¬ sity in several of the felling methods presented in this chapter (felling small di¬ ameter trees, p. 80; heavy forward leaning trees, p. 102; and large diameter trees, p. 104). Instead of being afraid of using the tip of the saw bar, though it’s impor¬ tant to maintain a healthy respect for it, learn how to safely utilize it by practic¬ ing the basic bore cut procedure described below on tree stumps or large (heavy) sections of firewood that won’t wobble or tip as you cut into it. 1. Begin the bore cut by making a cut into the tree using the bottom quadrant (the starting corner) of the saw bar while running the saw at full throttle. Do not let the top corner (the kick back corner or "no zone”) of the saw make wood con¬ tact first. For a quick review of this topic refer back to page 21. 2. After cutting into the tree to a depth equal to the width of the saw bar, gradually begin to turn the saw so the tip of the bar points in the direction of the in¬ tended bore cut. 3. Begin to slowly push the saw into the tree with the bar main¬ taining a position parallel, yet well away from, the back of the pro¬ posed hinge area. 4. Continue boring into the tree until the saw bar comes out the other side. Cut toward and parallel with the hinge until the desired thickness is obtained. To finish the procedure as it relates to felling heavy forward leaning trees see pg. 102. Allow the engine speed to slow down to an idle before with¬ drawing the saw bar from the tree.

4 ioi

Felling Difficult Trees

Bore Cutting Trees With a Heavy Forward Lean Forward leaning trees are the least difficult to fall into the lay-—they are already headed in the right direction. Ironically, these seemingly “easy” trees pose a sig¬ nificant threat if the forward lean is too great, as the tree can start to fall before the back cut is finished. This can result in the tree barber chairing—splitting at the back of the hinge causing the butt end to flip up dangerously toward the chain saw operator (see p. 70). Using the bore cut method instead of the tradi¬ tional back cut offers the best protection against this threat. The hinge thickness can be setup without fear of the tree falling prematurely, which allows you to make the back cut when you are ready. Also, when using the felling option illus¬ trated on top of page 103, all the felling cuts can be executed from the same po¬ sition the notch is cut from. It is because of these reasons, that many people pre¬ fer to use the bore cut method almost exclusively.

Bore Cutting When Trunk Diameter is Less Than the Saw Bar Length After cutting an open-face notch in the direction of the desired lay, begin the bore cut while standing on either side of the trunk. The side you cut from will depend upon personal preference (the side you are more comfortable making the bore cut from) and whether the tree has any side lean (if it does, cut from the “good” side of the tree). However, the cutting method described below, and illus¬ trated on page 103, is the same regardless of what side of the tree you cut from. 1. Bore into the tree using the procedure described on page 101 (remember to initiate this cut by using the lower corner, or starting corner, of the saw bar to avoid kickback). Begin the cut even with the apex of the notch and just behind the desired hinge position. It is extremely important you do not accidentally cut into the predetermined hinge (reducing its thickness) while making this cut. Be¬ cause of this concern, many tree cutters feel more comfortable staying several inches away from the back of the hinge when they make this cut. Once the saw bar has come out the other side of the tree, they then cut toward the hinge to fine-tune its thickness (10% of the trunk diameter at the cut). 2. The back cut can be made in one of two ways: by removing the saw after the bore cut is made and cutting the strap of remaining holding wood from the out¬ side of the tree (Step 2, option A) or, if the tree has only a slight forward lean, by cutting straight out the back of the tree without leaving the “strap" (Step 2, option B). As you can see from the illustrations on page 103, the side of the tree you cut from determines whether the cuts are made with the top or bottom of the bar. One advantage of cutting the strap of holding wood from the outside is that it gives you time to get your “wits” together (get repositioned, double check the es¬ cape route, communicate with workers) before making the final back cut and puts you in a better position to make a quicker retreat when you suspect the tree will fall quickly. 102

Felling Difficult Trees

Bore Cutting (trunk diameter less than bar length) The bore cut can be made from either side of the tree. In this instance, the cut is made from the right side of the tree as you face the lay (step 1). The back cut can be made in one of two ways: by leaving a strap and cut¬ ting it from the back of the trunk (step 2 option A) or by cutting straight out the back of the trunk (step 2 option B).

Step 2 (Option B)

Bore Cutting When Trunk Diameter is Greater Than the Saw Bar Length Begin by cutting on the bad side of the tree creating 50% of the calculated bore opening (#1-2 below). Finish the bore cut on the good side of the tree so that the cut meets (is level with) and extends beyond the cut made from the other side (#3). Cut toward the hinge setting up the same hinge thickness that was established from the other side of the tree (#4). Remove the saw and cut the strap of holding wood (#5).

Note: The thickness of the strap should be at least 10 percent of the tree diameter. A thicker strap should be left when felling trees with an extreme forward lean or have decayed wood fiber.


Felling Difficult Trees

Felling Large Diameter Trees When trees have a trunk diameter greater than the length of the saw bar, use the felling method described below. Since this method requires using the nose of the saw bar, which can potentially cause a dangerous kickback situation, it is abso¬ lutely necessary you learn how to properly make a bore cut following the in¬ structions on page 101. The method that follows is not recommended on trees with a heavy forward lean (see pages 102-103 to learn how to fell these trees). For trees with a trunk diameter greater than 2 saw bar lengths.

1. Cut an open-face notch in the direction of the desired lay (step 1, figure A). You will probably have to cut from both sides of the tree, due to the larger-sized trunk. 2. Begin the back cut by boring into the tree just behind the desired position of the hinge. Set up hinge thickness by gradually rotating and plunging the saw into the tree so that the bar runs parallel with the hinge (step 2, figure A). 3. Continue with the back cut by moving the saw around the trunk in a clockwise direction (step 3, figure A). Be extremely careful that the nose of the saw bar does not cut into the hinge area. 4. Set a wedge at the 4 or 5 o’clock position (in relation to the lay) after you have cut the first section, or 1/2 of the trunk (step 4, figure B). Set a second wedge at the 7 or 8 o’clock position when enough wood has been cut to allow for it. Drive both wedges only deep enough to prevent the tree from pinching the bar. Finish cutting the remaining wood until proper hinge width has been reached. If neces¬ sary, drive the wedges in further to help the tree fall. For trees with a trunk diameter greater than two saw bar lengths (figure C) start by making a bore cut into the center of the notch opening (#1). Enlarge the cut inside the trunk (be careful not to cut too much in the hinge area, compromising its strength). Use the cutting & wedging method described in steps 2-4 above to finish cutting the tree. 104

Felling Difficult Trees

Felling Dead, Decayed, & Defective Trees Cutting the wood of dead, decayed, and defective trees does not provide the same degree of predictability that live trees with sound wood does. This is an impor¬ tant concern when felling trees since we know that the effectiveness of the hinge depends largely on the integrity of the wood fiber in the hinge area. Therefore, it is crucial that these types of trees be identified before cutting begins so a felling plan to accommodate them can be made in advance. There are similarities and differences between the three types of trees discussed here. Dead trees may or may not have decayed or defective wood, for instance, and trees that are decayed or defective may not be dead. What matters most, however, is how the altered wood fiber, or defects from these trees, will affect the position of the felling cuts and performance of the hinge, and how (or if) you should proceed to fell the tree.

Dead Trees Identifying dead (and dying) trees should be relatively easy—dead limbs, loose bark, no leaves, no needles (or few). Though the wood of dead trees may not necessarily be soft or punky, like that of decayed trees, it still lacks the elasticity that live trees have. This lack of wood elasticity tends to cause dead trees to snap abruptly when they are being felled. In these cases, it is often more effective to use a hinge that is a bit thinner than normal, though the notching and back cut¬ ting method is executed in the usual manner. Whenever possible, dead trees should be felled in the direction they lean. If they can’t, it is recommended that a pull line (and holding line if necessary) be used, because felling wedges have limited effectiveness with dead trees, especially with a side lean. Be especially alert for falling dead limbs whenever felling dead trees.

Decayed Trees Trunk wood that is punky and mushy, or in the process of becoming so, is char¬ acteristic of decayed trees. Advanced decay can ultimately create a cavity in the tree or cause the entire trunk to become hollow. In either case, tree felling be¬ comes increasingly risky to the extent that decay exists. If the hinge wood fiber is so structurally compromised that it cannot support the tree during felling, the tree could fall out of control in any direction. Try to determine how much decay is present before making the notching cut by looking for the visible, and audible, indicators described on page 38. When felling decayed trees, leave a thicker hinge than usual, position the notch where decay is least present, and if you can, fell it in the direction of the lean. Wedging is nearly impossible on decayed trees, so use a pull line on any tree without an obvious forward lean, being careful not to pull so hard that the tree snaps off somewhere below that point. 105

Felling Difficult Trees

Defective Trees Though a variety of tree defects may exist in any given tree, the ones that cause the greatest problems for felling are cracks and splits along the trunk that extend into the area where the felling cuts are made. If the proper precautions are not taken, the tree could potentially separate or barber chair while the back cut is being made. Cracks and splits are usually easy to spot, and though many trees have them, not all are hazardous. But the ones that extend into the trunk, includ¬ ing frost cracks, and are associated with decay, or result from weak branch at¬ tachments, should be suspect and precautions should be taken to prevent further splitting while felling. The best method to do this is by securing a logging chain, or wide webbing load strap, tightly around the trunk above the point where the felling cuts will be made. The closer the chain/strap is to the back cut, the better it will function in preventing the trunk from separating. You can secure the chain by using either a chain binder or by driving felling wedges between the chain and trunk wood to tighten it. Load straps come equipped with a ratchet for tightening. On smaller trees, rope may used to secure the trunk provided it can be tightened sufficiently. Once the trunk is properly secured make your felling cuts in the usual manner. If using a pull line, be careful not to apply excessive force which could cause addi¬ tional strain on the tree’s trunk.

Chain & chain binder

Chain with wedges

Webbing strap with ratchet

Three methods for securing a trunk with a crack or split to prevent barber chairing.


Felling Difficult Trees

Felling Multi-Stemmed Trees Trees that have two or more distinct stems, or trunks, rising up from the base of the tree, can rarely be felled as a single unit and therefore present unique felling challenges. Determining the order and the direction each stem should be felled are the two primary considerations. How to position the saw and manage the felling cuts in a crowded cluster of tree trunks is another challenge. Generally, multi-stemmed trees are felled individually, and, if possible, in the direction they lean. Follow the procedure below for felling multi-stemmed trees: 1. Assess each trunk of the tree separately for hazards, height, and lean. Be espe¬ cially watchful for entan¬ gled limbs (see p. 108) that could cause the trunk being cut to roll in the wrong di¬ rection or prevent the tree from falling at all. 2. Fell the easiest tree, or trunk section, first using an acceptable notching method (the open-face method is recommended). It may be necessary to make the felling cuts higher on the trunk than usual to provide room for the chain saw—do not cut over shoul¬ der height, however.

Fell the easiest tree, or trunk section, first.

A good method for making the back cut, to avoid cutting into another trunk, is by using the bore cut method used for forward leaning trees (pp. 102-103). Extreme care must be taken to avoid chain saw kickback when performing this method. Begin the plunge cut just behind the rear of the planned hinge until the saw bar comes out the other side of the tree. After leaving the correct hinge width, cut away from the hinge toward and out the back of the tree to allow it to fall. 3. Cut the stump as low as possible on the first trunk felled. Doing so will help pre¬ vent the next felled trunk section from lurching out of control if it were to land on a high stump. A lower stump will also make more room for the chain saw when felling the next trunk. 4. Cut the remaining trunks in the normal fashion leaving the most difficult one for last. When working in a wooded lot felling many trees it is a good idea to leave multi-stemmed trees for last when other trees are out of the way, and more felling room is available. 107

Felling Difficult Trees

Felling Entangled Trees It is quite common for two trees growing close together to have limbs entangled in each other’s crown. In effect, the trees are tied together making the felling of one, or both trees, difficult and dangerous. There are two felling options avail¬ able. The first option is the one most commonly used and involves felling the trees so they fall together at the same time. Keep in mind this is a dangerous

felling technique and should be performed only by experienced tree cutters. To perform this method, begin by assessing the two trees individually for haz¬ ards, height, and lean. Next, notch and back cut the tree closest to the lay, leav¬ ing a hinge slightly thicker than usual to prevent the tree from possibly falling too soon. Drive a wedge into the back cut to prevent the tree from falling toward you when you cut the second tree. Finally, notch and back cut the second tree. This tree should push over the first tree as it falls. I recommend using felling aids such as wedges, and especially pull lines, because it is often difficult to detect the actual lean of two trees tied together by branches. This method should not be attempted on more than two entangled trees. The second option for dealing with entan gled trees is to remove the entangled limbs that join them together. If the limbs are low in the tree they can be removed with a hand-


or gas-powered pole saw. The



reach of these tools is about sixteen feet. Removing en¬ tangled limbs higher in the tre would necessitate the services a trained and experienced climber. And, if one of the two entangled trees is to be preserved, climb¬ ing will be the only option for disen¬ tangling Once




separated the tar¬ get


can be

felled as normal.


Whenever possible, use a pull line when felling entangled trees.

Felling Difficult Trees

Felling a Set Back Tree & Freeing a Stuck Saw A set back tree is one that settles backward, opposite the intended lay, and closes the back cut. If this occurs while back cutting is still in progress, the saw bar can become pinched, preventing it from being pulled out of the cut. A set back tree usually results from foregoing the use of felling wedges in a tree you assumed would fall into the lay on its own. Add a whisper of unfavorable wind and even slightly forward leaning trees, and especially straight trees, will set back on your saw bar without hardly a warning. This is a potentially dangerous situation that requires immediate attention since the tree could fall anytime and in any direc¬ tion, injuring people, or damaging your chain saw. For this reason, never turn your back on a set back tree and get anyone not involved with the felling opera¬ tion outside the felling radius of the tree. The best way to prevent set back trees from happening in the first place is to use a felling wedge(s) in the back cut whenever in doubt about the tree’s lean, and always when they appear straight. What follows are five options for rescuing a stuck chain saw and getting the tree to fall into the lay. Whenever possible, have someone ready to remove the saw at the first opportunity. Last-second attempts to save a saw as the tree falls are ex¬ tremely hazardous and not worth the risk. If no help is available, consider remov¬ ing the power head from the bar before cutting to prevent damage to the saw.

Option 1: Use a Wedge Wedges are very effective in lifting the tree off your saw bar and into the lay. Your greatest chal¬ lenge, however, will be finding an adequate open¬ ing in the back cut to even set a wedge (aluminum or steel wedges are better suited for this purpose than are the plastic ones, as they are easier to start in a closed cut and can withstand the abuse when driven in). Oftentimes a suitable opening can be found just behind the saw bar (the side opposite the notch). In this instance two wedges can be used, one on each side of the trunk. Another trick is to cut a gently sloping notch (2-3” deep) on the topside of the back cut using another chain saw or an ax. This notch will make it easier to insert the felling wedge (or felling lever) into the back cut.

Freeing a stuck saw using a wedge.

Drive the wedge slowly at first, until you are cer¬ tain it has penetrated the back cut to an adequate depth (2-3”). As you cut the opening, be careful not to make contact with the stuck saw bar. 109

Felling Difficult Trees

Option 2: Cut a New Notch Another effective method is to cut a new notch (using another chain saw) on the same side the original one was made (fig. A), or on the opposite side of the tree, the side it is now leaning toward (fig. B). The latter method is only possible, of course, if the site per¬ mits felling the tree in this new direction. Remember, felling into a new lay will require planning a new escape route as well. With both methods the notch opening should be cut a distance of one tree diameter above the first notch you made. Use felling wedges this time and set them as soon as possible. Recutting the notch—original lay (A), new lay (B).

Option 3: Use a Push Pole Following the instructions on page 83, construct and use a push pole to leverage the tree off the bar and into the lay. At the very least, attempt to push the tree forward enough to allow another worker to insert a felling wedge or felling lever in the back cut. The push pole method works best on smaller-sized trees.

Option 4: Use a Pull Line If the tree is large or has a heavy set back, using a pull line may be the only safe option. Use the methods of rope installation and operation described on pages 85-97. On set back trees that are more precariously balanced, take care that the exertions and forces of rope installation do not cause the tree to fall before you are ready.

Option 5: Get Help! It is the wise tree cutter who knows his or her limitations and knows when to leave a hazardous situation to get additional help. This safety principle applies to all the situations described in this chapter, but is especially relevant in the case of set back trees, hung-up trees (p. Ill), and storm damaged trees (pp. 115-118). It is imperative that no additional work be performed until the hazardous situation has been remedied—this must be your top priority. If you must leave the tree tem¬ porarily to get help, and this is a particularly dangerous thing to do in an urban site, safeguard the felling site by marking off the area with flagging and safety cones. If possible, use a cell phone to call for assistance or have another worker stay behind to warn others of the hazard rather than leave the site unattended.


Felling Difficult Trees

Dislodging a Hung-Up Tree When a tree falls off target it will often become lodged, or hung-up, in another tree. It is a frustrating setback and a potentially dangerous situation that com¬ monly occurs when felling trees in wooded areas. Hung-up trees frequently re¬ sult from an improperly executed notch or a poorly chosen lay. Trees that have been uprooted or broken off due to storms are another way trees become hung¬ up. Hung-up trees can be extremely difficult to get to the ground; therefore, be realistic about your skill limitations, and leave the more difficult ones for some¬ one more experienced.

Step 1: Assess the Tree The first thing to consider when attempting to dislodge a hung-up tree is if it is possible to get it down without having to climb it. Just how lodged or tangled the hung portion of the tree is in the supporting tree can be determined by simply making a visual inspection. A tree that has several large limbs or the top wedged tightly in the crotch of the supporting tree can be very difficult to extricate. If at all possible leave it be; it is likely that it will stay hung up. If the tree must come down, recruit a climbing and rigging expert to dislodge it.

Step 2: Cut the Tree Free From the Stump If the hung-up tree is still attached to the stump by the hinge wood it will be necessary to first cut the tree free from the stump. Do not attempt to do this by cut¬ ting more hinge wood for this will surely invite a pinched bar. Instead, cut the tree free by using an open-face notch and back cut. On a tree experi¬ encing upward pressure against the trunk (the scenario I most frequently encounter and show at right), make the notch on the topside of the trunk followed by a back cut, or undercut in this case, directly oppo site the apex of the notch. This will cause the butt to drop to the ground, and possibly even dislodge the tree at this point, allowing it to fall to the ground. Therefore, be ready to




while making this cut.


Using a notch & undercut to free the tree from the stump.


Felling Difficult Trees

Step 3: Dislodge the Tree The three most commonly used methods for dislodging a hung-up tree is rolling it with a cant hook; blocking it by making a series of undercuts to the trunk sec¬ tion; or pulling it with a winch, come-along, block-and-tackle, log skidder, trac¬ tor, or truck. The option you choose should depend upon the size and angle of the tree and how badly it is hung up. Before proceeding with any of these meth¬ ods first consider the safety precautions listed below: ■

Never work directly under a hung-up tree.

Do not attempt to dislodge a hung tree by felling another one on top of it.

Never fell the supporting tree in an effort to get a hung-up tree down.

If a broken tree has become hung up (from storm damage), and the break occurred above waist height, use the method described on page 118 to bring it safely down.

Beware of internal tension and compression forces at work in trees under pressure (see pg. 123). The last thing you want at this time is a stuck saw.

Plan and clear a suitable escape route.

Rolling the Tree The cant hook comes to the rescue again, this time as a tool used to literally “roll” the tree off supporting branches so it can fall freely to the ground. Try this method before the others if the tree is not too large, or hung-up too badly, for it is by far the quickest and easi¬ est one to perform. First decide which direction you should roll the tree for it to become free of the supporting tree. Then stand on the oppo¬ site side and posi¬ tion the cant hook on the trunk so that you can comfortably (and safely) twist the tree away from you. A similar method of dislodging a hung up tree is to lift and pry the butt over using a pole made from a 10-foot long sturdy sapling. Always have a cleared 112

Felling Difficult Trees

“Blocking” the Tree This method is most effective and safe when performed on trees that are hung up at angles of approximately 60° or less. The process involves cutting short sec¬ tions, or blocks, off the base of the trunk (see inset in step 4 above). This will cause the tree to drop slightly, and become shorter, with each blocking cut made. Eventually, this will allow the hung-up tree to drop free of the supporting tree, and fall to the ground. Do this by making a shallow, open-face notch, on the top¬ side of the trunk followed by an undercut or by using the bore-cut method as shown on the top of page 103. Continue blocking the tree until if falls or it be¬ comes unsafe to proceed. Be out of the way each time the tree drops and be ready to retreat along a cleared escape route in the event the tree is dislodged and falls. Bear in mind that this method becomes increasingly hazardous as the tree be¬ comes more vertical, threatening to fall in any direction, with each block that is removed. The chance of getting your chain saw stuck, or someone getting in¬ jured, increases as well (use felling wedges to help prevent the saw bar from binding). At this point, it will be necessary to either pull the tree down using the method on the next page, or leave it and get the proper help and equipment you need to get it down safely. 113

Felling Difficult Trees

Pulling the tree is the safest way to dislodge trees hung up at a steep angle.

Pulling the Tree Perhaps the safest way to dislodge a hung-up tree (especially trees that are hung¬ up at a steep angle) is by securing the butt end with a chain, cable, or heavy web¬ bing strap or rope, and pulling it free with a log skidder, tractor, or truck. Of course, this equipment is not always available, or even accessible to the work site. The illustration above shows how a simple come-along can be used for the purpose of pulling a smaller tree hung up at a relatively low angle. A block-andtackle works equally well and a winch even better. If using a rope to pull the tree, use one of the “rope grab” knots from pages 9697, as a means of attaching the come-along (or other pulling tool) to the pull line. Avoid tying knots directly into the rope for this purpose because the pulling forces exerted on the rope may make it difficult (or impossible) to untie the knot afterward. If the tree is wedged in front of the stump, preventing it from being pulled backwards, use a cant hook or a pole (as described on the previous page) to pry the butt over, or try pulling the butt from a side angle. The steeper the an¬ gle of the hung-up tree, the more downward pressure there is exerted toward the ground and, therefore, the more force will be required to pull it down.


Felling Difficult Trees

Felling Storm Damaged Trees Perhaps the most difficult and dangerous trees to cut are ones that have been damaged by storms. These trees should be tackled only by the most skilled and experienced tree cutters. For they are, in a word, unpredictable. This is primarily due to the tremendous compression and tension forces exerted on the parts of the tree under pressure. It is critical that release cuts be made correctly in order to avoid injury. The methods for making these cuts, and the principles behind them, are the same as that for bucking logs (see chapter 4). There are countless scenar¬ ios of storm damage to trees, but the ones my crew and I most frequently en¬ counter are of two general types: trees that have been uprooted (partially or com¬ pletely) or have been broken off, but remain attached to the trunk.

1. Uprooted Trees (or Windfalls) Strong winds often uproot trees leaving them in one of three conditions: 1) hung-up in another tree (or perhaps lying on a structure such as a house), 2) partially up¬ rooted and severely tipped, 3) or uprooted and lying on the ground. Hung-up trees can be safely felled using the methods on pages 111-114, and the latter two condi¬ tions can be addressed using the methods shown below and on the next page.

Partially Uprooted and Severely Tipped Trees At first, felling partially uprooted and tipped trees appears simple until you con¬ sider, or experience, the dangers involved from the tremendous amount of pres¬ sure being exerted on the trunk and what happens when the remaining root mass slams back down after the trunk is cut. To minimize some of the risk, do not at¬ tempt to make the felling cuts, described below, above your shoulder height. 1. Cut an open-face notch on the compression side of the tree (the bottom side of the trunk) to a depth of about 1/4 the trunk diameter. 2. Make the back cut on the tension side, or top, of the trunk. Be prepared for a potentially explosive response as the tree falls down and the root mass tips backward as pressure is released when the trunk is cut. When cutting larger diameter trees consider using the bore cut method that is used for trees with a heavy forward lean (pp. 102-103), or secur¬ ing the trunk with a chain or strap (p. 106), to prevent the trunk from barber chairing. 115

Felling Difficult Trees

Uprooted Trees Lying on the Ground (or supported by another object) There are two potentially dangerous things that can happen when the trunk is cut free from the remaining root mass. First, the remaining root mass could fall for¬ ward and on top of the saw operator. The other thing, is the root mass and re¬ maining trunk could whip dangerously upright and back into the ground after the bucking cut is made. For this reason, never stand on or straddle the trunk of an uprooted tree while making these cuts. Trying to determine which of these two situations is likely to occur is a difficult assessment, which becomes easier only through years of experience working on these types of trees. Two ways to deal with these types of trees are described below. Option 1: To avoid the threat of the first danger described above, cut the trunk at a dis¬ tance that is beyond the reach of the highest part of the root mass. Remove any branches that are in the way or that could potentially strike you after the tree is cut free from the stump. After being cut, the root mass will fall forward only until it is stopped by the remaining trunk section striking the ground. Option 2: This is a good method when you anticipate the root mass and remaining trunk to right itself after bucking cuts are made. Start your cuts at the top of the tree, working toward the butt, cutting the trunk into short sections. This incremental re¬ moval of trunk sec¬ tions allows the root mass to coun¬ terbalance the tree gradually, standing upright slowly, and safely. At this point, fell the remaining upright trunk sec¬ tion using normal felling methods. Making the cuts: If the tree appears to, be under significant upward pressure from both ends, make an open-face notch on the top side of the tree (compression side), followed by an undercut directly opposite the notch. If it appears that the root mass is creating a significant back pull (indicating the root mass wants to fall back in the hole), the cuts should be reversed (notch the bottom, back cut from the top). In many in¬ stances it won’t be necessary to make a notch or top cut; an undercut only will suffice.


Felling Difficult Trees

2. Broken Trees Another common type of storm damage is trees that have broken off but still re¬ main attached to the trunk. The upper portion may either be hung-up in another tree or resting on the ground. These situations are extremely hazardous as they are difficult to assess. These trees will often respond unpredictably, even when a felling plan has been carefully considered and executed. The greatest risk of fell¬ ing these trees is if the broken portion detaches unexpectedly. Other hazards arise from the broken portion of the tree exerting pressure against the tree trunk, which can cause the tree to barber chair or fall in the wrong direction when the felling cuts are made. Assess the tree and site carefully before making any cuts. Try to visualize how the broken top will respond to the release cuts you intend to make. As these cuts are made, be prepared for the broken portion to detach at anytime and be ready to retreat along one of several pre-planned and cleared escape routes. Finally, avoid working under the hung or hanging portion of the tree.

1. Carefully inspect and test the broken part of the tree to get a sense of how well attached it is to the trunk. 2. Remove the limbs supporting the broken portion of the tree using the limbing and bucking methods described in chapter 4. Cut back as high as can safely be reached (below shoulder height). Cut slowly and watch to see how the tree re¬ sponds as pressure is released from the wood. Keep cutting until the broken por¬ tion is free of ground support. Be ready to move if the trunk begins to shift or roll. 3. Make an open-face notch on the same side of the tree that the broken top is lying on or where the lean of the tree is the heaviest. 4. Execute the back cut while standing on the good side of the tree. If necessary, use felling wedges to help support the tree and prevent a pinched saw bar while cutting and to force the tree into the lay. When using a pull line, secure the rope to the main trunk (not the broken portion) as close to the break as possible. 117

Felling Difficult Trees

Broken Trees With Hung-Up Top If the broken portion of the tree occurs low on the trunk (below shoulder height) follow the procedure starting on page 111 for felling hung-up trees. If the broken portion is located high on the trunk and out of reach, use the method below.

Caution: Felling these trees puts the tree cutter at great risk since it usually re¬ quires working under the hung-up top and involves outwitting and outrunning two separate falling tree sections—the trunk and the top of the tree. 1. Set a pull line around the hung-up section of the tree close to where it broke off. Use the rope installation methods described on pages 85-88. 2. Attach to the pull line a means of pulling the hung top free. A come-along or MA pulley system is a satisfactory means in most instances with smaller trees, but I prefer using a portable winch instead (one that accommodates rope usage), be¬ cause of the extra pulling force it offers. Securely anchor the pulling tool of choice in the direction you intend the trunk to fall (the lay). 3. Cut an open-face notch in the direction of the lay. Make the back cut, leaving an extra thick hinge so the tree will not fall before you can retreat from the work area. Retreat at a 90° angle from the trunk in either direction to a distance beyond the felling radius of the tree. 5. Only when the tree cutter is at a safe distance away from the tree should pulling efforts on the pull line begin.

Pulley System

Winch 118

Pulling options include: winch, pulley system, come-along, truck.

Felling Difficult Trees

Additional Felling Challenges Felling Trees Uphill Whenever felling trees uphill there is an increased risk that you could be struck by the tree if it slides backward or kicks upward when it lands. You can help minimize this effect by using the open-face notch method. It will keep the tree attached to the stump longer than when other methods are used, and possibly the entire time the tree is falling (this is more likely to happen when felling live trees with strong wood fibers). Also, make sure you move quickly along your cleared escape route as soon as the tree shows the slightest sign of falling.

Felling Trees With No Crowns The weight of the tree’s crown often assists in tipping the tree into the lay. When the crown is absent, due to storm damage or dieback and the remaining trunk is straight and balanced, felling often becomes difficult. Felling these stubborn trees will be made easier with the use of felling wedges. In addition, consider cutting a deeper notch than is normally required (as much as one-half, or more, the trunk diameter). This is called, “sawing lean” into the tree. By making a deep notch you undermine the tree’s center of balance and in effect create a forward lean in the tree. To avoid a set back situation this should only be attempted if the tree is straight and perfectly balanced (or has a slight forward lean). Leaving a thinner hinge than usual will also help the tree to fall into the lay. Perhaps the safest and most effective way to get these types of trees down is by using a pull line. Though it can become quite tricky installing a pull line in a remnant of tree without limbs, it can be done if any branch stub or trunk protru¬ sion exists at all (see pull line installation and operation starting on page 85).

Felling Trees in Deep Snow Though winter can be a great time to fell trees and put up firewood for the fol¬ lowing burn season (no sweltering heat, no irritating bugs), in many parts of the country it brings with it another challenge, namely, snow. Deep snow makes it difficult to retreat along the escape route and to see trip hazards such as rocks, logs, and branches. Limbing and bucking become more hazardous as the snow can hide the tip of the saw bar as well as the wood being cut. Finally, heavy snow accumulation in the upper branches of the tree can affect its balance, and lean, and when the snow is released as the tree falls, it can even affect the cut¬ ter’s visibility (and test your patience, as it falls down your neck and back). Cut¬ ting in snowy conditions can be both enjoyable and safe provided you are aware of these challenges and are prepared to meet them. 119

Felling Difficult Trees

Felling Small Trees in Dense Woods Trying to get smaller diameter trees (up to 6 inches) that are growing in thick woods, such as pine plantations, to fall to the ground can be an extremely diffi¬ cult and frustrating task. In many instances using a felling lever (page 82) will provide enough leverage to force the tree through the thick tangle of tree canopy and to the ground. In most cases, however, it’s necessary to cut the tree off at the stump, grab the butt end of the tree, and literally walk it down to the ground. Both of the felling cuts illustrated below provide a quick and easy way to sepa¬ rate the tree from the trunk so it can be more easily handled and pulled down.

What to Do If You Drop a Tree on an Electrical Line Though most power outages occur from trees falling on electrical lines during storms, many are caused from tree felling mistakes. In most cases, as soon as the tree hits the line, it causes an immediate short circuit and the line becomes de¬ energized. Never assume, however, that the power is off and the situation is safe. Instead, get away from the situation as quickly as possible. Have a worker stand guard a safe distance away and prevent anyone from entering the work area. No¬ tify the appropriate electrical utility (power company) of the situation, and wait until they come and remove the tree. Refer to ANSI Z133.1-2006 (Chapter 4: Electrical Hazards) and OSHA 1910.269 ( regarding regulations for working near electrical conductors. Prevention, of course, is the best remedy. Make a careful inspection for overhead lines during the site assessment, and again before you execute the felling cuts. Determine tree height and allow an extra ten feet as a margin of error. In most cases the electrical utility will fell the tree at no cost when contacted beforehand. If you do it, and fail, you may be held liable for any repair costs necessary to restore power to those affected by the outage. 120


Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees “When you first try bucking with the axe, you’re likely to find that it ‘gets’ you everywhere: in the hands, arms, shoulders, back, stomach, and legs. ” —Maurice Cohen, The Woodcutter’s Companion


NCE YOUR TREE HAS “LANDED,” move on to the next phase of the felling operation—limbing and bucking the downed tree. Technically you

don’t limb a felled tree, but rather you de-limb one. Nevertheless, limbing is the term used to describe the process of cutting branches off the tree to make it eas¬ ier to move or cut into shorter lengths. Bucking is the term for cutting the main trunk into lengths for disposal or use as saw or pulp logs or firewood. Limbing and bucking is the stage of tree cutting during which you might be tempted to relax and let down your guard. After all, the tree is on the ground, the dangerous and stressful part is over—so it seems. The truth is, limbing and bucking trees is physically demanding work, loaded with hidden hazards. Therefore, proceed with caution. Start by assessing the tree and the surrounding work area for over¬ head and ground hazards before rushing in to work on the downed tree. In addi¬ tion to the work hazards described in chapter one, be alert to the hazards and difficulties listed below which are specific to limbing and bucking operations.

Limbing and Bucking Hazards ■

Hangers. Tree limbs often break and become hung up in the trees overhead during the felling process, posing a threat to workers below.

Spring poles. Limbs and small trees held under tension by the fallen tree are extremely dangerous as they can “spring” towa saw operator with extreme force when released.

Chain saw reactive forces. Rotational kickback can occur any time the tip of the saw makes contact with limbs, log sections, and unseen obstacles. The potential and severity of kickback is increased by the poor footing and awkward positions often experienced while limbing and bucking. In addition, push and pull forces can cause loss of saw control if the saw operator is cutting from an unstable position. 121

Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

Slips, trips, and falls. Limbing and bucking trees in a tangle of limbs and thick underbrush increases your risk of losing your balance and falling, possi¬ bly onto a running chain saw. The hidden holes, rocks and other ground ob¬ structions they obscure makes it even more difficult to maintain good footing.

Log rollover. Logs can roll unexpectedly toward the saw operator whenever supporting limbs





trunk is bucked into shorter lengths. This is especially true when the trunk is on a slope. Whenever possible work on the uphill side of the tree. If you must cut from the down¬ hill side, block the tree with chocks or a small log section to prevent it from rolling.

Work on the uphill side of the tree.

Pinched saw bar. Tremendous pressures are exerted on tree limbs and trunk section when the tree lands on the ground. A misplaced saw cut can quickly close and bind your saw. Understanding the internal tension and compression forces that exist in wood under pressure is critical for making well-placed limbing and bucking cuts (see page 123).

Cutting into the ground. More of a nuisance than a hazard, cutting into the ground (or into nails, wire, mud and gravel commonly found on logs) usually causes significant damage to your saw chain, enough that it can bring the whole operation to a halt. This happens most frequently while cutting limbs and logs which are close to (or making contact with) the ground.

Working near others. The biggest hazard of two or more people working on the same tree occurs when the log rolls, or shifts unexpectedly, from a cut made by one of the other workers. Always know where the other workers are, and be alert to what they are doing. Stay far enough away from each other (10 feet minimum) so you can turn away from the log and not strike your coworker with your chain saw or be struck by the other worker’s saw.

Fatigue. Limbing and bucking is demanding work. It requires your full at¬ tention during every cut as you continuously lift and reposition the chain saw while working in a bent-over position. To prevent accidents due to mental and physical fatigue take frequent breaks. If you like to multi-task, re-fuel your saw, sharpen the chain, or re-evaluate the tree while you rest.


Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

Understanding Tension Forces in Wood One of the most common hazards and frustrating interruptions of limbing and bucking occurs when wood under pressure is cut in the wrong location. The re¬ sult may be getting your chain saw stuck in the trunk or a limb lashing out vio¬ lently toward you or another worker. All tree limbs and trunk wood of a felled tree is under varying degrees of tension. This occurs from the forces of gravity and the pressure of the ground (or other object) pushing against the weight of the tree. Sometimes, trees lying on a slope are subjected to end pressure as well. Knowing how wood responds to these forces, and knowing where the pressure is located in the wood, will determine where safe saw cuts can be made. If you bend a small tree branch held between both hands, the wood fibers on the outside of the curve (top) are being “stretched” or being pulled apart (see figure below). This side of the branch is under “tension”. Meanwhile, the wood fibers on the inside curve (bottom) of the branch are being pushed together. This side of the branch is under “compression.” Of course, if you bend the branch in the op¬ posite direction these forces would be reversed. Either way, the side of the wood that is under compression always “wants” to close. Limbing and bucking cuts made on this side often result in a pinched saw bar, whereas wood that is under tension wants to open and, therefore, should always be cut last. It is usually nec¬ essary to make several cuts on limbs and trunk wood that are under pressure in order to relieve the tension wood gradually and prevent the wood from splitting or breaking abruptly. In this case, make a shallow cut(s) on the compression side first, and make the finishing cut on the tension side. Since it is not always evident where the pressure is located, it may be necessary to make light tentative cuts to see how the wood responds before committing to making the final cut.

Always cut the compression side of wood first (when applicable) and the tension side last. 123

Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

Spring Poles Spring poles are one of those hidden hazards previously mentioned that can liter¬ ally “spring up” and attack, seemingly out of nowhere, though their presence, and threat, are usually evident to the wary tree cutter. Spring poles are created when a falling tree bends a sapling over and pins it to the ground under tension. When spring poles are cut they can release with a tremendous force capable of severely injuring or even killing an unwary tree cutter. Rather than “trip” these booby traps unexpectedly, learn to identify and deal with them before you pro¬ ceed with limbing and bucking the tree. Generally there are three ways to deal with spring poles: 1) Avoid them. If you don’t need to cut it, leave it alone. 2) Release them by cutting at the maximum point of tension, if it is below shoulder height. These cuts can be made on either the top of the spring pole (tension side) or underneath (compression side). 3)

Spring poles are a dangerous threat that need to be avoided or released properly.

Determining the Maximum Tension Point of Spring Poles 1. Draw an imaginary vertical line that extends upward from the base of the tree using your hand or finger. 2. Extend a horizontal line from the highest point of the spring pole until it inter¬ sects the vertical line. 3. Extend a line 45 degrees from the point where the two lines intersect until it reaches the spring pole. This is the point of maximum tension and the location where the release cuts should be made. 124

Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

Releasing Spring Poles Below Shoulder Height You can release spring poles by cutting from the topside or from underneath pro¬ vided the maximum point of tension is below shoulder height. With both meth¬ ods it is important to stand at a 45-degree angle to the back of the spring pole to minimize your chance of being struck should it release unexpectedly.

Cutting From the Top Start your first cut at the maximum tension point on the top (tension side) of the spring pole. Make subsequent cuts downward from this point approximately one inch apart. The cuts should be shallow nicks made while running the saw at full speed. This will allow the fibers to break evenly as the tension is released slowly. Cut the spring pole off once you see the tension subside.

Cutting From Underneath With this method you shave wood from the underside (compression side) of the spring pole at the point of maximum tension. If you were to make saw cuts on this side of the spring pole (versus shaving the wood), it would likely cause the saw to bind. As you continue to shave out wood, the trunk will become thin enough to bend and relieve the tension on its own. At this point cut the spring pole off completely.

Releasing Spring Poles Above Shoulder Height If the maximum tension point is above shoulder height, release the spring pole by cutting the top free near where it is pinned. Do this while standing under the spring pole so that when it is cut free the top will spring upward and away from where you are standing. At this point you can safely cut down the spring pole.


Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

Basic Limbing Techniques Though hidden hazards abound in the work of limbing a felled tree, it is actually a simple task if performed thoughtfully and methodically. Start by untying the pull line, if one was used, and pull it free from the tree to prevent it from being cut. Second, identify any spring poles that need to be released using the methods on pages 124-125. Next, block the tree if you suspect it could roll when support¬ ing limbs are cut free. Remember, work from the uphill side of the tree. On trees lying on level ground, begin cutting from the left side of the base of the tree and work toward the top cutting the branches as close to the trunk as possi¬ ble. This isn’t done so the log looks pretty, it’s done so it will roll, drag, and stack easier as you move and buck the wood later on. Whenever possible use the trunk to help support the weight of the saw while cutting to help reduce muscle fatigue. Keeping your elbows and saw close to your body will also help and offer a more stable position if kickback should occur. Try to keep the trunk between you and the chain saw as much as possible. Never walk on or straddle the log to make limbing cuts. Each branch you approach is an adventure in problem solv¬ ing as you determine if it is under pressure and decide where to make the cut. Smaller branches under pressure should be made with a single cut on the tension side. It is not always evident however, where wood tension is located. It may be necessary to make some light experimental cuts to see how the wood responds before fully committing to making the final cut. Be ready though, as wood under pressure can close quickly and bind your saw or lash out at you and cause injury. Also, be careful you don’t mistake a spring pole for a limb. If cut limbs accumulate to the point of interfering with your cutting progress, move them off to the side. Doing this will also provide a better view of any hid¬ den trip hazards on the ground. Remember to engage the chain break whenever you take one of your hands off the running chain saw to clear limbs or climb over the trunk to cut from the other side. (



Chain Saw Choices

HE SIZE, WEIGHT, AND BAR LENGTH of the chain saw you use for limbing and bucking are important considerations. A lightweight saw with a shorter bar is less fatiguing to wield and less prone to kickback than a heavier one. On the other hand, a heavier saw with a longer bar cuts through large trunk wood more effi¬ ciently and saves on the back since it requires less bending to make the cuts. I tend to limb and buck with the same saw I fell trees with. But there have been many times I wished for a lighter saw, and if I were less lazy I’d go get it. Having a second saw nearby is a good idea anyway, in case the first one gets stuck.


v___ 126

Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

Removing Large Branches and Those Under Pressure Removing large branches can be done in several ways, depending upon how they are positioned on the trunk and if they are under pressure. Limbs suspended in the air on the top or side of the trunk can be cut like you would a small tree—by first making a shallow, open-face notch on the compression side, followed by a back cut on the tension side (below left). Cut the remaining stub flush with the trunk. Limbs under pressure can be removed by making a shallow cut (or small notch) on the compression side (removing the saw before it binds in the cut) followed by a cut on the tension side (below right). It sometimes is easier (and safer) to cut the limb farther away from the trunk, releasing the tension in wood that is smaller in diameter, and cutting the stub off flush afterward.

Limbing the Underside of the Trunk Removing the branches from the underside of the trunk is usually done in one of two ways. One way is to cut the bottom branches last, after you have removed all the top and side branches. Do this by positioning yourself on the side of the trunk opposite the direction you anticipate it will fall, or roll, and cut off the top of the tree. At this point you may need to push or use a cant hook to roll the tree over if it doesn’t do so on its own. Keep the trunk between you and the side that has the majority of the branches as you remove them. Another method involves cutting the bottom branches as you encounter them while limbing the top and side branches. This is only practical, however, if the tree is suspended off the ground. Be prepared for the trunk to roll as the limbs you cut may be supporting ones— and ones that are probably under pressure as well. 127

Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

The “Bench” Limbing Technique The “bench” technique derives its name from the way the trunk functions as a “workbench” to support the chain saw while the limbing cuts are made. Muscle fatigue is reduced since the trunk, instead of your arms, bears much of the saw’s weight. This is an extremely efficient technique as it allows you to remove a sig¬ nificant number of branches while standing from a single position. Except for the occasional difficult limb, a steady rhythm can be maintained quite easily espe¬ cially on trees which have a uniform branch pattern (most conifer species).


While standing on the left side of the butt end of the tree rest the bottom of the saw on the trunk and position the bar below the first limb on the right side of the trunk. Cut up¬ ward using the top of the bar. (Start at the top of the tree and work toward the butt if the left side is facing downhill).

Pivot the saw so the right side of it is resting on the trunk and cut the first branch, (or several branches if close together), on the topside of the trunk using the bottom of the bar. It will be necessary to switch your left hand from the top of the front handle to the side.


Reposition your left hand back to the top of the han¬ dle while sliding the saw off the trunk. Remove the first branch on the left side using the bot¬ tom of the bar. Again, if several branches are close together cut them all as they are en¬ countered.


Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees


Slide the bar under the next branch on the left side of the trunk and cut up¬ ward using the top of the bar.


While repositioning your left hand to the side, turn the saw so its right side is rest¬ ing on the trunk and cut the next branch on top of the trunk with the top of the bar.


Finally, reposition your left hand to the top of the han¬ dle and reposition the saw so the bottom is once again rest¬ ing on the trunk. Cut the next branch on the right side with the bottom of the bar. Move forward a couple of steps and repeat the six-step process.

Safety and Performance Principles ■

To reduce fatigue, use the power head of the saw as a fulcrum on the trunk as you lever the saw bar up or down to cut the limb (especially in steps 1 & 6).

The threat of cutting your feet or legs with the chain saw increases when limbing the side of the tree where you are standing (steps 3 & 4). This is another good reason to wear leg protection.

Though it is possible to limb the underside of the trunk at the same time you perform this technique (provided the trunk is high enough off the ground), it in¬ terrupts the cutting rhythm, significantly reducing the efficiency of this method. 129

Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

The “Sweep” Limbing Technique If the tree has a large number of small branches you might consider using the “sweep” technique. As the name suggests you literally sweep, or cut, the limbs off one entire side of the trunk before repositioning the chain saw to limb another side. Like the “bench” method, you can easily develop a steady limbing rhythm before having to change your position. As can be seen in the illustrations below, the limbing is done in a zigzag pattern—limbing with a forward motion on the left side, backward across the top, forward on the right side and if accessible, backward along the bottom. The limbing cuts are made with the topside of the bar in order to maintain a smooth cutting rhythm, except perhaps when removing a larger branch or a branch under tension.


Begin by removing all the limbs from the left side of the tree as far as you can comfortably reach while standing in one posi¬ tion. Using the topside of the saw bar, remove the limbs with a for¬ ward “sweeping” motion while running the saw at full throttle. Be alert to the position of the saw bar to avoid cutting your legs or feet!


Reposition the saw so your left hand is on the side of the front handle. Remove the limbs on the top of the trunk cutting backward toward the butt of the tree using the top of the bar. Again, be watchful of the tip of the saw bar so it doesn’t make contact with other limbs, which could cause the saw to kickback.


With your left hand on the top of the handle again, limb the branches from the right side of the trunk as you cut forward with the top of the bar. If the tree is suspended off the ground you might consider remov¬ ing the bottom limbs at this time, before stepping forward and re¬ peating the three-step process. 130

Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

Basic Bucking Techniques Two of the biggest challenges of bucking trunk wood and large branches into lengths is doing it without getting your saw pinched or running it into the ground and dulling the chain. To avoid these problems you must make the bucking cuts in the right location in the wood and in proper sequence, as well as knowing a few “tricks of the trade.” The techniques and “tricks” you use will be determined by how the tree trunk is positioned on the ground. The illustration below shows where wood that is under tension and compression is typically located in a felled tree. Study the examples in the pages that follow to make your saw cuts properly. Remember, saw cuts made on the compression side of the wood will close and cuts made on the tension side will open.

Bucking Wood Supported On One End (Tension on Top) When cutting firewood-length wood from a trunk or large limb that is supported on only one end (like the large limb being cut in the illustration above), cut from the top (tension) side only. Longer log or branch sections can be made in two cuts if you sus¬ pect the wood will split from the additional end weight. In this case, make an under¬ cut on the bottom (compression) side of the log first. Go only to a depth of about 1/4 to 1/3 the log diameter to prevent the saw from binding. Finish with a cut on the ten¬ sion (top) side so that the two cuts meet.


Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

Bucking Wood Supported on Two Ends (Tension on Bottom) The illustration below shows the main trunk of the tree supported by the butt on one end and limbs on the other. This causes an upward pressure on the trunk creating a compression force on the topside and tension force on the bottom. Consider the three options that follow to deal with this situation.

Option 1: Two Cut Combo Make a top cut (compression side) about 1/3 the way through the log. Finish with an undercut (tension side) so the two cuts meet. If you want the log to release slowly and with more control, make a shallow open-face notch on the topside and leave a hinge as you make the undercut (see inset above). On smaller logs you can get by with making an undercut only.


Getting Attention

F IT IS NECESSARY to interrupt workers who are running a chain saw approach them from the front to avoid surprise or use a branch to gently tap them on the back or shoulder. When using the latter method, be careful that your attempt doesn’t scare the daylights out of them and cause an. acci¬ dent. Use a stick long enough to put your¬ self a safe distance from the operator and the saw. Never try getting a saw operator’s attention by coming directly up to them yelling or tapping them on the shoulder.


Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

Option 2: Felling / Bucking Wedge Begin by cutting from the top of the log or trunk and insert a wedge snugly into the cut as soon as room permits (hopefully this will be before the saw gets stuck). As you continue cutting downward, the wedge will prevent the saw bar from binding in the wood. It may be necessary to periodically drive the wedge in further to open the saw cut more.

Option 3: Support Log Place a small support log under the log or trunk on the side you want to support. Next, make a top cut to a depth about 1/3 the log diameter. Make the undercut at a slight angle toward the top cut so the two cuts meet. This will allow one end of the trunk to drop away from the saw bar and onto the ground (the left side in the drawing above) while the other side remains on the support log. This method prevents both log ends from simultaneously collapsing to the ground.


Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

Bucking Logs Lying Flat on the Ground The goal of all three bucking options below is to prevent the saw bar from binding in the wood and from making contact with the ground after it cuts through the log.

Option 1: Roll it Cut 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through the log, as in fig. A (or at the first sign the saw kerf is beginning to close). Next, roll the log over to complete the cuts from the other side (fig. B). If you are cutting firewood, make your cuts along the entire length of the log section before rolling it. Though you might start your bucking cut with the saw bar angled downward, make sure you level it out as you cut through the log to prevent the tip from striking the ground. You can finish the bucking cut two differ¬ ent ways. You can cut the log from the topside so that the two cuts meet. Or, as is my preference, insert the bar in the pre¬ viously made cut from below and undercut the log (as in fig. B).

Option 2: Wedge it Cut approximately halfway through the log from the top and insert a wedge snugly into the saw cut. Continue cutting, but stop periodically to drive the wedge fur¬ ther into the log. As you do this, you should be able to see the log literally lift off the ground providing the room you need to finish the cut without grounding the saw. Cut slowly as the saw bar nears and exits the bottom of the log.

Option 3: Shim it Drive a piece of wood under the log where you intend to make the cut (a wedged shaped piece cut from the end of a log works great). The wood “shim” will prevent the chain from making contact with the ground as well as lessen any compression forces on the topside of the log. A plastic wedge could also be used as a shim.


Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

Freeing a Stuck Saw Usually the quickest and easiest way to free a stuck chain saw is by grabbing another one, this time making the bucking cuts in the right place and taking the proper pre¬ cautions. Oftentimes, however, this results in two saws stuck. Then what? Well, be¬ fore you yank the handle off your saw in frustration, try one of the methods below.

The Wedging Method If the saw is pinched in the topside of the log or trunk, drive a wedge in the top, or more likely the backside of the log, with an ax or sturdy branch. You will probably have to probe around a bit for a big enough opening in the cut that will permit wedge entry. Be careful you don’t drive the wedge into the bar and saw chain.

The Shimming Method Force a piece of wood (small log, wood slice, large limb) under the log for the purpose of raising it, relieving the pres¬ sure in the compression wood, and opening the saw cut. To get even more lift it may be necessary to drive a fell¬ ing wedge between the support log and the main log. If you haven’t no¬ ticed by now, the felling wedge is an amazing tool and one you should not be without.

The Pry Pole Method Select a sturdy limb or sapling to use as a pry bar to relieve the pressure exerted on the saw. If there is enough room, place the pole completely under the log and lift up on the pole. Or, if the pole can only be partially inserted, use a fulcrum, such as a small log or rock placed under the pole, and push down. Where you position the pole (to get maximum leverage) may require some experimentation.


Limbing & Bucking Felled Trees

Measuring and Bucking Wood to Length What you intend to do with the wood from the tree will determine the length it is cut. For firewood, buck it into lengths that fit the wood stove or fireplace of the person burning the wood—16”-18” is considered standard. Use a measuring stick cut from a piece of scrap lumber or tree limb so you can maintain a consis¬ tent wood length. Firewood that is cut to the same length makes stacking an eas¬ ier and more enjoyable task. Painting the stick a bright color will make it easier to spot on the ground. I prefer to use my chain saw as a guide, at least for awhile, until I can “eyeball” the length fairly accurately. The length of my saw, less the bar, is exactly 16 inches. Of course you can use the length of the saw bar as a gauge as well. Whenever possible, I like to cut firewood to length as I’m limbing the tree while it is suspended off the ground (see page 131). This allows me to work at a more comfortable height while reducing the chance of hitting the ground with my saw. If you cut the wood to length with the log lying flat on the ground use the meth¬ ods on page 134 to avoid grounding the saw. Longer logs or trunk sections can be cut shorter so they can be moved or rolled more easily. When you do this, mark off the firewood lengths by scoring the wood with the chain saw, starting from the butt end. That way you won’t end up with an oddball piece which is too short or too long. Firewood pieces pile up and quickly become an obstacle to work around and a hazard that could cause you to trip and fall. To prevent this from happening, periodically move the wood out of the way. If you plan to use the trunk for saw or pulp logs, always begin your measurements from the most useable part of the butt end. You can do this with a tape measure (the style that attaches to your belt is most convenient) or with a measuring pole cut from a small sapling of a predetermined length—8 feet or 100” is a standard length. If you are going to dispose of the wood, simply buck it into lengths that are convenient to lift and move with the equipment you have available. In cases where the entire tree must be disposed of and re¬ moved from the site, cut the trunk iilto manageable lengths but leave the limbs attached to the trunk. Not only do they make great handles for hauling the wood, but leaving them on also helps minimize the number of trips you’ll take to the truck or wood chipper. Marking off the log. 13©


Moving Limbs & Logs “I once saw a man load a firewood log big around as a barrel by cutting it into slices right where it lay. His truck was downhill and he rolled the slices down there like huge hockey pucks, then up a plank into the truck body. Each slice was fully as much as he could handle, but he loaded them. ” —D. Cook, The Ax Book


IFTING AND MOVING limbs and logs from the work site to another loca¬ tion is perhaps the most strenuous and tiring part of the woodcutting opera¬

tion. Granted, logging equipment such as skidders, tractors, trucks, and even horses, will make moving wood much easier than if you were to do it manually. However, this equipment is not available to everyone, nor is it always practical to use. Terrain features (wet and muddy areas, hills) and site obstacles (downed trees, manicured lawns, structures) make it difficult, or impossible, to get this type of equipment to the wood. Then what? Do you just get under the load and hope you don’t pull a muscle or stumble and fall while carrying a log out on your shoulder? To some extent, this is the case. Using your body as a tool for lifting and moving wood is an unavoidable part of the job. However, the extent to which you rely on the “sweat and muscle” of your body to get the job done will depend largely on your ability to perform the manual wood-handling techniques (lifting, carrying, dragging, rolling) in a proper fashion, and on the availability of the labor-saving tools presented in this chapter. There is another aspect to wood handling, though, that requires not just muscle and machines, but your mind as well, to perform what often seems like mindless work. It involves considering alternatives and creating strategies to move wood when equipment resources and physical strength are lacking (like the guy in the quote above, loading log sections by rolling them downhill into his truck). Being creative about getting the tree out of the woods, or off the lawn, is as much a challenge and adventure as is the rest of the tree work. On the pages that follow are ten ways you can perform this work safely, effi¬ ciently, and affordably, while preventing an unwanted trip to the chiropractor af¬ terward. Back injury, by the way, occurs most frequently while performing this type of work, and is the leading cause of lost work time for tree care professionals. Again, be realistic about your physical limitations before you attempt to use any of these tools and techniques. Injury can often be prevented by simply getting help from a coworker or by cutting the wood into shorter, more manageable lengths. 137

Moving Limbs & Logs

10 Ways to Move Limbs & Logs 1. Lift it Even if you own all the fancy labor-saving tools described in this section, at some point you will bend over and attempt to lift a heavy piece of wood or other object by hand. If you don’t do it properly you could end up with a debilitating back injury.

Alternate starting position

Basic Lifting Method 1. Plan ahead before lifting. Know where you are going with the object and know that you have a clear path there. 2. Examine the object for sharp edges, slippery spots, or other potential hazards you want to avoid grabbing. 3. Squat down close to the object with feet about shoulder width apart. Test the load to see if it can be safely lifted.

Proper lifting technique.

4. Grip the object firmly and begin slowly lifting with your legs, not your back, holding it as close to your body as possible. Keep your head up as you lift while maintain¬ ing normal back posture. Never twist your body during the lift, but rather turn by taking small steps after you have stood up straight. If you are straining to lift the object, it is too heavy. Set it down and get some assistance or try another method.

End Over End Method

Wood sections that are too long or heavy to lift can be effectively moved by top¬ pling them end over end. Begin by squatting down at one end of the log. Then lift the end by straightening your legs, keeping your head up and your back naturally curved. Finally, raise the log with your arms until it is nearly vertical before giv¬ ing it a good push forward. Repeat the process until the log reaches its destination.


Moving Limbs & Logs

• Carry it Sometimes the most efficient way of moving wood and brush from the work site is to carry it out by hand. This is a standard procedure when working in residen¬ tial areas where you wish to avoid damage to property with groomed lawns and landscaped areas. Also, carrying the wood keeps it from collecting dirt and mud that can dull the teeth of the chain saw and blades of the wood chipper.

The Shoulder Carry 1. Stand the log on end, using the end over end method on page 132. 2. Put your shoulder on the balance point of the log. Tentatively lift the log to determine if it is positioned too high or too low. 3. Straighten up, using the legs, and using your arms to help lift and steady the log onto your shoulder. The log will almost lift itself horizontally into position if it is slightly back-heavy. Toss the log off to the side for easy unloading.

Two-Man Carry You can take the guess work and back work out of lifting heavy logs by re¬ cruiting another worker to grab the other end. Better yet, use two cant hooks in tandem. This provides a better grip and allows both of you to face the same direction as you carry the log. Though log tongs can be used for the same purpose, it will require four peo¬ ple to accomplish the same task (see Using two cant hooks to lift and carry logs.

page 29). 139

Moving Limbs & Logs

3. Drag it Dragging is a term with which tree workers are well familiar as they spend much of their time moving wood and brush using this method. Dragging brush, in par¬ ticular, is considered a dreaded chore by most, which can become more tolerable when the brush piles are made into easy-to-drag “sleds.” The bottom framework of the sled is formed by placing the longest and widest branches together on the ground first, with the butt ends facing the direction the pile will be dragged. Ad¬ ditional branches are tossed on the pile in the same manner. Place the smallest branches, along with debris, on top of the pile last. At this point the whole pile can be dragged away by grabbing one, or two, of the “handles” that the bottom limbs provide.

With a couple of simple hand tools, dragging logs becomes significantly easier than carrying them, as much of the weight is transferred to the ground. For that very reason it is not a good option when moving wood across landscaped yards. Smaller logs can be dragged using hand tongs (page 29). This tool allows you to grab, lift, and drag the wood with only one hand. It also minimizes how far you have to bend over in order to reach the log. Two people can drag out signifi¬ cantly larger logs by using log tongs, a larger version of the hand tongs (page 29). To some degree, all these methods can cause dirt or mud to be ground into the parts of the log or brush being dragged across the ground. To prevent dulling the saw chain (or wood chipper knives) clean off the affected area before you begin cutting (or chipping). 140

Moving Limbs & Logs

Roll it Rolling wood as a means to moving it seems like a no-brainer. Yet I am amazed how frequently people overlook this simple option. Instead, they make exhaust¬ ing attempts at lifting heavy log sections by hand, risking back injury in the process. By simply tipping the log onto its side it becomes a wheel that can be rolled with your hands, feet, or cant hook to the desired location. In many in¬ stances this is a much easier and quicker method of moving wood. The more perfectly round a wheel is the easier it is to roll—the same is true with a log. Though you can’t change the shape of the log (not much anyway), you can remove any obstructions on it that could hinder it from rolling efficiently. This is a good reason why it is important to cut limbs off as close to the trunk as possi¬ ble. Whenever practical, take advantage of slopes and roll log sections downhill. Do this in a controlled fashion, however, for a runaway log is difficult to stop, and can cause serious damage to property or injury to people. As you have seen throughout this book, the cant hook is an indispensible tool for the woodcutter. When moving logs it adds both leverage and control. Longer, banana-shaped logs, are extremely difficult and dangerous to roll by one person, as are logs being rolled uphill, or onto a trailer. Having two people operating separate cant hooks is safer and easier in these instances. In the drawings at right, two people work together to roll a large, odd-shaped log com¬ pletely over. In step 1, the first person holds the log in position to keep it from roll¬ ing backward, and losing the progress




while the second person re¬ positions the cant hook to get another “bite” on the log. In step



they alternate the the

second person

holds the log while the first person repositions the cant hook. In step 3, each person now has a fresh bite on the log and together they can finish rolling the log (step 4).

Get a second person to help when rolling large and odd-shaped logs. 141

Moving Limbs & Logs

. Log Dolly By definition, a wheel is a type of simple machine when it becomes fitted with an axle. As a result, the transportation of an object not only becomes possi¬ ble, but is accomplished with amazing ease. That is the beauty of the log dolly (and wheelbarrow and log hauler). Don’t underestimate the power and versatility of these machines for moving wood from the worksite. Best of all, they don’t cost you an arm and leg to purchase. Though several models of log dollies are on the market, the ones best suited for this type of work are built sturdily, able to han¬ dle loads up to 1,500 pounds (this is more

The log dolly in action on big wood.

than one person can move). Look for one that has a curved back, with wide, pneumatic tires (offers good flotation on soft ground), and is narrow enough to get through standard gate openings (36 inches). These are the features that make this tool especially useful when working in tight residential areas.

Wheelbarrow The importance of a wheelbarrow as a means for moving wood is best appreci¬ ated when experienced rather than described. Nevertheless, for anyone who needs convincing that the wheelbarrow is more than a tool for hauling leaves, dirt, or concrete, consider the applications for the tree cutter: 1) it can be used to haul your gear to the felling site, 2) haul out the wood you cut—firewood, short logs, brush, and when a fine cleanup is necessary, the final rakings of tree debris, and 3) used as a comfortable chair with backrest, when it’s time to take a break and admire your work (see page 28 for set-up illustration). Select a wheelbarrow (steel or poly) that has a minimum of 6-cubic foot capacity, and wide pneumatic tires. As with the log dolly, these types of tires enable it to move over rugged terrain more easily and soft ground without leaving ruts. These “machines” can support loads up to 500 lbs. Models with two front tires can support even heavier loads, provide greater stability, and allow you to move wood The versatile wheelbarrow. 142

over rougher terrain.

Moving Limbs & Logs


Log Hauler (Log Arch)

I cannot imagine being without this tool after discovering what a time, energy, and back saver it is for mov¬ ing logs over all types of terrain. Though this design has been around for centuries, it has been modernized and popularized as a tool for lowimpact logging operations in sensitive areas, where minimizing ground dis¬ turbance, and maintaining cleaner logs for sawmill operations is a concern. There are several manufacturers of this tool. Some models can move logs up to 16-inch diameter by hand or

Pull down to lift the log.

with an ATV (all terrain vehicle) weighing up to 1,000 pounds. Other models can handle 30-inch diameter logs weighing up to 4,000 pounds, that can be towed by a truck or tractor.



Here in the north country, where I live, you will likely see sleds loaded with ice augers and fishing tackle being pulled across a frozen lake to a favorite fishing hole. I prefer to use mine for hauling logs and firewood out of the woods where deep snow prohibits the use of “wheeled” equipment. Purchase one that is con¬ structed of thick polyethylene plastic that can withstand cold temperatures (-40° F) and rugged abuse when you start throwing wood into


them. Models with sidewalls help keep the load from spilling and those without sidewalls, having only a


short rise, allow you to roll the log, instead of hav¬ ing to lift it into the sled. Like the wheelbarrow, the sled provides a great way to haul your gear to the worksite, and does it surpris¬ ing well even across grass. They can be pulled by hand or towed behind an ATV. A rigid tow hitch is often used to pre¬ vent the sled from rearending



pulling downhill.

when The winter woodcutter never outgrows the need for sleds. 143

Moving Limbs & Logs

9. Winches A winch is an extraordinary tool, not only for moving sizeable logs or piles of brash, but for pulling out hung-up trees or a stuck work vehicle. It is not uncom¬ mon for us to use our winch to perform all three of these tasks in a single day. The two types of winches most commonly used for tree felling and woodcutting op¬ erations are those that mount on the front end of a work truck and run off the ve¬ hicle’s battery, and portable, gas-powered designs. Compared with come-alongs and block-and-tackle systems, winches have a much greater pulling force and can move the loads quicker and with less operator effort. Heavy-duty truck winches typically come equipped with a 3/8-inch diameter wire cable (75 feet long+) capa¬ ble of pulling over 10,000 pounds, and can be operated with a remote control switch. I had our winch mounted on a 2-inch hitch receiver, so it could be easily switched from the front of the vehicle to the rear, thereby increasing its versatility.

Generally, tree cutters are less familiar with the portable, gas-powered winches and, therefore, miss out on their incredible usefulness for moving wood, as I have recently discovered. The beauty of these winches is their portability. They can be operated anywhere a suitable anchor is available (tree, rock, etc.) and are lightweight enough to carry into the woods when your truck can’t get close to the tree—which is often. The winch I use is powered by a 2.5 HP Honda™ engine, weighs only 33 pounds, and can pull up to 2,500 pounds—double that when rigged with a 2:1 MA. Although smaller portables come equipped with a cable, this one uses double-braided rope wrapped around a capstan drum. This feature allows for unlimited rope length, unlike electric winches, which have a fixed length of cable. (See page 163 for a list of equipment suppliers). 144

Moving Limbs & Logs

ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) You are much more likely to convince your boss or spouse of purchasing an ATV if you sell them on its merits as a “tool” and not a toy. That’s what I did after a friend showed up with his “4X4,” and pulled a full length oak tree I just felled from the woods—limbs and all. The sales strategy worked so well that I am continually competing with my family for it so I can use it at work. The model we chose, and thought would be the most versatile for tree felling and woodcutting work, is referred to as a 6X6 (6-wheel drive). This







mounted on the back end of the unit which transports gear to the site, and wood and brush out. This particular model has an 800-pound hauling capacity and a 1200-pound towing ca¬ pacity. The more commonly used 4x4 ATVs are smaller, making it easier to navigate in tight areas, but just as powerful for towing logs and brush.

A workhorse on wheels.

Both styles allow you to access just about any work site and, because of the oversized tires, cause less damage to terrain than tractors, trucks, or most skidsteer loaders would. With a little ingenuity you can customize the machine to meet your specific work needs. I had mine mounted with a small “winch arm” off the rear end to raise logs and brush off the ground to prevent the ends from catching on ground debris and digging up lawns.

Other Means of Moving Wood The methods of moving wood not mentioned in this chapter, most of which were developed for a very specific work situation, could fill a separate book. For in¬ stance, much of my tree felling is done for lakeshore property owners who want to remove hazardous trees that threaten their docks and boats (and the people who congregate there). We typically fell the trees directly into the water and winch the wood on to the shore to be carried up the bank or piled on shore tem¬ porarily to be burned on the ice in winter. Sometimes the trees are felled directly onto the ice in winter where the wood is burned or hauled out by truck. In sev¬ eral cases we have towed larger trees by boat to a landing where it is more con¬ venient to load or dispose of the wood. As I stated earlier, muscles and machines are important as a means of moving wood, but it is your resourcefulness, imagi¬ nation, and creativity that will ultimately get the job done.


Moving Limbs & Logs

Loading Logs Using the “Parbuckle” Though I am ignorant of the origins of this method, I speculate it’s very old—it just “feels” like it is, as you pull on ropes and watch a massive log being loaded with only the strength of your arms. It’s this “oldness,” and simplicity, that in¬ trigues me. Since I don’t own any heavy equipment for loading logs, I use this method frequently, and am continually impressed by its effectiveness. Two important features of the parbuckle contribute to its effectiveness. First, the ramps, or skids, utilize the principle of the inclined plane. The less the angle of the ramp, the less effort is needed to move the load. Second, since the log is be¬ ing rolled up the ramp by ropes, it serves as a pulley for itself, creating a 2:1 me¬ chanical advantage. It requires only half the effort to roll the log up the ramp than if it were dragged. This method of loading logs works best on flat bed trail¬ ers without protruding wheel wells, though it can be adapted to just about any type of trailer.

Setting Up and Operating the Parbuckle 1. Anchor the ends of two separate 75 ft. ropes, or a single rope of suitable length (at least Vi" diameter), to secure stakes, or other solid anchor point on the trailer. Pass the free end of the ropes down the ramps, and under the log, then over the log, and back to the trailer from where you will be pulling. It will require two people to operate the lines. 2. Roll the log up the skids (slowly and evenly) by pulling on the free end of the rope. It is important that the skids are secure and strong enough to support the log.

The parbuckle is an old, but never outdated method of loading logs.

3. Be prepared when the log lands on the trailer by having chocks in place to pre¬ vent it from rolling on you. Leaving the anchored end in place, pass the free end of the rope under another log and repeat the process. Fasten the load of logs securely in place with straps or chains and chain binder. If the trailer doesn’t have permanent side walls, you can unload the logs by lowering them with the ropes or by simply rolling them off using a cant hook.



Splitting & Stacking Firewood Few of us today would think of wood splitting as anything but a tedious chore, but when one learns to do it well, there is a certain joy involved. Striking your axe in an exact spot, watching a log divide miraculously into segments and squares with single blows, or even learning to stack a simple pile of wood correctly, gives pleasure to the art of woodsmanship. ” —Eric Sloane, Diary of an Early American Boy

OU MAY HAVE NOTICED that several of the quotes that have appeared -L in the chapter headings have to do with axes. This was intentional. They function as a reminder of the important role the ax has played for the people who have been engaged in tree felling and woodcutting throughout history. For many, the ax (along with its cousin, the splitting maul), is an unimportant relic of the past. For others, it is a familiar friend. If you belong to the first group, I encour¬ age you to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with this ancient tool and bring a little of the past to life as you split the wood you have just cut. If you fall in the latter group, read on, perhaps you will discover something new about the art of splitting and stacking wood. I know I did, as I was researching the topic for this chapter. As for me and my family, splitting wood (by hand and machine) is a big part of our lives. Like feeding hungry teenagers, our two wood stoves (one in the house, one in the shop) constantly demand food in order to perform their duties of warming our bodies and cheering our souls. Keeping them fed keeps us busy much of the year. We fell, limb, and buck the trees in the woods and then move the wood to another location where it is split and stacked. After it has dried, we move the wood closer to the house where it is stacked once again, this time in a more accessible location. If I were to calculate the amount of effort it takes me to split the wood that comes from just one tree, and the number of times I handle it on its journey from the “forest to the fireplace,” I’d have good reason to question my sanity. No doubt, splitting wood (and stacking it afterward) is hard work—work that proba¬ bly appears like punishment to those who have never done it. In his co-authored book The Backyard Lumberjack, Frank Philbrick tries to explain his love for splitting wood, a task, he says, “that has made so many so miserable.

But the

rewards of splitting and stacking wood are hard to articulate. The simple joys and curious satisfaction derived from this work are better understood when ex¬ perienced firsthand. I have devoted only thirteen pages to a topic that deserves much more, so consider the information as merely an introduction. 147

Splitting & Stacking Firewood

Splitting Firewood There are two ways to split firewood: by hand—using an ax or splitting maul— or with an hydraulic wood splitter. It is the use of the ax and maul, however, that is the focus of this chapter, not because I consider using a mechanized wood splitter cheating, but because they are relatively easy to operate. Wielding an ax or maul, on the other hand, requires more skill and therefore, more instruction. Nevertheless, to help you decide which method best suits you and your needs, consider the benefits of each as they are presented below.

Advantages of Hand-Spiitting

Advantages of Machine-Splitting

1. Good physical exercise.

1. In most instances a faster means of splitting wood than hand-splitting.

2. Offers a quiet break from the other¬ wise noisy operations associated with tree felling and woodcutting. 3. Offers a healthy way to vent anger and relieve stress. 4. Can be as fast (or faster) as a ma¬ chine splitter with proper technique on wood that is short, straight¬ grained, or frozen. 5. Affordable with low equipment main¬ tenance (periodic sharpening or. handle replacement). 6. Easy to find storage space for tools. Disadvantages: generally slower and harder work than with machine splitter.


2. Requires less physical labor than when splitting by hand. 3. More user or body friendly (unless you place your hand near the wedge at the wrong time). 4. Sometimes the only remedy for split¬ ting logs of large diameter that have lots of knots and twisted grain. 5. Considered by most users to be fun and enjoyable to operate. Disadvantages: noisy, costly (cost of splitter, maintenance, repair, and fuel), requires regular maintenance and re¬ pair and a place to store the machine.

Splitting & Stacking Firewood

Selecting a Splitting Ax and Maul The main difference between a splitting ax and a splitting maul is the weight and shape of the ax head, and the application for which they are used. A good split¬ ting ax will have a gently tapered head that weighs between 3 and 4 pounds. I recommend using a single-bitted ax over the double-bitted variety because they are heavier (in a good way) and safer for this application. The lighter weight and shorter handled ax used for felling opera¬ tions is, for the most part, inadequate for the splitting applications presented in this chapter (except for splitting kindling and small wood). The splitting maul has a much wider head that tapers abruptly to a more blunt, rounded edge and weighs between 6 and 8 pounds. Both the splitting ax, and the maul, have a “poll,” or flat end, opposite the cut¬ ting edge. The poll functions primarily as an aid to the balance and control of the tool, not as a hammer. Though in the case of the maul, the poll can be safely and effectively used for driving splitting wedges. Handle lengths range from 30-42 inches. The longer the handle, the more force that is delivered to the wood and the farther away the cutting edge is from your leg. Traditionally, axes and mauls were fitted with wooden handles (hickory and ash) and, in my opinion, are still the best bet. Though they are more prone to breakage, wooden handles are easier to find and replace than fiberglass or plastic handles. When splitting wood that is knot-free, straight-grained, short, of small diameter, or frozen, my preference is to swing an ax. However, the ax’s primary strength (light weight) is also its weakness—it simply doesn’t deliver the punch that the maul does, which is needed to split large and stubborn wood (which is why you should own each of these tools). The splitting maul is really a combination of tools. It functions like an ax, the head resembles a splitting wedge, and it per¬ forms the work with the force of a sledgehammer. It may take more effort to lift and swing the maul, but it gets the job done with less strokes. In the pages that follow, the term “ax” and “maul” will be used interchangeably unless specifi¬ cally noted. There is a third type of splitting tool worth mentioning—the inde¬ structible metal handled “monster” maul. It basically consists of a large triangle of metal welded to a virtually indestructible metal pipe handle. Total weight: 1520 pounds (12-14 lb. head). Some swear by this tool, others swear at it. You be the judge. These are some general guidelines for tool selection, but in the end, the best way to determine which ax or maul to use will require experimentation. 149

Splitting & Stacking Firewood

3 Steps to Splitting Success It seems that you can develop a step-by-step procedure to perform just about any task—even something as simple as splitting wood. Watching someone perform this task is deceiving, however. It appears easy enough, but you soon discover that it involves much more than swinging an ax at an easy target. Instead, like felling a tree, it is an art that takes skill in order to perform it efficiently and safely. To simplify your learning experience I have broken down the work into three steps:

Step 1: Study the wood Step 2: Steady the wood Step 3: Strike the wood

Step 1: Study the Wood Studying the wood is nothing more than making a quick visual assessment of the wood to determine which end should face up and where you should strike it with your ax (or maul). Though in many cases it won’t matter which end is up (with wood that is straight-grained, knot free, or frozen), most of the time it will mat¬ ter. You can swing your ax at a piece of wood all day and your efforts will be futile if it’s the wrong end (and you’re aiming in the wrong spot). To maximize your ax delivery, look for the clues listed below that present either a target to aim for or an obstacle to avoid. ►

Split the wood from top to butt (when possible). In other words, split the end that was facing the top of the tree, not the stump. This is not always evident unless the chunks are still lying in the position they were bucked from the trunk. Another clue is to note the direction that any remaining branch stubs point that may have been left on the trunk.

Split the end of the wood farthest away from the knots. If you must split through them, strike directly through the center of the knot and in alignment with the main grain of the wood.

Split the most recently cut end of the wood. This is most applicable when splitting the ends of old logs that have just been recently bucked to length.

Other factors also contribute to the splitability of wood. Wood that has been re¬ cently cut tends to split easier than old wood. Shorter wood splits easier than long wood. The easiest and most enjoyable wood to split, is wood that is frozen (the colder the better). Splitting frozen wood allows you to use the lighter weight ax and tackle the stubborn pieces you’ve set to the side.


Splitting & Stacking Firewood

Step 2: Steady the Wood One of your wood splitting goals should be to minimize how many times you bend over to pick up or stand up wood. Since firewood has an annoying habit of tipping over (along with other pieces nearby) just as you raise your ax, it is im¬ portant to find ways to keep it steady long enough to strike it. This usually de¬ pends on whether you split the wood directly on the ground or use a “chopping block” (or more accurately termed, splitting block). The advantage of splitting wood directly on the ground is that you rarely have to physically lift it. It can usu¬ ally be tipped on end by hand or with your foot. And, if the ground is frozen or hard packed it will provide the same solid foundation that a chopping block will. One method for steadying shorter or smaller diameter wood that I’ve found helpful, is to use a crotch cut from a tree. It functions like a large hand, or prop, that holds the wood in place as it is split. The wider part of the crotch can be flattened with a saw or ax so it can dou¬ ble as a chopping block as well. Another impressive method for steadying wood, which I just recently discovered through a casual conversation with a friend, is to place the wood to be split inside an old tire (or throw the tire over the wood). The tire not only keeps the split pieces upright for re-splitting, but it also acts as a cushion for the handle, which prevents the ax head from reaching the ground (and dirt).

Three Ways to Steady Wood

A tree crotch

You will want to use a chopping block, how¬ ever, if the ground is soft or the wood is par¬ ticularly hard to split. The block prevents the ground from absorbing much of the energy delivered by the ax. Instead, the firm founda¬ tion the block provides allows all the energy to be transmitted to the wood. Select a block short and wide enough that it is not wobbly, but tall enough that it won’t split apart after a day of wood splitting (16-20” tall by 12” dia. mini¬ mum). Elm is a good choice, but so is any piece selected from hard splitting wood species. 151

Splitting & Stacking Firewood

Step 3: Strike the Wood Though the ax is willing and the wood is waiting by this time, there are a few more things to consider before you “let fly.” Position yourself at a distance that will allow the ax (maul) to strike perpendicularly to the wood surface. Keep the splitting area relatively clear to avoid stumbling and maintain good footing while you work. Always face the wood you are splitting squarely to deliver the maxi¬ mum energy from your swing. Also, if you should miss your target, this position allows the ax to swing between your legs instead of into them. Since split wood pieces (and loose ax heads) can fly 20 feet or more, make sure that onlookers are a safe distance away and coworkers are wearing the necessary PPE. Head protection and face shields may be optional, unless the employer re¬ quires them, but safety glasses should be worn to protect your eyes from wood chips or metal fragments. Wear work pants and footwear durable enough to withstand, or at least minimize the effects of any contact made with wood or ax (never split wood while wearing shorts). Check ax heads frequently to ensure they are properly secured to the handle. Refit and wedge the head if necessary.

Up to 8 inch wood (halves/thirds)

8-14 inch wood (quarters/sixths)

Over 14 inch wood (eighths ±)

As you raise your ax to strike the wood (holding it off to the side as in the draw¬ ing on page 148 or, raising it directly over your head as some prefer, page 151) take aim where you want the wood to split. If any natural seams or cracks exist on the wood surface, aim for them, while avoiding any knots. But, where you strike the wood is determined primarily by the size of the wood being split and the size you want it to be split into. A general guideline for determining wood size based on wood diameter is as follows: wood up to 8 inch in diameter should be split in half (or thirds); 8-14 inch diameter wood quartered (or sixths); and for wood greater than 14 inch in diameter split into eighths (or more). Keep in mind, smaller firewood dries faster and is lighter and less bulky to handle. On the other hand, larger pieces of firewood mean less trips to the woodpile and woodstove.


Splitting & Stacking Firewood

When splitting small diameter wood in half simply aim and strike at the center. Similarly, when re-splitting larger pieces with have been reduced in size, keep striking away at the center of the wood until you achieve the desired size. With a little practice you can get four sticks of firewood in two swings. This happens when the halved pieces remain standing after being only partially split, and the second strike splits both those pieces in half. A poorly placed second shot how¬ ever, can sometimes cause handle damage.

Splitting Large Wood As diameter increases, striking at the center of the wood becomes less effec¬ tive. Two other techniques come into play at this point. The first method, involves

striking an imaginary line

across the face of the wood (fig. A). Your first strike should be centered on the far side of the wood. Subsequent strikes are made in a line across the face of the wood, one behind the other, working toward the side where you are standing. If it doesn’t split after one pass of the ax, repeat the process (several times if necessary), striking across the same line. If the wood re¬ fuses to yield to your efforts try strik¬ ing a new line in a different location, or flip the wood over and try the method on that side. When you hear a dull “thunk” (or “hollow boom” as some describe it) after one of your strikes, it’s a sure sign the wood is about to split. After it


does, continue reducing the size of the wood by slicing pieces from the ends (fig. B) or by repeatedly splitting the wood in half (fig. C). Any time you split large, tough, and wet wood, be alert to the possibility that the ax or maul could rebound off the surface and strike you in the face or head. 153

Splitting & Stacking Firewood

Splitting Large Wood (continued) Another popular and effective technique for splitting large diameter (over 16 inches) and hard-to-split wood is by splitting off, or “peeling,” slabs from the edges until it is small enough to be halved or quartered. The diameter and shape of the wood will determine the slab thickness. The resulting shape of the wood after the first pass around usually resembles either a pentagon (fig. A) or hexa¬ gon, or if the wood is especially large, an octagon. If the reshaped piece of wood is still quite large, the peeling process may have to be repeated. This time, aim for the “points” and split off triangles of wood (fig. B). Finally, when the wood is small enough, split it in halves or quarters (fig. C).

“Peeling” the edges from large diameter wood Figure A

How to Out-Split a Machine Splitter I want to be very clear right off—wood splitting should never become a competi¬ tion or race as the heading might imply. I’m simply presenting a scenario that magnifies the merits of splitting wood by hand, while minimizing the importance that is placed on machines. First, I present the optimal conditions that would con¬ tribute to hand-splitting efficiency: wood that has straight grain, relatively few knots, and is short (16” dia. or less). And if the wood is frozen, the machine is no match. Second, and this is key to the success of the method, minimize wood han¬ dling by splitting the wood where it lays. Aim and strike any visible target that presents itself to you, whether it’s on the ground or in the pile. If a piece needs to be positioned for a better (and safer) shot, do it with your foot or ax. Keep look¬ ing for and swinging at easy targets, using your hands only when it’s absolutely necessary to move wood to expose fresh targets. This technique is frighteningly fast. It is also safe as long as you maintain good footing and use proper technique.


Splitting & Stacking Firewood

The “Unsplittables” Inevitably a pile of wood will develop that consists of gnarly, knotted, and nasty chunks that defy your attempts with the ax or maul—even the infamous “monster maul.” Assuming that you have already tried the most obvious solu¬ tion, flipping the piece over and try whacking the other side, something will have to be done with them. For the rugged (and stubborn) individualist these pieces will become objects of relentless pursuit. But for those who have other work to get done, here are a few quick (and not so quick), solutions for dealing with stub¬ born wood: 1) save them for a bonfire, 2) use a particularly large one as a chopping block, 3) bring out the machine splitter; a good



split any piece—even

against the grain, 4) wait and split the piece when it’s 40 degrees below zero, 5) use metal splitting wedges and a sledge¬ hammer (now we’re back to a not so quick solution), and 6) cut a slot along the face of the wood with a chain saw creating an opening for a maul or wedge to get a started (smarter). Just a quick word on splitting wedges. Though they possess great persuasive power (when used properly) for splitting stubborn wood, I don’t use them. Not because they are ineffective, but because the splitting maul, along with some splitting tricks (such as #4 and #6 listed above) is adequate for the type and size wood I split most frequently. Consult some of the resources listed on page 162 for a more detailed presentation of the use of splitting wedges.

Freeing a Stuck Ax Another inevitable irritation inherent to wood splitting is having your ax get stuck in the piece you are splitting. If the piece is light enough, raise it, along with the stuck ax, and strike the poll of the ax solidly against the chopping block. This is more effective than striking the wood against the block as the extra weight it provides helps to drive the ax blade deeper into the wood and split it open. If the piece is too heavy to lift, place one hand firmly on the wood and quickly push down on the rear of the handle with the other hand, and then lift up to free the ax. It may require several attempts, however, if the ax is stuck deep, or stuck in wood that is soft or wet. Because of the wide, wedge-shaped profile of the splitting maul, it does not penetrate wood as deeply as an ax, and is less likely to get stuck.


Splitting & Stacking Firewood

Stacking & Storing Firewood A neatly stacked woodpile is a work of art that serves as a visual reminder to your hard work and why your back is sore and your hands blistered. For some, the sight of stacked wood provides comfort and security against the prospect of a long cold winter. Firewood is one of those rare commodities that increases in value as the winter wears on and people run out. Then it becomes either a source of income from needy neighbors or an opportunity to be a Good Samaritan. But with all that said, the main reason to stack wood in the first place is for the same reason you split it—to allow the wood to dry faster. And stacking and protecting your wood from moisture (as opposed to leaving it in an exposed heaping mound) is the best way it can dry out. Though green wood (or partially green wood) will burn, seasoned wood is better as it is lighter and therefore easier to handle, and burns hotter and more efficiently.

Measuring Firewood If you plan to sell (or buy) firewood it is essential that you understand what con¬ stitutes a cord of wood—the measure by which it is sold. A standard cord consists of an orderly pile of wood occupying a space that is 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall and 8 feet long, or any square or rectangular configuration that totals 128 cubic feet. However, cut and split wood will pack together more tightly than 8-foot logs will and occupy less space, even though the content is the same. Because of this, state regulations that govern firewood sales based on volume allow for some wiggle room. Minnesota, for instance, requires that a cord of wood that is cut, split, and stacked neatly, occupy a minimum of 120 cubic feet of space, instead of 128 cubic feet. A “face cord,” some¬ A cord of wood before it’s cut, split & stacked.

times called a “fireplace cord,” is a smaller unit of wood than a stan¬ dard cord. A face cord measures 8 feet long by 4 feet high and to a depth that is the length the wood is cut. If for instance, the wood is cut 16 inches long, that particular face cord would amount to onethird of a full cord of wood.

The same cord after it’s cut, split & stacked. 156

Splitting & Stacking Firewood

Basic Rules for Stacking Wood There are three basic rules to follow when stacking and storing firewood: 1) pro¬ vide good ventilation to the wood, 2) protect the wood from moisture, and 3) keep the wood off the ground. First, stack the wood in such a way as to provide ade¬ quate air circulation—the key element in drying wood. The best way to achieve this is to stack the wood in narrow rows—one stick wide, with uncovered sides, and when possible, that run north and south to maximize exposure to east/west winds. Avoid cube-shaped piles where one row is stacked tightly against another. Instead, leave 2-4 feet between rows if space allows it. The second rule, protecting the wood from rain and snow, is an often neglected part of wood storage. Permanent wood sheds with open sides provide the best protection to the wood and most convenient means for storage. The wood stays dry (after it’s dry) and you don’t have to sweep snow off the top layers in winter. The easiest type to construct is one with a shed roof that is attached to an exist¬ ing building (the Backyard Lumberjack has several good design ideas). Aside from permanent structures, you can cover your wood piles with tarps, plastic, corrugated sheet metal, or even old planks covered with tar paper. Ideally the covering should be raised several inches above the top row of wood and extend beyond it in all directions. To keep the wind from carrying the cover off, pile rocks or your “undesirable” pieces of firewood on top. I’ve even seen rocks and bricks attached to ropes draped over the covering to hold it down. Lastly, stack your wood off the ground. Ground moisture is just as detrimental to the drying process as rain is. Besides, the means used for raising the wood often provides a firm foundation making the pile more stable. This is especially true when using wooden pallets. Though I’ve used small log poles (3-4 inch diame¬ ter) placed under the wood and old planks set on cement blocks to keep the wood off the ground, I think pallets perform this job best. They raise the wood 4-6 inches off the ground, allow air circulation from underneath, are wide enough to stack two rows of 16-inch long wood (with space between for ventilation), and they are usually free for the asking (check your local lumber yard, garden center, or warehouse store to name a few).

On Location In regards to where to stack your wood, author Dirk Thomas (The Woodburner’s Companion) states a simple principle, “the location of your woodpile is a compro¬ mise between your fear of bugs and your fear of carrying armloads of wood great distances in inclement weather.”4 There you have it. Woodpiles are habitat for critters who might be attracted to your home when introduced; wood is heavy and awkward to carry (but you could probably use the fresh air and exercise anyway). 157

Splitting & Stacking Firewood

Stacking Procedure Your main objective when stacking wood is to do it in such a way that the pile remains standing—even months later. Piling wood too high is the biggest cause of tippy and toppling piles. Four to five feet is a good height, and safe as well, especially if children play nearby. Cutting the firewood to a consistent length and keeping the rows plumb will also help. There are numerous ways to support the ends of your wood rows. Perhaps the most obvious and popular method is to stack the wood between two trees. Keep in mind however, that these convenient book ends shift and sway with the wind, which often cause the piles to fall even¬ tually. If your wood supply is used up quickly then this is not a problem.

If trees are scarce or too far away, consider setting posts in the ground or forming columns from the wood itself. The latter method is a required skill if you ever want to be taken seriously as a woodcutter. Begin by laying several pieces of firewood, side by side, at the end of the proposed pile. Then add another layer, usually of the same number of sticks, perpendicular to the first. Keep adding lay¬ ers, always alternating the direction 90 degrees. Keep the top of each layer as flat and level as possible. If the column starts out wobbly, it usually gets worse as you work your way up. So take your time, be particular which pieces to use by setting aside your flattest and straightest pieces for this job. When done properly, the column should be sturdy enough to be self-supporting. I lean the columns in slightly (toward the firewood) to compensate for the outward pressure that occurs when the wood is filled in between.


Splitting & Stacking Firewood

Seasoning Firewood The question I am most frequently asked by my firewood customers, aside from “hamuchacordawood cost?”, is “do you have any dry firewood?” It’s a good question to ask, because if you don’t inquire, you may end up with wet, sizzling, and smoky wood in your stove, which is probably the reason you didn’t pay much for it in the first place. Ideally, wood should be seasoned until the moisture content is about 15-25% (compared with 50-80% moisture in green wood). Wood that has a moisture content less than 15% can actually be too dry. Though the wood will burn easily and hot, it may burn so hot that you have to shut down the air supply (or else open all the doors in windows). Burning wood without an adequate air supply, creates smoke. And smoke, not moisture, is creosote—the stuff you don’t want clogging your chimney and stove pipes. However, it’s green wood, not wood that is too dry, that you should be most concerned about not burning. Not only does it produce lots of smoke and steam, but more importantly, green wood doesn’t produce the heat that seasoned wood does. Instead, most of the heat the wood produces is used up to evaporate the moisture. So, how long does it take to properly season firewood? Not as long as you might think (or have been told). If your wood is stored properly, with good exposure to drying winds and protection from moisture from the ground or rain, it will reach a moisture content of 20% in 3-4 months (or, if the wood is split small enough, as little as 2 weeks according to one U.S. Forest Service study). If you have the time to season it for an entire year that’s great, but usually not necessary. Aside from the time factor, there are some clues that the wood is seasoned and ready to bum: the wood will be lighter in weight than green wood (half as much), may have bark that is loosening or coming off completely, may have cracks or “checks” appearing on the ends, have a faded look from exposure to sun and wind, and usually has a dis¬ tinct smell. Green wood has a strong fragrance, either sweet and pleasant (as with cherry wood) or sour and nasty (as with elm). Seasoned firewood may not smell like much at all—just earthy, like wood ready to burn.

May the LORD bless you and protect you. May the LORD show you his favor'5... as you learn and labor to fell a tree.


Appendix Firewood Comparison Chart The amount of heat any given species of wood produces (measured in BTUs) is proportionate to its weight when air-dried. For example, a cord of dried hickory firewood (a stacked pile measuring 4x4x8 or 128 cubic feet) weighs almost twice that of a cord of white pine firewood. That same cord of wood also produces about twice the amount of heat than the pine. That does not mean, however, that white pine (or other species with low BTU content) should be avoided. It simply means you’ll need to purchase, or cut and split, twice the amount of wood to get the same amount of heat production as species with a high BTU content.

Wood species

Weight (seasoned) Pounds per cord

Heat produced Million BTUs per cord

‘ 4,728


Hickory, Shagbark



Eastern Hornbeam






Beech, Blue



Birch, Black



Locust, Black









Oak, White



Beech, High



Maple, Sugar



Oak, Red



Ash, White



Birch, Yellow



Elm, Red









Birch (Gray, Paper, & White)



Walnut, Black






Osage Orange



Amount of Wood Needed to Produce the Same Amount of Heat

Weight (seasoned) Pounds per cord

Heat produced Million BTUs per cord

Ash, Green



Cherry, Black



Elm, (American & White)



Ash, Black



Maple, Red



Fir, Douglas






Alder, Red



Pine, (Jack, Norway, & Pitch)









Spruce, Black



Pine, Ponderosa












Fir, Balsam



Pine, White (Eastern, Western)









Cedar, White



Wood species



Recommended Resources The following books have in some way contributed to my education and appreciation of felling trees and cutting wood. Some of the books I’ve listed give no specific instruction to modern day tree felling (Erick Sloan’s books), but I include them because they offer rich historical perspectives that may greatly enhance your enjoyment of the work. The Complete Guide to Chain Saw Safety and Directional Felling (eBook), by Tim Ard and Mike Bolin, Forest Applications Training, Inc., 2002 ww w. forestapps .com The Ax Book: The Lore and Science of the Woodcutter by D. Cook, Alan C. Hook & Co., Inc., 1981 The Fundamentals of General Tree Work, by G.F. Beranek, Beranek Publications, 1996, Chainsaw Savvy, by Neil Soderstrom, Morgan & Morgan, Inc., 1982 The Woodcutter’s Companion, by Maurice Cohen, Rodale Books, 1981 The Backyard Lumberjack, by Frank Philbrick & Stephen Philrick, Storey Publishing, 2006 Chain Saw Safety and Field Maintenance, by Kevin K. Eckert Arborist Equipment: A Guide to the Tools & Equipment of Tree Maintenance & Removal by Donald F. Blair, International Society of Arboriculture, 1995 The Tree Climber’s Companion, 2nd Edition by Jeff Jepson, Beaver Tree Publishing, 2000 ([email protected]) American National Standard for Arboriculture Operations —Safety Requirements (ANSI Z133.1-2006) Published by International Society of Arboriculture, 2006, ( A Reverence for Wood, by Eric Sloane, Dover Publications, Inc., 1965 The Diary of an Early American Boy, by Eric Sloane, Dover Publications, 1962 The Woodburner’s Companion: Practical Ways of Heating with Wood by Dirk Thomas, Alan C. Hook & Co., Inc., 2000 Arbormaster Training Series Ill-Chainsaw Safety, Maintenance, and Cutting Techniques (VHS or DVD), International Society of Arboriculture ( and ArborMaster ( 162


Equipment Suppliers The handful of companies I’ve listed below are by no means the only ones who sell tools for the tree cutter, they simply function as starting points as you investigate your equipment needs. American Chainsaws & 2 Cycle Inc. Tucker, GA; 770-934-7297

Shelter Tree Inc./Tree Care Products North Attleboro, MA; 800-720-8733

Arborwear Newbury, OH; 888-578-8733

Sherrill, Inc. Greensboro, NC; 800-525-8873

Bailey’s Laytonville, CA; 800-322-4539

We’re Not Scared Safety Supply Azle, TX; 817-237-5304 www. were notscared. com

Bishop Company Whittier, CA; 800-421-4833

WesSpur Tree Equipment, Inc. Bellingham, WA; 800-268-2141

Forestry Suppliers, Inc. Jackson, MS; 800-647-5368


Karl Kuemmerling, Inc. Massillon, OH; 888-222-6166 LogRite® Tools Log working tools (log hauler) Vernon, CT; 800-631-4791 Metro Arborist Supplies Indianapolis, IN; 877-408-7337 Portable Winch Co Sherbrooke, Quebec; 888-388-7855 (A special thanks to Christopher, with We’re Not Scared Safety Supply, for introducing me to this great tool).

ArborMaster P.O. Box 62 Willington, CT 06279 860-429-5028 Forest Applications Training, Inc. P.O. Box 1048 Hiram, GA 30141 770-222-2511 North American Training Solutions 910 Athens Hwy. Suite K219 Loganville, GA 30052 888-652-9116


Final Words By C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) “We are all like trees marked for the axe,... ”


HEN IN THE FOREST THERE IS HEARD the crash of a falling oak, it is a sign that the woodman is abroad, and every tree in the whole company may tremble lest tomorrow the sharp edge of the axe should find it out. We are all like trees marked for the axe, and the fall of one should remind us that for every one, whether great as the cedar, or humble as the fir, the ap¬ pointed hour is stealing on apace. I trust we do not, by often hearing of death, become callous to it. May we never be like the birds in the steeple, which build their nests when the bells are tolling, and sleep quietly when the solemn fu¬ neral peals are startling the air. May we regard death as the most weighty of all events, and be sobered by its approach. It ill behoves us to sport while our eter¬ nal destiny hangs on a thread. The sword is out of its scabbard—let us not tri¬ fle; it is furbished, and the edge is sharp—let us not play with it. He who does not prepare for death is more than an ordinary fool, he is a madman. When the voice of God is heard among the trees of the garden, let fig tree and sycamore, and elm and cedar, alike hear the sound thereof. Be ready, servant of Christ, for thy Master comes on a sudden, when an un¬ godly world least expects Him. See to it that thou be faithful in His work, for the grave shall soon be digged for thee. Be ready, parents, see that your chil¬ dren are brought up in the fear of God, for they must soon be orphans; be ready, men of business, take care that your affairs are correct, and that you serve God with all your hearts, for the days of your terrestrial service will soon be ended, and you will be called to give account for the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be evil. May we all prepare for the tribunal of the great King with a care which shall be rewarded with the gracious commendation, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’6


For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant. But a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he?... If a man dies, shall he live again? —Job 14:7-10,14 Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. ” —John 11:25-26 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. —Psalm 16:11

more information visit: or log-on to the links below. Quest for Joy (article): Quest: Joy! Found: Christ! (sermon): The Gospel in 6 Minutes (read, listen, or watch): Undoing the Destruction of Pleasure (sermon):

Footnotes 'Frank and Stephen Philbrick, The Backyard Lumberjack (North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing LLC, 2006), page 39. 2Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows (New York: Random House Inc., 1961), page 95. 3Frank and Stephen Philbrick, The Backyard Lumberjack (North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing LLC, 2006), page 66. 4Dirk Thomas, The Woodburner’s Companion (Chambersburg, PA: Alan C. Hood & Company, Inc., 2000), page 141. '’Numbers 6:24,26, The Holy Bible: New Living Translation 6C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evenings: Daily Readings (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), September 26, Evening.




To Fell a Tree —A Complete Guide To Fell n Tree was written for the professional tree cutter as well as the weekend woodcutter. It's loaded with practical information that is essential to the safety and success of any tree felling and woodcutting operation, whether it's in the forest or the backyard. With step-by-step methods and more than 200 illustrations, topics include preparations before the work begins, felling a tree using a three-step procedure, felling difficult trees, and limbing and bucking the tree.

You u’ill also learn: • Potential work hazards • Chain saw safety • Personal protective equipment • Protecting people and property • Making a proper notch and back cut • Felling storm-damaged trees • Moving limbs and logs • Methods for splitting and stacking wood

Jeff Jepson is a certified arborist and he has owned Beaver Tree Service in Longville, Minnesota since 1989. He has been felling trees for more than twenty-five years. His first book. The Tree Climber's Companion, was published in 1997 and sold more than 100,000 copies. To Fell a Tree is his second book. Bryan Kotwica—After attending art school, Bryan Kotwica began drawing ISBN

$18.95 978-0-615-33879-8

cartoons for the tree care industry. He began tree work in 1988 and has been an ISA certified, arborist since 1989.