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Steps to successful tree felling

Updated: Jan 13

Falling trees is an art. An old school faller can drop a big tree to a certain spot with amazing accuracy. All kinds of bad things can happen when a tree falls the wrong way. Gets hung up in another tree, maybe one you don't want to fall. Falls in a way that will make it very hard to yard to the landing. Falls on rocks smash and destroys valuable wood. Falls on something valuable or kills somebody. And a lot of bad things can happen as you cut down the tree, like hitting a big rotten spot inside the tree, splitting, maybe killing the faller. Once the tree is down, other guys can limb and buck it up, and get it hauled away.



1. Plan ahead When it comes to tree removal by using a chainsaw, preparation is key. If you plan the felling and which forestry equipment to bring, not only are you in for a safer working session, but your post-felling work can also be a lot easier. First of all, ask yourself if there are any major obstacles in the area. Deploy warning signs if you know that a road crosses the forestry area or that a lot of people pass by on a daily basis. 2. Check the felling direction Continue by determining the felling direction by carefully studying the tree. How do the branches look and how do they grow? Also, take the wind direction into consideration. If you’re unsure of the tree’s natural direction of fall, step away from the tree and check with a plumbline (see fact box for details). Clear around the tree in the intended felling direction. Also clear about 45 degrees behind the tree in both directions, creating your path of retreat. 3. Prune the trunk When you have cleared the area, put up your warning signs, and decided on the tree’s direction of fall and your path of retreat. You should check that you have enough fuel in the tank for the task ahead. Then it’s time to prune the trunk to get rid of all the branches and twigs that might get in the way when sawing the felling cut. 4. Decide on the cutting technique Once the trunk is twig-free up to shoulder height, it’s time to make the felling cut. When doing this, it’s important to remember two things: the hinge should have a uniform thickness with the right dimensions and the felling wedge or breaking bar should be inserted before the tree can pinch the guide bar. Which technique you should use for making the cut depends on the tree size and slope, and on the size of your chainsaw. 5. Check for diseases If you notice that the timber is discoloured and soft or if the lower part of the trunk looks swollen or diseased, you need to be very careful. This is an indication that the tree is infested with rot and that means the wood fibers are weakened. When this happens, fell in the tree’s natural direction of fall and use a winch if you are unsure. Rot infestation usually subsides higher up in the tree, so one option might be to fell the tree with an extra high stump. 6. Choose your tool There are several felling tools to choose from when taking the tree down. The size of the tree determines which type of forestry equipment you need. For the smallest trees, you do not normally need the felling tools. Hand force is enough, possibly with the help of a long pole. The felling wedge provides greater felling force than the different types of breaking bar. In extreme cases, you can use a rope and a winch, which is the safest and most powerful way to fell a tree.



How to estimate the height of the tree

  1. Hold a stick with your arm stretched out straight in front of you so that the stick length is equal to the distance between your eye and your hand and with the stick held vertically so that a right-angled triangle is formed between your eye, hand, and the top of the stick.

  2. Point at the tree and stand at a distance so that the tree appears to be as tall as the length of the stick. If the tree is leaning you get a more accurate result if you measure from the side, so that the tree is neither leaning towards you nor away from you.

  3. The distance between you and the tree is now equal to the height of the tree.

How to measure the lean of a tree with a plumbline

  1. Aim the plumbline towards the top of the tree trunk.

  2. Measure the distance from the plumb line’s point of impact to the center of the trunk.

Felling tools

  • The foot breaking bar is suitable for small trees when thinning. Insert the tool before completing the felling cut and stand with all your weight on the lever arm. The breaking bar is generally telescopic and can be carried in a holster on your logging belt.

  • The breaking bar is used on relatively small trees. To maximise the lifting force, you insert the tool – before completing the felling cut – in the middle of the felling cut at the very back. Lift with your legs and keep your back straight.

  • The impact bar is used in the same way as the breaking bar, but can also be used as a striking tool when using felling wedges.

  • Felling wedges are best for medium to large trees. They are inserted before the felling cut is completed and knocked in with an axe or an impact bar. Always use wedges made out of plastic or aluminum, so that you don’t risk damaging the chain if you accidentally cut into them.

  • A winch is used in situations where you need maximum force and safety. The wire is attached as high up in the tree as possible for maximum effect.

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