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Tree Cutting Lessons Learned

Post in 'The Gear' started by ChrisN, Jan 6, 2008.

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  1. ChrisN

    ChrisN Feeling the Heat

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    So I have this Ash tree behind my house. It's a pretty mature tree, probably about 70 feet high. It is suffering from the Ash Borer and has not leafed for a couple of years, so I decided to take it down. I thought I had the fall line figured pretty good, and notched it and then proceeded to cut the back hinge. I should have realized I screwed it up when I was pretty far through on the hinge cut and the tree wasn't falling, but I missed that sign. Anyway the tree leaned the wrong way, and pinched my saw. I mean that tree leaned back and closed right up on my saw.

    I thought about asking my neighbor to lend me his saw, I thought about calling my woodcutting buddy and getting his ropes and pulley's over to haul the tree down... But in the end I got out a wedge and my sledgehammer. There was a tiny sliver of an opening on the backside of the tree that after several tries I was able to get the tip of the wedge in, and then I just wacked away, driving the wedge into the tree. To my amazement, the wedge tilted the tree enough to first, free the saw and then I kept hitting it in and it eventually caused the tree to fall exactly in the intended direction. I mean this tree must weigh several tons and one small wedge and a sledge hammer tipped it over. I've got to tell you, I am sold on the usefulness of wedges now. I'm picking up a couple of felling wedges before I take down another tree.

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  2. DiscoInferno

    DiscoInferno Minister of Fire

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    The center of mass of a straight-up, symmetric tree will not be over the notch (if done correctly), but in fact over the back cut. So if it goes anywhere on its own, it will be the wrong way. Wedges are indeed your friend. I don't think any tree of decent size without an obvious lean should be cut without them handy.
  3. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    The old rule of thumb is never cut a tree within two tree lengths of any building, power line or anything else of value, wedges or no wedges.

    A lot of guys will try to anticipate when a tree is likely to set back on their saw, and they put the wedge into the cut before it can. Then you can just tap the tree over when the time is right. There are times when I forget to do that--or don't bother--that I wish I had. I carry a spare saw in the truck but it's like a nuclear weapon or insurance--you may need it, but you just hope to hell you never have to use it.
  4. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    There are alot of other factors involved in felling that need to be taken into consideration . Such as soundness of tree, shake, side lean, size of hinge, the point at which your backcut is made,not bypass cutting your notch, and how level your hinge is made are very important but just a few considerations. Unless you have good homeowners insurance or are very experienced I would recomend NOT trying this at home. Search You Tube for tree felling mishaps. You would be surprised.
  5. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    In addition to being extremely dangerous.
  6. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    For many, many moons we make a game of it. Put a small stake (tree branch will work) in the ground about 15-20 feet from the tree. Now drive that stake into the ground....with the tree that you are felling. Over the years we've had a ball with this. I've missed only once that I can think of.

    I might add that you sometimes have to be extra special cautious when felling an ash. Those suckers will split pretty darned easy. I once watched a fellow cut one and he had to walk about 50 feet to retrieve his saw!
  7. woodconvert

    woodconvert Minister of Fire

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    Yeesh. I did the same damn thing with a big fat hedge row oak and my BRAND NEW 046. Yeah, it was a guarantee the was going to fall into the field...till it didn't. It took two pickup trucks to pull it over. When it went half the hinge was punky so it rolled and just nipped my saw. It needed a new compression release and some covers but that was it. Luckily it was in a field though, nowhere near a house or powerlines.

    It creeps me out to A) see the gap close up on a bar and B) see the chips go from hard to dark and punky.
  8. zzr7ky

    zzr7ky Minister of Fire

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    All good advice above.

    I like wedges very well, I keep one in my back pocket and sledge at the ready. However, in smaller trees and sloppy conditions I've been using a "Tree Felling Lever" from Northern Tool I think it was $40 delivered. It's like a 30" pry bar with a 3/8" thick wedge at the end. Slide it in the kerf as soon as you can and lean on the lever handle once the hinge is looking good. It also has a small cant hook on the back that I've used to roll logs or even twist lightly hung trees free.

    I would not give up my wedges in favor of the lever but it is handy. I also have a couple yellow saws hidden in the truck 'just in case'.

    ATB,
    Mike
  9. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    My 'persuader' doesn't fit in my back pocket. I have a John Deere 350B dozer with a logging winch on the back. It's a certifiable antique, but if I put a chain around the trunk 30 feet up and attach it to the winch, the tree isn't going to fall backwards at the very least. I've done lots of experimenting to see how far away I can go from the tree's natural lean. Directly opposite is easy, angles near 90 degrees are hard. A major variable is how much hinge I leave before getting serious with the winch. Too much or too little and the hinge snaps before the tree has moved far enough to be fully committed to the desired direction.

    Took down a bunch of poplars with trunks in the 32-36" diameter range that were uncomfortably near the house and leaning in various wrong directions. A bit nerve-wracking, but all of them hit the ground within a few feet of perfection. I think I would have driven only two stakes out of six trees, though.
  10. They Call Me Pete

    They Call Me Pete Member

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    Me I like to strap on the spurs and saddle and takem' down for the top. I wedge over almost every tree that remove but I'm usually experimenting with them.
  11. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Pete, you can have those spurs. I gave mine away many, many moons ago. Hated them. However, I do have a handy gadget that is no longer sold, called a Safety Cinch. Works like a charm and I can just hang from the tree if I need to while trimming.
  12. Ken45

    Ken45 Minister of Fire

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    LOL, good stories and I like the "two tree lengths rule" :)

    Reminds me of a book I read by a long time seasonal firefighter at Grand Canyon ("Fire on the Rim"). They had lots and lots of experience felling burning snags, hopefully in the right direction where it would spread the fire the least.

    One day they needed to take down a dead tree that was a hazard in the campground. No big deal, they were experienced and figured where it would land. They started cutting....

    The tree went 180 degrees from where they wanted and landed on a tent (thankfully unoccupoied!)

    Of course, we have to respect "Murphy's Law of Selective Gravitation" (things will fall where they will do the most damage.)

    Nofossil, I like your "persuader". I need one!

    Ken
  13. wally

    wally New Member

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    did you have that verified by, say, the forest pest specialist in your region? i only ask because most of the data points only to the ash borer having reached PA, rather than CT. if it has reached CT, it would be important to get that information out there. but that would need verification by either the state forest pest/pathologist or a usda entomologist.
  14. loggie

    loggie New Member

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    Wedges are your best friend,I use 3 or even 4 on big trees,sometimes if the tree is really heavy they can spit out.Here is a trick I use on trees that may want to go over backwards,but its not for inexperienced cutters.Cut the notch no more than 1/4 of the trunk deep,now you need a big saw for this part,(I use an 066)at full throttle plunge the saw strait in behind the notch and slightly above making sure to leave at least a 1" wide hinge,now saw back away from the hinge but stop when there is still 2 or 3" of wood left now pull the saw out.The tree is held by the hinge and the wood left on the outside,now take 2 wedges and drive one on each side parallel with the hinge and make sure there in solid now saw in from the outside thru the remaining 3" of wood and add one more wedge 90 deg to the hinge in the center and drive each one in order the tree will follow the hinge down.It takes a little practice to keep your cuts strait and level but you will never pinch your saw if done correctly.This works best on larger trees
  15. ChrisN

    ChrisN Feeling the Heat

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    Wally, I might have mispoken, I had my nephew who is a U.S. forestry guy (actually working up in northern NH and VT) look at the tree and he was skeptical that it suffered from the Ash Borer too. I have several Ash around my property and many of them are dying. The nark flakes off and the crown has no leafing. I may have jumped the gun sayimg it was caused by the Ash borer.

    Chris
  16. Como

    Como Minister of Fire

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    I had the same problem, started going the wrong way, winds here can top 110 mph, fortunately I had a calm day.

    Solution, got the guy who cleared our snow over with his backhoe, a gentle swipe and it was where it should have gone..

    BUT I have 4 larger trees to do, all a few feet from the house, I learnt my lesson on this one, but have found no good local arborists. It is not something that you would need around here. Somebody suggested tracking down the guys who work for the local Power Company. I think they need to be taken from the top down, some are leaning over the roof.
  17. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Agreed on the need for calling in the pro's on the "Danger Trees" - I've dropped maybe a couple dozen trees now (which is nothing for a pro I agree) and while I've never had one go significantly far from where I expected it, that's mostly because I only drop the ones I feel comfortable with, in the direction I think they want to go... I don't claim to be able to predict them to within more than 10-15* though, so if I have ANY doubts, and the tree is in a place that a bad prediction is likely to result in more than a bruised ego, I call the pros.

    One thing I had good luck with though, and have heard works in many places, is that if the tree is potentially near utility lines, calling the power company and asking them to send a crew out to trim them, with a request that they really cut them back hard, and / or drop anything that looks dropable, will get a lot of cutting done for free - I had about 6 trees that I was wanting to deal with but that I considered "danger trees" - called the power co, they took one down, and trimmed another to the point where I could drop it myself safely - still had to call a pro for the other four, but still figured it saved me a couple hundred bucks. Only downside is they like to run everything through the chippers, even though I said to leave it; I got some wood left, but I'm sure they chipped a bunch of stuff that I would have burned.

    Gooserider
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