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Getting Smart About Chain Saws (page 4 of 4)

by William Bryant Logan

Limbing and Bucking

Limbing and Bucking
Cut off the most accessible branches first, then reposition the stump the remove tension from remaining branches.

Felling causes a rush of adrenaline, but once the tree is on the ground, your work has just begun. Approach limbing and bucking soberly--each can produce more than just a headache.

Most kickbacks occur during limbing, the process of removing branches from a felled tree. As you travel along the trunk, often cutting amid a welter of closely spaced branches, take care not to allow the top of the saw's tip to inadvertently contact a branch near the one you are cutting.

Depending on how the tree fell, at least some limbs will be under great tension, either pinned beneath the fallen tree or wedged against neighboring trees. Remove all the nontensioned branches first, then begin on the difficult ones. Never release all the tension at once. (I made this mistake once and had eight stitches in my cheek to show for it.) You can release tension by making several shallow cuts on the tension side, and then gently cutting through from the compression side.

Bucking, cutting the main trunk into logs, requires thinking about how gravity is affecting the log, and how to release tension without binding the saw in the log. A tensioned trunk is best cut by making a shallow undercut, then cutting through from above. The undercut keeps the saw from binding as the piece comes off. Likewise, cut a trunk supported from both sides, such as on a saw horse, by first making a shallow cut above, then following with a through cut from beneath.

But what if the log is lying in the dirt? If you strike dirt, you will dull the chain. The secure method is to cut almost all the way through, then roll the log over and finish the bucking cut from on top.

William Bryant Logan is a a writer and arborist living in New York City.

Photography by Joseph de Sciose

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