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Felling a tree

The tree should safely hit the ground where you want it to

You’ve got a chainsaw and you’ve finally decided to cut down some of those bothersome trees in the back-40. Grab your safety glasses, a helmet, and earmuffs and analyze how you’ll follow through your project before making a cut.

John Olson is a design editor for WOOD magazine. He says the first step is to determine if the tree is leaning and would fall in a natural direction. Next, cut a wedge towards the direction you want the tree to fall.

"I usually do the bottom cut first followed by a top cut. A lot of times when I do the bottom cut I try to cut straight in horizontally, although sometimes you can come in a little bit underneath," says Olson. "And then the top part of that I’d just cut second. Usually I cut about a-quarter-to-a-third of the way through the tree, and then following that you have your back cut on the back side."

On many chainsaws, there’s a line molded into the saw on both sides that can usually tell you which direction the tree is going to fall. When you cut your wedge, Olson says to put the saw bar all the way in the cut and sight down the line for that visual.

There is no single way to fell a tree. Olson says he tailors the method by what he’s cutting down.

"Smaller trees that are leaning you can kind of get away with maybe just doing a little cut on the fall side and then just cut in from the back side. Especially if you come a little bit down at an angle, it’ll fall without much problem," says Olson. "Larger trees, it’s a lot more important to cut a wedge and take your time. Probably the hardest thing to deal with is when you cut into a larger tree and it’s hollow, because then you don’t have the structural integrity on the inside, so you just have to kind of watch when you get in."

Olson says it’s important to take your time and be aware because sometimes the tree doesn’t go where you want it to. Always have two-or-three escape routes planned if things don’t go well.

Watch this video about felling trees with Olson and Successful Farming's Jessie Scott

Find more tips for cutting down a tree and the equipment you'll need

Listen here to the radio mp3

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