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Felling wedges

Post in 'The Gear' started by wg_bent, Nov 20, 2005.

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  1. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Anybody use em? I have a 100' tall oak that is about 34" across I have to get down. The husky site shows how to do this with a smaller saw, but suggest felling wedges also.

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  2. richg

    richg Minister of Fire

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    That is a large tree, one capable of causing a fatal injury or serious property damage. The question I have is, why do you need the felling wedges? Is there an obstruction (house, power line, etc) nearby that you are trying to avoid striking? If not, cutting a wedge in the direction of the fall and then backcutting works well, but you have to be sure that the tree is weighted toward the direction you think it will go in. Felling wedges supposedly can help you drop a tree up to 45 degrees off of its lean direction, but I never had the b@lls to try it. My method, works every time, is that I have a 150 ft 3/8 stainless steel cable. I climb the tree, hook the cable around it, and then attach the other end of the cable to a secured come-along in the direction I want the tree to fall. Tighten the cable moderately, do the front wedge and a small (empahsis added) back cut, walk to the comealong out of range of the tree, and crank it down. I can drop big trees to within two feet of where I want them to land with this method.
  3. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Felling wedges work great, but they're not going to replace common sense and a certain amount of operator skill.

    Wedges are most useful for keeping the tree from settling back onto the saw as you're trying to make the felling cut. If you put them in as soon as you have room (i.e., the saw is far enough into the cut to be able to drive the wedge in without hitting the chain). they will keep the tree from rocking back on you. Then, as you get into the cut, you can start banging them in farther and hopefully push the tree over to where you want it to fall. If you're cutting a big tree, you should have some big plastic wedges.

    Having said all that, I've been felling trees most of my life and I still wouldn't cut any big tree that had a chance of hitting a power line or building or anything else of value. It's not worth it, and things tend to go wrong when you least expect it, etc. etc. I cut lots of trees in a woodlot and I use wedges most of the time. Usually the trees go more-or-less when I aim them, but it's not uncommon to have one go in exactly the wrong direction without any apparent rhyme or reason.
  4. alphahugh

    alphahugh New Member

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    Re keeping the tree from settling back onto the saw
    Exactly what happened to us and lost a good saw .We just bought a 455 rancher Husqvarna .I will follow this excellent advice in future .
  5. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Here's the tree (test post for pic)

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  6. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I'm drooling, Warren.

    Before you do anything, make sure there are no dead branches or dead trees hanging up in that tree. Falling deadwood (widowmakers) will kill you pretty quick. Clear or establish an escape route to retreat on when the tree starts to fall. It should be away from the direction of fall and at an angle. If the tree is falling at 12:00 o'clock, for example, you want to move away towards 8:00 or 4:00. That's because trees can buck straight back when the crown hits the ground, and you don't want to be in the way.

    Use several wedges and don't leave the stump area until the tree is actually falling. Keep all pets, kids and nosey neighbors as far away as possible. Make sure you have enough gas and wedges (3-4 of various sizes) to finish the job before you start. Don't forget something to drive the wedges in with. If you have a spare chain saw, keep it within reach, just in case. Wear a hard hat, ear and eye protection, kevlar chaps and steel-toed (at minimum) boots.

    There are a lot of details pertaining to felling trees that I can't get into, but I would urge you to get a book or some literature or a video on proper tree felling. The only really important thing I would stress is not to cut through the hinge (the wood between the notch and the back-cut) until the tree is on the ground. That's the only thing controlling the direction of fall. If you sever it too soon, the tree could fall anywhere. With an intact hinge, it can only go towards the notch or towards the back cut, and if you have wedges in place, it can't fall backwards. If it's rotten, of course, then all bets are off.

    Safety & common sense first. Enjoy.
  7. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    If you notice, I've cut a lot of stuff off the tree already. See the small blocks to the lower left of the tree? Those are cinder blocks. Gives you a perspective. The ladder is extended to about 25' in that pic. The plan is to hack off a few more of the top branches. I'm and experienced rock climber, so I've been using my gear to keep myself safe (don't want to get knocked off the ladder,or off the tree when cutting.) While up in the tree, I only use my electric saw. MUCH safer. The tree is a white oak. It's pretty solid right now, since it was hit by lighteining about 18 months ago. Still pretty wet inside. Once I get all limbs off the side I took the picture from, I'll drop it in the direction of the forest. The other direction is towards the house. The house is about 100' away. People around here claim that trees never grow past 60' well, I think this is closer to 75 or 80.

    So one last question here...can splitting wedges be used in place of felling wedges?

    ttyl

    Warren
  8. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I suppose you could use a metal splitting wedge, but plastic wedges are pretty cheap, ($2-$5 each, depending on the size), and they're narrower than a splitting wedge, which makes them easier to use. The problem with a wider wedge is that you might not be able to drive it in, which could be a big problem. Plus, if you happen to hit the wedge with the chain (happens to me all the time) you wind up with a ruined chain instead of a bunch of orange sawdust.

    I'm sure rock climbers get the right, good quality gear. The same life-saving principle applies tree felling equipment, IMO.
  9. rvinz

    rvinz New Member

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    I hope this is not too late, if it is I hope things went well. I operate a tree care company and have been through numerous chainsaw safety, felling classes and 17 years of experience. First off, spend the small amount of money on plastic felling wedges. Metal wedges and the working end of a saw are a bad combination. The chance of you hitting the metal and wrecking your chain and even worse getting a kickback that could injury you are not worth the risk. Invest in saw chaps for cutting as well, they maybe somewhatpricy, but you only have two legs.

    As for felling techniques, this gets much more involved. Understand with a live tree you can move it up to 90 degrees of its lean in some circumstances. This does not apply to a dead tree. If you have a lean with a dead tree you maybe able to move it some from its true lean, but you do not have the control of a living tree. Besides the wedges, in a living tree you are relying on the living tissue (fibers) that run vertically in the tree. Those green fibers are what allow you to changedirection. Leaving more on one side, while pounding wedges on the other side (ONE EXAMPLE) With a dead tree those fibers have no holding strength and the tissues that bind them together (lignon ) starts to breakdown. Dead trees you will always have less control. No matter how small or simple a tree appears, it is our company standard to put a "tag line" in the tree. This is in addition to felling wedges. I have seen people injured and killed who did not follow this standard. These were people who do this for a living, trees can be unpredictable. The goal is to take away or minimize as many of the variables as possible.

    With your rock climbing experience, not sure if that includes mountaineering or big wall, but if you have the experience of rigging a 3to1 or more block and tend the slack with aprusik or auto block, you can use this on the tag line to hold tension and not allow it to back off. This is a technique we often employ. We use an open face hinge, meaning it is shallow, but the hinge is 80% of thediameter of the tree. The hinge should have an opening of at least 90 degrees or more depending on terrain . The idea here is that the hinge never closes, until the tree is on the ground. If the hinge were only 45 degrees for example the hinge would close when the tree is half way to the ground. As soon as the hinge closes the fibers all break in the hinge. At this point you no longer control the tree it can kick to the side or if it is up slope or another obstacle is in the direction if the fall it may land and kick back. We will often use a hinge of 110 to 120 degrees to make sure the hinge stays intact to the ground. This greatly reduces the chance of the tree moving from side to side or back at you. On larger trees we use a bore cut for the back cut. Boring in behind our hinge and setting it (meaning the size of the hinge on each side). You typically will want more hinge on deadwood versus live wood. Hinge size is alsodi ctated by species. We then would open up the bore cut to allow for wedges to be inserted. This whole time we have never cut the wood fiber opposite the hinge (meaning we do not cut from the back side toward our hinge. Once you cut that tissue you have lost the ability to be in control of when the tree will fall. Then we back the bore cut out to finish the felling cut. Always have a route planned/cleared to move away from the tree. Typically at a 135 degrees angle from the targeted fall line. You want it clear of all debris so you can back off while watching the tree. Never take your eyes off a tree when felling. You want to be able to react.

    These are some of the basics, we typically target sending our crews including myself through training every two to three years and we do in-house training twice a year. So it is not possible to cover everything in a message like this. Felling is one of the most dangerous jobs out there. Logging and tree care rank in the top 10 most dangerous jobs annually.Logging is in the top three almost every year for injuries/deaths. Statistically it is people in there first couple years on the job or after they have been working for 20 years or more that are most likely to be involved in accidents. I'm not afraid to stay I don't know everything and hire a professional for a job that is above and beyond my ability in other professional areas. So if you are unsure or lack the skills/ability hire someone that doe to put it on the ground. I have had customers do this frequently, typical service call charge of $50 to $75 to put the tree on the ground and they can take it from there. Price will vary depending on region of the country and how involved it is. Better to live to fight another day.
  10. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    No too late. Nice post. I appreciate the effort that went into it. I got hold of a big come-along. I'll get some heavy rope, and I'll attach it high up and add tension as I cut. I appreciate the suggestion on the wedges. Kinda like push sticks with table saws. The plastic ones just get cut rather than thrown back in your face. I've been looking for them and no one knows what they are. Will have to mail order some. This tree, while dead, is super wet still, and the branches I've cut react like green wood. Still, thanks for the point on cutting dead vs live trees.

    I'm in no hurry on this tree, but I would like to get it down sort of soon. It will heat my house for a couple years all by itself and I don't have to move the wood more than 100 ft for splitting. How often do you have that situation?

    ttyl

    Warren
  11. richg

    richg Minister of Fire

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    Warren, RED ALERT, RED ALERT. I am concerned that you are using rope to fell this tree. A come along can exert tremendous force, and rope, unlike steel cable, stretches. If the rope breaks, it can snap back at you and cause grievous injury. I saw a video from the late 1970's of a big tug of war at a picnic....the rope snapped, and took fingers off the first few people on both sides. I use a 3/8 steel cable to pull trees down.
  12. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Hmm...I think if I'm exerting that much force on a tree in order to direct it the way I want it something is wrong. The come along is really only to remove slack and place tension on a rope, not really pull a tree down. I'd sure rather have a rope snap than a steel cable. If a tree is leaning so far that I'm not generally 99% or better confident in the direction I can drop it, I won't touch it. In the past I've used rope more as an insurance policy, and my general technique is to tie trees that are perfectly straight up and down to other trees. Once cuts are made I pull on the rope to get them moving in the right direction. Usually these have been small trees...less than 8" diameter.

    I've cut a lot of trees, and have always had good luck with using ropes this way. Steel cable while nice in that it is less stretchy may actually pose a problem. If a tree starts to go the wrong way, a cable hits it's end much more abruptly than rope would and tend to snap violently. This is why shipping does not use cables for tying ships to piers. It's ONE of the reasons why rock climbers use rope's not cables (There's lots of other reasons for using ropes in climbing too, this is just one reason) Also, how do you create the loop around a tree? You can't tie a knot in cable.

    I think I'll stick with rope.

    Sure would be glad to hear other opinions if any one has one out there (there's an invitation eh?)

    Warren
  13. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I would use either a rope or a cable as a safety net, so to speak. I think it's always best to fell the tree the way it wants to go, if at all possible, using wedges to fine-tune the process. The rope or cable should be there to stop it if it tries to go in the wrong direction, so you shouldn't have to put that much tension on it, and not for very long. Any time you introduce a complicating factor, such as a rope, you increase the odds that something will go wrong, but it's probably prudent in some cases. Just remember that whatever you do, don't cut the hinge until the tree has hit the ground. It's the only thing keeping the tree from becoming a loose cannon, rope or no rope.
  14. KarlP

    KarlP Feeling the Heat

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    And do you have any idea what happens when that steel cable snaps??? If you want to be safe use chain. When it breaks it looses (almost) all of its energy and falls (almost) straight to the ground instead of going flying like either rope or cable.

    I personally like to stretch rope a little bit to help pull the tree over for the first few inches. With chain or cable the tension disappears as soon as the tree moves the slightest bit.

    Disclaimer: I'm assuming the OP is using the appropriate weight rope. IMHO, cranking 400lbs of tension (or getting 3 people to pull) on a 5/8" double braid or 3/4" three strand twisted rope to ensure the tree goes in the right direction is pretty safe. Cranking 4000lbs of tension on a 1/4" three strand twisted nylon rope is obviously very stupid.
  15. KarlP

    KarlP Feeling the Heat

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    Oops double posted.
  16. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Wow, interesting. What I think really killed this tree was the loss of bark. During a bad storm, I was sitting on the couch doing some work on the computer (all wireless) when I thought my pool got hit. Next day I went to inspect the damage and found that the bark had been blown off 3/4 of the tree from the ground up to 20' high. Sounds similar to your deal Steve. I've already been all over the WoodNet forums to see if it's worth harvesting for furniture grade wood, as my other hobbie is making furniture. I got lots of replies...Use it to heat your house with...So...here I am.

    Warren
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