1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)

Think I Scored One From Sandy: Cut from Top or Bottom?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by Mass. Wine Guy, Oct 31, 2012.

  1. Mass. Wine Guy

    Mass. Wine Guy Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    Messages:
    307
    Loc:
    Northeastern Massachusetts
    While driving home this morning from my masochistic cardiokickboxing class, I passed a beautiful downed tree in someone's front yard. I think it's either oak or maple. Certainly hardwood. The homeowner will let me cut it up and remove it (and the branches). Is it better to start with the top of a tree or the bottom? WIll I need a peavey or something to rotate the trunk? Not all of it is touching the ground.

    Thanks very much for your help.

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2009
    Messages:
    8,426
    Loc:
    So Cent ALASKA
    With out a picture, hard to say
    Normally, start at the top, limb & clear out as you go.
    I cut limbs in about 4' lengths as I go. Easier to move, less tangles & trip hazards.
    Limbs over 3" I start cutting rounds.
    If you have big limbs, cut the small ones off flush & cut into rounds as you work down.
    Cut limbs flush with the tree, no limb nubs sticking out.
    Easy to get your saw pinched, look at the load , sometimes you have to cut up up or sideways to not pinch.

    Be careful, it can roll, twist & jump when removing pieces, keep your head in the game ;)
    albert1029 and PapaDave like this.
  3. Mass. Wine Guy

    Mass. Wine Guy Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    Messages:
    307
    Loc:
    Northeastern Massachusetts
    Dave, thank you so much. Great advice. And yes, I always try to see where the pressure is on a branch or limb so when I cut it I'm not whacked in the head. As for a pinched saw, I've sure had my share. I carry copious numbers of wedges, though pre-planning is more effective.
  4. Hellfire

    Hellfire Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2012
    Messages:
    153
    Loc:
    Sunbury , PA 17801
    Sight unseen if it is a big diameter you would be wise to use plastic wedges to keep the bar from getting pinched cutting from top as it takes some feel to not get it stuck . I`m sure YOU TUBE has what your looking for. Also be careful with possible rolling of tree gotta keep your toes! I usually cut the branches out of tripping way(sides) leaving the bottom branches upholding the tree trunk giving some gap for the saw to cut. Another thing be careful with some homeowners they might sue you for damages ( lawn damage, saw cuttings you know the type) , just saying i`m not one to trust people today(it`s a shame). Good luck.
  5. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2007
    Messages:
    27,815
    Loc:
    Michigan
    I would never say a tree has to be cut from the top down or the bottom up. I make that decision only after the tree has been felled. When I think back about last winter, I'd say it was about half and half as to cut top down or bottom up. Do which ever makes it easier for you.

    A cant hook can really make the work much easier and, even if you pinch your saw you can many times unpinch it by using a cant hook. I'd hate to go to the woods without one.

    If you do have a cant hook, you can also roll the log onto some of the limbs you cut off to get the log off the ground and thereby help you in keeping that chain off the dirt.
    albert1029, ScotO and PapaDave like this.
  6. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Messages:
    1,718
    Loc:
    Northern NH
    Something to watch for is sprung limbs, the weight of the tree puts tension on them and when you cut them they can go flying with some force plus the whole darn trunk can roll. I usually do a Z cut if there is any question of tension in the branch. Also keep in mind the elm is proably urban wood complete with nails.

    Full safety gear is a must.
    albert1029 likes this.
  7. Mass. Wine Guy

    Mass. Wine Guy Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    Messages:
    307
    Loc:
    Northeastern Massachusetts
    Nails. Yeah, I'll keep a sharp eye out for them. Just from a brief glance, the tree looked to be at least 12 inches in diameter, maybe closer to 16 or 18 inches. Peak, please tell me more about the Z cut.
  8. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Messages:
    1,718
    Loc:
    Northern NH
    Hard to explain a "Z cut" in writing a lot easier to see someone doing it.

    Okay imagine you are standing in front of a log that goes left to right in front of you.

    The stump of the tree is to your left. A branch is under the tree and under compession (its holding the tree up). It obviously branches off the tree and points right.

    To start the "Z cut" cut roughly parallel to the trunk on the top side of the branch (which is under compression). The saw will be cutting from left to right. You have to be careful not to cut too far of the sawblade will pinch. This is an experience call but usually you can go 1/4 of the branch diameter on hardwoods but every species is different

    Now relocate the saw so you can cut on the bottom side of the branch. Slowly cut parallel to the the first cut about 1" lower. The saw will be cutting left to right. As you cut, the saw kerf will slowly open up and the strip of wood in the center of the branch will control the direction of the branch, and where the tree trunk will settle. If the look at the cuts the upper and lower cuts will be the top and bottom lines of a "Z', the diagonal line will be the centerline of the branch.which will slowly tear out. Its inportant to take your time on these cuts, you want gravity to do most of the work and everting to go slow motion.



    Here is a link to the USFS training for chainsaw training, it doesn dscribe the Z cut but its still a great reference.

    http://www.appalachiantrail.org/docs/sawyer/chain-saw-and-crosscut-saw-training-course-handbook.pdf
  9. Mass. Wine Guy

    Mass. Wine Guy Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    Messages:
    307
    Loc:
    Northeastern Massachusetts
    Thank you. This is great information.
  10. Mass. Wine Guy

    Mass. Wine Guy Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    Messages:
    307
    Loc:
    Northeastern Massachusetts
    Well ok. I started sawing the downed trees (two) today. I'm awful at id'ing trees, but I think they're oak. It's no wonder they came down. Some of the sections I cut have significant rot or whatever it's called when there's a wide hollow space in the middle of the round filled with rotten wood, dirt, bugs, etc.

    Some of this looks to be minimal on some rounds. Is it worthwhile to take this, split it up and get what I can? Or am I inviting insects to make a hotel of my wood pile?
  11. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2007
    Messages:
    27,815
    Loc:
    Michigan
    Just sounds like the typical tree that is rotting from the inside out. It will still make excellent firewood.
    Thistle likes this.
  12. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2009
    Messages:
    8,426
    Loc:
    So Cent ALASKA
    Id' cut it up, get the good parts split & stacked, maybe separate it from other pile until it dries.
    For some good oak in a couple years , it would be worth it for me.
    Thistle likes this.
  13. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    15,643
    Loc:
    Unity/Bangor, Maine
    When I encounter this I keep the good stuff . . . leave the bad stuff in the woods . . . or if the bucked up piece is mostly good I may haul it home and when splitting take the less desirable part and use that for my camp fires/burn pit.
  14. red oak

    red oak Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2011
    Messages:
    1,174
    Loc:
    northwest Virginia
    Probably still a lot of good in that tree. Take the firewood that is still good, if it's really punky just leave it. Bugs will leave the wood usually as it is split and dries.
  15. Fire Breathing Dragon

    Fire Breathing Dragon Member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2012
    Messages:
    82
    Loc:
    Carroll County, MD
    As others have mentioned each tree may be different. I mostly cut from the botttom up but that is because I have a small "holding" area at the house for processing wood. If I stack the larger rounds on the bottom I can lift the medium and small ones higher and pack more wood into a small space until I can split and stack it. There is no right or wrong answer here try it each way and see what works for you and your wood process flow. Good luck!
  16. Mass. Wine Guy

    Mass. Wine Guy Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    Messages:
    307
    Loc:
    Northeastern Massachusetts
    Thanks, everybody. I'll see if I can split the suspicious rounds on site, where I can then haul the slash to a burn pile. I was quite pleased with how easy it was cutting up a tree lying on the ground. One deep cut, hammer in a wedge, then finish the same cut. It helped save my chain, for sure.
  17. tcassavaugh

    tcassavaugh Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    897
    Loc:
    Southern Maryland
    my thoughts on this are you stopped and asked for the wood and asked if you could have it. they said yes, therefore you are obligated (in my opinion) to live up to the deal of taking the wood away. sometimes its not the best wood....but it ALL burns....bugs too. ;)
    jmho
    cass
  18. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    15,643
    Loc:
    Unity/Bangor, Maine
    I missed the part about this being wood from another person's property . . . this would change my opinion . . . I would pretty much feel the same as TCass . . . if you were given permission to clean up the wood and take it home I would personally take it all . . . and then decide whether to roll the "bad stuff" into my own woods, burn it in the fire pit or stick it in the stack
  19. Mass. Wine Guy

    Mass. Wine Guy Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    Messages:
    307
    Loc:
    Northeastern Massachusetts
    I suppose you're right. I should just take it all away with me.

    Turns out the wood is from two poplar trees.
  20. tcassavaugh

    tcassavaugh Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    897
    Loc:
    Southern Maryland
    aarrrrggg.....think of it as an investment of time and effort if any GOOD wood falls down in their yard. leave them with your name and number and have them circulate it among their friends. it might pay off in the long run.

    cass
  21. Mass. Wine Guy

    Mass. Wine Guy Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    Messages:
    307
    Loc:
    Northeastern Massachusetts
    I dont understand. Is poplar softwood? I thought it was hardwood.
  22. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2008
    Messages:
    6,207
    Loc:
    Carver, MA.
  23. tcassavaugh

    tcassavaugh Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    897
    Loc:
    Southern Maryland
    poplar burns well, but doesn't have a high btu coefficient if i remember correctly. its easy to split, burns well, but doesn't last long in the stove either from what i remember. i believe it is characterized as a soft wood, but don't quote me on it.

    cass
  24. basod

    basod Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2009
    Messages:
    937
    Loc:
    Mount Cheaha Alabama
    Poplar is not bad wood should season in a about a year and splits easy.
    It's plenty fine when your around the house to reload, just not great for longer/overnight burns and really doesn't coal well for relights
  25. tcassavaugh

    tcassavaugh Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    897
    Loc:
    Southern Maryland
    yeah dat....;)

Share This Page