Dangers of "leaners"

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Kenster

Minister of Fire
Jan 10, 2010
1,705
Texas- West of Houston
I'm always reading about how dangerous it is to cut leaning trees. "Widow makers" is a term often applied to them. What is it that makes them dangerous? At what angle does it become dangerous? I'm not challenging the claim that they are dangerous, just trying to learn about them in case I ever come up against one.

I watched a really nice, big, straight oak tree lean for months. Further and further until one day I saw it on the ground. "Score!!"

Thanks!
 

midwestcoast

Minister of Fire
Oct 9, 2009
1,745
NW Indiana
Well there are leaners that are either cut or broken & hung-up in other trees or leaners just leaning over, but still self-supported. Hang-ups are tough to deal with without a winch or pull vehicle to drag the butt end out to bring it down. Most resort to cutting a few feet above the stump which lets the the whole thing drop a few feet & may free it (often not) and may also get you killed if the stump kicks out toward the sawyer or if a limb comes down on your noggin.
Leaners that are free-standing are not too bad as long as 1. the direction of lean is a safe place to fell them so you don't have to try to work against the lean and 2. the angle of lean isn't so great that it's putting strain on the lower trunk. If it's leaning too far it can split up the trunk when you go to cut it resulting in what's called a "Barber Chair". Plug that into YouTube & you'll see examples. Basically all heck breaks loose!
 

gzecc

Minister of Fire
Sep 24, 2008
4,612
NNJ
Kenster said:
I'm always reading about how dangerous it is to cut leaning trees. "Widow makers" is a term often applied to them. What is it that makes them dangerous? At what angle does it become dangerous? I'm not challenging the claim that they are dangerous, just trying to learn about them in case I ever come up against one.

I watched a really nice, big, straight oak tree lean for months. Further and further until one day I saw it on the ground. "Score!!"

Thanks!
Unpredictability!
 

CarbonNeutral

Minister of Fire
Jan 20, 2009
1,132
Nashoba Valley(ish), MA
One I found:


Maybe a barber chair in there, but definitely an example of utter stupidity - hangers, multiple trees and saws at the same time, and beer.
 

CTYank

Minister of Fire
Sep 28, 2010
1,031
SW CT
Kenster said:
I'm always reading about how dangerous it is to cut leaning trees. "Widow makers" is a term often applied to them. What is it that makes them dangerous? At what angle does it become dangerous? I'm not challenging the claim that they are dangerous, just trying to learn about them in case I ever come up against one.

I watched a really nice, big, straight oak tree lean for months. Further and further until one day I saw it on the ground. "Score!!"

Thanks!
"Widow makers" means limbs/branches above you, not necessarily on the tree you're felling, that can come loose, and kill you. No real connection to "leaners." Because of such threats from above, it is strongly advised, or required, by many to watch what's happening above.

Some of the dangers in felling trees (like "barber-chairing") relate to habitat and species more than anything else. Meaning, forest-grown trees grow taller than open-grown, and are more susceptible to splitting up the stem. Because of such risk, "boring cuts" are being advised for the back-cut (felling cut) when such a risk exists. Many videos available. No matter, you never stand directly behind the butt; rather, at a 45 deg angle from there.

Re leaners, you learn that there's only so much you can safely do to fight gravity.
 

smokinj

Minister of Fire
Aug 11, 2008
15,980
Anderson, Indiana
Biggest problem I see with leaners is you dont know when it will fall and just wear you should cut it....Good rule of thumb is just walk away why you can!
 

Wood Duck

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2009
4,790
Central PA
It all depends how much the leaner is leaning. I find trees that lean enough to give them a distinct direction of fall a lot easier to fell than perfectly vertical trees. Too much lean is bad, but a little is helpful.
 

Battenkiller

Minister of Fire
Nov 26, 2009
3,739
Just Outside the Blue Line
The very last tree I ever cut was a 16" or so cherry tree that was leaning way out over a small ravine. Looked like an easy cut to this idiot. No notch, just let it fall the way it wanted to.

:ahhh:

Everything went well until I reached the pith. Next thing I know I'm standing 20' away with my saw stuck in the cut. It split way worse and ten times faster than that one in that first video. It sounded like a lightning strike and was just as fast. I was damn lucky I didn't have my face hanging over that cut. Maybe 40' split right up the middle. Made the splitting easier but :bug:

I never heard the term "barber chair" back then, but I knew instantly what had occurred. All that stress in the wood was instantly released the moment I reached the middle of the trunk. I vowed to buy all my wood in logs or already cut and split thereafter. I'm gonna climb back on that horse, but not before I take a professional safety course. I kinda like it here so I'd like to stick around for awhile longer.
 

billb3

Minister of Fire
Dec 14, 2007
4,665
SE Mass
The 'danger' in hung up leaners is the unpredictability with just about all methods employed in getting it the rest of the way down.

I had an oak tree that took me most of a day to get out of a tangle of hemlocks.


I've always used the term 'widowmakers' to branches up in trees that aren't always obvious.
They can come down any time but usually it's a puff of wind.
 

lukem

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2010
3,668
Indiana
Good friend of mine got killed trying to take down a leaner that was hung up in another tree. This was a guy who had been cutting trees for 30 years too.

I don't touch a tree that is leaning hard for fear of a barber chair, and won't even consider cutting the tree that is holding up the leaner like in the video above. If my saw got pinched like that I would remove the powerhead and sacrifice the bar. Its not worthy dieing over.

If we hang up a tree we'll hook a chain to the butt end and give it a tug with the tractor opposite the direction of the lean. If it won't slide down then we'll let nature take its course (wind usually knocks them down unless they are wedged).

You can't be too careful and you really have to take a stance of you can't be careful enough, IMO.
 

northwinds

Minister of Fire
Jul 9, 2006
1,452
south central WI
That first barber chair video is scary. I've got a big oak I'd like to take out in my nearby woods,
but it's already split in the manner of a barber chair to-be. Think I'll resist temptation and let it
fall naturally when it's ready.
 

CTburning

New Member
Nov 9, 2008
224
Western CT
My back yard is a very steep slope and all the trees grow south towards the house because of the sun. Old growth Oak with few holes in the canopy so some of the trees have a severe lean. I've cut a few of the oaks that had a severe lean and it is amazing how quick they go down with no warning. A very loud crack but I swear the tree moves faster than the sound. If anything were to go wrong as for an example a barber chair; It would be over before you had a chance to react. Usually when a straight up vertical tree goes down you hear a crack or see the tree start to move which gives you a little warning. A leaner goes straight down. Oak has less chance of a barber chair than douglas fir but you are dealing with tremendous stresses. I had one earlier this year. I cut my notch a small back cut and then got just down right scared of it. I knew it was about to go and I was on a steep hill. I grabbed my 100' of rope and my come along and tied it off pulling it in the direction it was going to fall. It took a little while but she came down with me out of the way.
 

Backwoods Savage

Minister of Fire
Feb 14, 2007
27,812
Michigan
Kenster said:
I'm always reading about how dangerous it is to cut leaning trees. "Widow makers" is a term often applied to them. What is it that makes them dangerous? At what angle does it become dangerous? I'm not challenging the claim that they are dangerous, just trying to learn about them in case I ever come up against one.

I watched a really nice, big, straight oak tree lean for months. Further and further until one day I saw it on the ground. "Score!!"

Thanks!
The best thing one can say here is that if you have no experience with cutting "leaners" then don't.


As for the videos.....Wow. The split tree is something that most loggers have had at one time or another and it very often happens with rotten or partially rotten centers of the trees. However, you will find the easiest trees to split like that are white ash. I had one do that to me just a few years ago. It was a tough cut because of how it grew and the other small trees that were so close to it. I told my wife it might split and to stay way back. She did. It did.

And it was really hard to believe that not only was that guy doing things backwards by cutting that tree with a leaner on it, but he was also down on his knees! Yes, he did stand up later but methinks this guy really did not know what he was doing. And then the guys mostly hollered at him with the saw running fast. When it was at idle it seemed the other guys were just talking to each other. The saw speeds up and they holler. Nice crowd...
 

golfandwoodnut

Minister of Fire
Best bet with a leaner is to use equipment to push it down or pull it down (like my bobcat) or use a come along and pull it down from a safe distance. I like to use a chain and pull the butt end if a push will not do the trick. As said earlier this is not technically what they call a widow maker, although it can be one, a widow maker is dead limbs that can fall on you. I have a huge Oak that has been half dead for as long as I have lived on my property. I would love to cut it down, but scared to death of the dead limbs hanging up above. Better to go after the easy ones.
 

fjord

New Member
Aug 17, 2010
196
N.H.
GolfandWoodNut said:
Best bet with a leaner is to use equipment to push it down or pull it down (like my bobcat) or use a come along and pull it down from a safe distance. I like to use a chain and pull the butt end if a push will not do the trick. As said earlier this is not technically what they call a widow maker, although it can be one, a widow maker is dead limbs that can fall on you. I have a huge Oak that has been half dead for as long as I have lived on my property. I would love to cut it down, but scared to death of the dead limbs hanging up above. Better to go after the easy ones.
No and no. No one we know "pushes" or "come alongs" any tree. Not secure. Butt: glad you can walk away from one.

Better to Learn the how of felling. Most small time loggers and firewood harvesters work alone, cut in woodlands with only ( only) experience, savvy, felling tools, and saws. We've discovered the intelligence when NOT to do a tree.

There are many many programs out there: Game of Logging, or spend time with a professional doing his job.

In the programs taken you learn how to plan a cut. Drop a leaner in an opposite direction, fell safely with a bar that may be less than 1/2 the DBH, and get an escape route in hand with danger in check. Over the years my saws have gotten smaller, the bars shorter, the trees larger. Why?
 

thewoodlands

Minister of Fire
Aug 25, 2009
12,602
Foothills of The Adirondacks
Kenster said:
I'm always reading about how dangerous it is to cut leaning trees. "Widow makers" is a term often applied to them. What is it that makes them dangerous? At what angle does it become dangerous? I'm not challenging the claim that they are dangerous, just trying to learn about them in case I ever come up against one.

I watched a really nice, big, straight oak tree lean for months. Further and further until one day I saw it on the ground. "Score!!"

Thanks!
Here are a couple of pictures of leaners I had, the first one was the easier one. (started at the stump and worked my way up then winched the rest out of the tree)

The second picture I cut the bottom tree first which seemed the correct way to go. (against a forum members suggestion) The top tree I cut second starting from the stump and 3/4 way through it I started to hear a cracking so I step back and 15-20 seconds later it split and came down.

Just added this picture from the book To Fell A Tree, I guess if I tried this it would be with a small leaner and use a chain.

zap
 

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Cowboy Billy

Minister of Fire
Dec 10, 2008
885
Britton MI
Seems my terminology is a little different.

Widow maker= dead or broken off branches in a tree.

Leaner= any tree that is leaning

Hung UP= any tree that will not fall to the ground because it hanging up in another tree. Weather it has been cut off the stump or blown over onto another another tree.


The recommended way to cut a strong leaner. 1 make your face cut. 2 Bore cut into the tree behind the face cut, get you hinge evened up. 3 cut out of the tree. If the tree is unsound or has flaws in it you may have to strap or chain around it like Zap shows.

Cutting strong leaners and bore cutting is not for beginners! I have only cut one tree by bore cutting it but I have carved some chairs out of stumps and bore cut for some other stuff. Starting a bore cut is quit dangerous and once in the cut the saw keeps wanting to push strait back out.

I agree with the way Zap cut down his hung up trees in the second picture. While there is a lot more weight on the lower tree. If he would have cut the top one first. The trunk most likely would have shot up in the air and slid down the trunk to the right. Or it may have pushed back and went in any direction depending on how the top of the tree was bound up.

Golfandwoodnut and I push over a lot of trees! But we are in fully enclosed ROPS cabs. Not trying to push them over by hand or without overhead protection. I would not push a tree over even with ROPS if it didn't fully cover the operator station.

Pulling a tree is pretty std around here. Using a tractor truck or winch. You are not drying to pull it down. But pull it out so it falls out of the other tree. Many times you have to pull it off to the side so it gets the trunk of the tree around the stump. If the tree is pretty much up right. You have to keep the strap near the ground and watch so don't end up pulling the top over on you. Sometime I will tie the strap and wrap it around the tree and pull it to the side so it will roll the tree out of another tree.





Billy
 

golfandwoodnut

Minister of Fire
fjord said:
GolfandWoodNut said:
Best bet with a leaner is to use equipment to push it down or pull it down (like my bobcat) or use a come along and pull it down from a safe distance. I like to use a chain and pull the butt end if a push will not do the trick. As said earlier this is not technically what they call a widow maker, although it can be one, a widow maker is dead limbs that can fall on you. I have a huge Oak that has been half dead for as long as I have lived on my property. I would love to cut it down, but scared to death of the dead limbs hanging up above. Better to go after the easy ones.
No and no. No one we know "pushes" or "come alongs" any tree. Not secure. Butt: glad you can walk away from one.

Better to Learn the how of felling. Most small time loggers and firewood harvesters work alone, cut in woodlands with only ( only) experience, savvy, felling tools, and saws. We've discovered the intelligence when NOT to do a tree.

There are many many programs out there: Game of Logging, or spend time with a professional doing his job.

In the programs taken you learn how to plan a cut. Drop a leaner in an opposite direction, fell safely with a bar that may be less than 1/2 the DBH, and get an escape route in hand with danger in check. Over the years my saws have gotten smaller, the bars shorter, the trees larger. Why?
Thanks Cowboy, I am not sure what fjord was thinking because if you see anybody clearing land with equipment they push over trees all the time. And if you go to you tube you will see professionals recommending the use of come alongs. Why cut a tree when you can work in either the safety of equipment or work totally out of the way with a come along if you do not have the equipment? I guess I would have to change it back to yes and yes.
 

Backwoods Savage

Minister of Fire
Feb 14, 2007
27,812
Michigan
I agree that Billy's pictures showing pushing a tree over is a great way to take them down. One great advantage is that you can usually then get rid of the stump and roots really quick and easy. We do that from time to time if the tree is in a fairly open area. But, if the tree is a leaner that has falling into another tree, each one has be be considered individually. Most I will cut from the butt up but one has to be extremely careful doing this. It is not recommended for a rookie to do it!
 

fjord

New Member
Aug 17, 2010
196
N.H.
GolfandWoodNut said:
fjord said:
GolfandWoodNut said:
Best bet with a leaner is to use equipment to push it down or pull it down (like my bobcat) or use a come along and pull it down from a safe distance. I like to use a chain and pull the butt end if a push will not do the trick. As said earlier this is not technically what they call a widow maker, although it can be one, a widow maker is dead limbs that can fall on you. I have a huge Oak that has been half dead for as long as I have lived on my property. I would love to cut it down, but scared to death of the dead limbs hanging up above. Better to go after the easy ones.
No and no. No one we know "pushes" or "come alongs" any tree. Not secure. Butt: glad you can walk away from one.

Better to Learn the how of felling. Most small time loggers and firewood harvesters work alone, cut in woodlands with only ( only) experience, savvy, felling tools, and saws. We've discovered the intelligence when NOT to do a tree.

There are many many programs out there: Game of Logging, or spend time with a professional doing his job.

In the programs taken you learn how to plan a cut. Drop a leaner in an opposite direction, fell safely with a bar that may be less than 1/2 the DBH, and get an escape route in hand with danger in check. Over the years my saws have gotten smaller, the bars shorter, the trees larger. Why?
Thanks Cowboy, I am not sure what fjord was thinking because if you see anybody clearing land with equipment they push over trees all the time. And if you go to you tube you will see professionals recommending the use of come alongs. Why cut a tree when you can work in either the safety of equipment or work totally out of the way with a come along if you do not have the equipment? I guess I would have to change it back to yes and yes.

Dear Nut:

Cowboy here. We don do no clearing. We harvest in deep thick woodlands with simple non heavy equipment. Clearings, right of ways, full logging, yes, heavy duty equipment for the pros is fine and used. In fact Dude (dude) you should know ( you don't obviously ) that real logging is and has been done with Harvesters. Look 'em up. Right now, we don need no harvesters or any other kind of heavy gear to do the work efficiently and safely.

What we do in Cowboyland dude ( dude ) here in thick woods on bony wet ground is firewood, forest management, blowdowns, pulping, with skill, the saws, many wedges, experience, and a few light skidding machines. Oh yes, the PPE you love.

If and only if I need to push over or chain a tree to drop it, my manhood is gone. Gone. I'll go back to surfing the net, looking at YouTube logging.
If I can't drop any tree where I want it, when I want it to fall, I shouldn't be chainsawing.

BTW: more accidents with that HD equipment than with saws.

Cowboy Fjord out.

Hey Nut, lighten up.
 

midwestcoast

Minister of Fire
Oct 9, 2009
1,745
NW Indiana
Umm Fjord? I think G&WN; was responding to Cowboy Billy, not calling you a Cowboy. Heck of a rant though...
So how do we mere mortals safely drop hung-up trees with no equipment & no pullers so that we may keep our manhood and our lives as well? Is it possible that since we aren't loggers, nor will we ever be, we should use whatever equipment we have to get such trees down safely? Or just pass & leave those ones for the likes of you who could, no doubt, easily bring them down with one swing of your manhood? :roll:
 

Kenster

Minister of Fire
Jan 10, 2010
1,705
Texas- West of Houston
Great discussion. Thanks for all the responses. I don't think I'll ever need to touch a hang up. I minor leaner I think I can handle. A major leaner is most likely eventually going to come on down so I'll just wait. I'll never be so hard up for wood that I'm gonna risk not being around to dance at my granddaughters' weddings.
 

fjord

New Member
Aug 17, 2010
196
N.H.
midwestcoast said:
Umm Fjord? I think G&WN; was responding to Cowboy Billy, not calling you a Cowboy. Heck of a rant though...
So how do we mere mortals safely drop hung-up trees with no equipment & no pullers so that we may keep our manhood and our lives as well? Is it possible that since we aren't loggers, nor will we ever be, we should use whatever equipment we have to get such trees down safely? Or just pass & leave those ones for the likes of you who could, no doubt, easily bring them down with one swing of your manhood? :roll:
And "Cowboy Billy" is what/who ? Don't know no Cowboy Billy in our world. The rant rude from the dude was "cowboy"; nothing about this Cowboy Billy thing. Some kind of secret perp or code ?

Also lighten up; some of us not-just-mere-mortals don need no proving manhood. A light comment on the heavy macho talk here.

When you should use that "whatever equipment" without the how, knowledge, or time doing...it's dangerous. Some of us don't need more artificial danger....anymore.

There is a need for anger management here.......too much time online, too little in the field. Get out.
 

golfandwoodnut

Minister of Fire
Fjord, reading is your friend, look above and will see a nice picture of Cowboy Billy pushing a tree over. That is the secret code. You go ahead and be the man cutting a leaner and we will be the chickens pulling it down from a distance.

By the way folks, as far as using a come along (that only costs a few bucks) you can attach a rope up on the tree, as high as possible, (I try to throw a string over first with a bean bag attached, then attach a rope to the string) and then secure it at a distance where you in no danger of having the tree fall on you, and at a good angle. Attach a chain to a stationary tree, connect the come along, and crank it until the tree safely falls.

We are supposed to be helping each other out aren't we? Happy thanksgiving.
 
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