Falling a large rotting pine

paredown

Burning Hunk
Jan 11, 2009
113
Lower Hudson New York
I've got a huge Eastern pine tree that has slowly been disintegrating--I think it was hit by lightening (smashed trunk and top off when we moved here), and I have slowly watched it break apart. I mainly left it for the woodpeckers (and others), but it is in the area where I now want to build a shed, and I don't want it falling and crushing something I build.

So I would like to fall what is left--it is probably 20' high, butt size is maybe 4-5' diameter--it has lost most limbs--but what are left are spiky remnants. I've got clear access to fall it, but I'm unclear about procedure. (I've got a Stihl Farm boss with a 20" bar.)
Any tips from the real woodsmen?
 

GadDummit

Burning Hunk
May 27, 2017
230
Oklahoma
The butt is five feet in diameter? You'll have a tough time getting through that with a 20" bar. Pictures?


Edit: In your case since it's only 20 feet tall I'd probably just get my 15" ladder up on it and start lopping it off from the top until I couldn't get through it anymore with the 20" bar. You wanna get it as short as possible. Then I'd tie a rope to the top that's long enough to tie to a neighboring tree to put tension on it to fall where I want. Don't tie it yet, just let it dangle. Then I'd go down to the bottom, cut a half a notch aiming it where I want it to fall, then cut the second half of the notch. Pound the notch out with a hammer if it didn't break away because my bar is 20". Then tie the rope to a neighboring tree. Then cut the same way (one side then the other), one or two saw bar widths deep, on each side until it starts cracking. Then I'd wedge it over from there.
That's just me and without pictures.

Edit2: Don't die.
 
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Nealm66

Feeling the Heat
Sep 25, 2020
264
Western Washington
Well, I’ve cut thousands of big nasty snags but a 20” bar is swinging for the fences with a 4-5’ butt diameter . Not to say it’s so rotten it couldn’t be done but I would definitely be doing some vertical bores and hoping it’s completely hollow and even then I’d be looking around and maybe use my ax instead. Short stobs like that are a pita. There’s hardly ever enough lean to get them to just flop easily. First I would do a couple vertical bores to see what I was working with. Then in a backyard environment I’d get a rope or something to pull up as safely high and have effect. If there’s still bark, I’d be ready to scoot and I’d use an older saw that I didn’t like as it’s probably going to slide of and smash it . If it’s really rotten, I’m never dogged in and I’m on the balls of my feet. In a logging environment we try to avoid cutting them and let the rigging rip them over or one of the trees we fall takes the life out of them. I’m just going to stop and say a 4-5 foot stob is a pita. A deep undercut will help capture a lean but has saw smashing potential. Sorry , just what I’ve noticed through the years = they suck
 

paredown

Burning Hunk
Jan 11, 2009
113
Lower Hudson New York
Thanks guys--I especially like the 'don't die' comment--and that video scares the crap out of me... Not keen on sawing off a ladder either.

I realize that I was mixed up--4'-5' circumference, so smaller than I first posted--15"-20" diameter seems more accurate :).
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
4,774
Downeast Maine
Can you get a truck near it? I would be pulling it, as low as possible, with a winch or something while cutting a hinge. These trees scare me more than any others and are totally unpredictable. With a skidding winch or similar tool you could probably pull the whole thing down without using the saw. I once pushed down a tree like the one you describe with my tractor and gut lucky to only dent the hood.
 

FixedGearFlyer

Burning Hunk
Oct 8, 2010
143
Michigan's Upper Peninsula
If it's mostly limbed, only 20 feet tall, and 15 to 20 inches in diameter with clearance for it to fall, it doesn't sound bad.

Even with a rotten trunk, it probably won't barber chair without branches and more trunk weight up high.

I'd make sure I had a clear exit path and that none of the remaining branches look like they're likely to come down, then make a notch cut, start the back cut, get a couple of wedges in as soon as there's room, and wedge it over behind the saw.

It should be straight forward, but if you aren't comfortable with it, hire it out.

We just hired out an 80 foot blue spruce that was old, sick, and within falling distance of our house, the powerlines, our septic, and the road. Best $350 I've spent in 2020...
 
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GadDummit

Burning Hunk
May 27, 2017
230
Oklahoma
I am not sure if GadDummit is kidding or not. But I wouldn't climb a 15 foot ladder to start sawing the top off a tree if you paid me a thousand bucks. Very dangerous.
Not kidding at all. It's only 20 feet tall. I lop the top off of them on a 15' ladder all the time. The fact that it's 20 inches instead of 5 feet in diameter makes it even more possible to do easily. You're only felling about 4 feet off the top on a 15' ladder. Move down, cut another 4 feet off, etc. etc until it's easily managable, remembering that this is DEAD WOOD and possibly unlikely to fall without crumbling on the way down, I want as little over my head as possible. If it were 50 feet tall, well that's another story.


If it's mostly limbed, only 20 feet tall, and 15 to 20 inches in diameter with clearance for it to fall, it doesn't sound bad.

Even with a rotten trunk, it probably won't barber chair without branches and more trunk weight up high.

I'd make sure I had a clear exit path and that none of the remaining branches look like they're likely to come down, then make a notch cut, start the back cut, get a couple of wedges in as soon as there's room, and wedge it over behind the saw.

It should be straight forward, but if you aren't comfortable with it, hire it out.

We just hired out an 80 foot blue spruce that was old, sick, and within falling distance of our house, the powerlines, our septic, and the road. Best $350 I've spent in 2020...
Agreed! But $350 to drop a tree? You guys are so lucky. Here dropping a tree is $1500
!!!
 

FixedGearFlyer

Burning Hunk
Oct 8, 2010
143
Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Agreed! But $350 to drop a tree? You guys are so lucky. Here dropping a tree is $1500
!!!
Granted, this was a friend who would usually charge about double and I did all the clean up. Still, $1500 is pretty rich!
 

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Nealm66

Feeling the Heat
Sep 25, 2020
264
Western Washington
I would recommend tying off the ladder in such a way that a falling round won’t kick the legs out from underneath you if you plan to do so. I finished a job for a guy one time that tried his hand at cutting some big limbs off and got busted up pretty good because of this. I’d be leery of piecing down a snag unless I’m confident in how sound it was. If the room is there, just cut it down or pull it over or both in my experience. Safety first, then beers
 
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Simonkenton

Minister of Fire
Feb 27, 2014
1,801
Marshall NC
I missed the fact that it is 20 inch diameter I was thinking 5 feet.
I still wouldn't get up there on a ladder. I have gone up an 18 foot ladder and cut some 4 inch limbs off of a big poplar tree.
It went well, but that was dangerous.

I still wouldn't go up a 16 foot ladder to cut the top off of a 20 foot tree. You say you have done this many times; you have more nerve than I have.
 
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Diabel

Minister of Fire
Jan 11, 2008
2,884
Ottawa, ON
Chainsaws and ladders do not mix. Just watch some videos of hillbillies attempting it. Scary!
 

GadDummit

Burning Hunk
May 27, 2017
230
Oklahoma
I missed the fact that it is 20 inch diameter I was thinking 5 feet.
I still wouldn't get up there on a ladder. I have gone up an 18 foot ladder and cut some 4 inch limbs off of a big poplar tree.
It went well, but that was dangerous.

I still wouldn't go up a 16 foot ladder to cut the top off of a 20 foot tree. You say you have done this many times; you have more nerve than I have.
It's really not a big deal. You cut so it falls away from you. The rest of the tree is between you and the section falling. Always.
Just notch, wedge if necessary, and cut. Same as if it were on the ground, but only a few feet are above you instead of 20. Put a guy line on it if it's leaning funny for added protection. I don't like to tie them to vehicles though due to weight sometimes being more than you think. I tie them to other trees if possible. Vehicles are second. Mother in law is third.
 
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Sawset

Minister of Fire
Feb 14, 2015
1,069
Palmyra, WI
I know too many guys who have had serious injuries while up on ladders. Just be careful and try to avoid chainsaws and ladders if you can. The things can slide out, be kicked out, knocked off of, stuff breaks loose and you take a death defying tumble, I would expect the unexpected. And everything about ladders should be figured in as unexpected.
 

Tar12

Minister of Fire
Dec 9, 2016
1,621
Indiana
Throw a picture of it up here...if its really rotten I bet a truck would get a large chunk of it on the ground..
 

xman23

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2008
2,171
Lackawaxen PA
Houston we have a problem! We're going to need a bigger saw.

I put a rope and a come along on many trees I take down. A slight pull to the intended direction is a comfortable feeling. Rent a saw with the bar size you need. Make felling cuts like an other tree. Stay off ladders.
 

xman23

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2008
2,171
Lackawaxen PA
LOL, It would take a lot of rot to pull over a 4-5 diameter tree. Just brings back visions of dad dropping a tree on my first car.
 
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EbS-P

Feeling the Heat
Jan 19, 2019
381
SE North Carolina
Chainsaws and ladders do not mix. Just watch some videos of hillbillies attempting it. Scary!
As a complete amateur these are , now matter how easy I think it would be, two items that you will NEVER see me touching at the same time ever. We all have limits. There’s mine. *edit* and I own a 52” chainsaw!
Evan
 
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Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
1,295
Northern Maine
I am not sure if GadDummit is kidding or not. But I wouldn't climb a 15 foot ladder to start sawing the top off a tree if you paid me a thousand bucks. Very dangerous.
Guy in town was too cheap to pay a friend to take down a tree so he did the job himself off a ladder.

Earned himself a permanent chair with 2 large and two small diameter wheels for the rest of his life.
 
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Nealm66

Feeling the Heat
Sep 25, 2020
264
Western Washington
We used a 40’ ladder in the tree service back in the mid 80’s for pruning . It sucked. I bought my first set of rock climbing gear after pruning a huge willow and got rid of the ladder.