Gardening Articles :: Landscaping :: Trees, Shrubs, & Vines :: National Gardening Association

Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Trees, Shrubs, & Vines

Getting Smart About Chain Saws (page 3 of 4)

by William Bryant Logan


To start with, never try to fell a tree that has a trunk diameter greater than the bar length of your saw. Look before you cut. Make sure there is room for the falling tree, so that it won't bounce off or get hung up in any other tree, or come close to power lines or your neighbor's roof. Also, check the lean of the tree to make sure it is not tending away from the direction in which you want it to fall, and clear away any underbrush and low-growing branches. Logging is this country's most dangerous occupation, and a major reason is loggers cutting in tight stands that drop trees against other trees, which in turn drop heavy branches right onto the loggers.

There must be room not only for the tree to fall, but also for you to get away. Make sure of a clear escape path at 45 degrees to both sides of the fall line. If there's no clear path, make one, cutting away brush as needed. Once the tree begins to fall, exit quickly and calmly along one of these paths.

To make good on all your plans, however, you need to make cuts that will direct the tree to fall where you want it to. The keys to directional cutting are an open-face cut that will allow the trunk to fall gently toward the ground, and a hinge that will control the rate and direction of the fall.

Start the open-face cut by making a steeply angled slice downward, no more than a quarter of the way into the trunk, on the side toward which you want the tree to fall. Finish the face with a shallower angle cut upward, until it meets the downward cut. Face cuts used to be made at 45 degree angles, but a 90 degree open face--a 65 degree top cut and a 35 degree bottom cut--is better for controlled felling, since the top of the tree will hit the ground before the trunk breaks free of the hinge.

Next, move to the opposite side of the tree, check your escape paths, and begin to make the felling cut. It should enter straight and level, parallel to the ground, at or just above the level where the two parts of the face cut meet. The felling cut should stop 1 to 1-1/2 inches before it meets the face cut. This line of uncut wood--the hinge--is now all that holds the tree up. If there is any lean at all in the direction of the fall, the tree will fall of its own accord. If not, encourage it by driving one or two plastic wedges (available from your saw dealer) into the straight cut.

At this satisfying moment, you shout Headache!" and escape, watching the tree fold gently to the ground.

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