How to Cut Down a Tree With a Chainsaw

If you’ve never cut down a tree before, it can be quite an intimidating task. How do you do it? What’s the best tool to use? Are there certain safety guidelines I need to know about? Today we’ll answer all of those questions and more.

There are specific things that play a part in getting a tree safely cut down. You’ll read everything you need to know about how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw. Plus, we’ve added in some tips and tricks to keep you prepared for the unexpected beforehand!

Types Of Trees

When you cut down trees, the method can vary depending on what type of tree you’re cutting. When you read “type”, we’re not talking about Birch or Spruce. The type of trees we’re talking about are discussed in detail below. Before you rev up and start cutting, pay attention to which category the trees you’re cutting down fall under.

Large Trees

When it comes to using a chainsaw for cutting down trees, the diameter is one of the most important factors. When you have a tree that has a diameter that is more than that of the length of the chainsaw bar, you need to use what’s called a plunge cut.

We’ll talk more about how exactly to cut down a tree using a chainsaw but for larger trees, not only will you have to perform a plunge cut, you will also need a couple of extra materials. Make sure you have a breaking bar on hand, along with a couple felling wedges. This will make sure that your trees are falling in the preferred direction, which is even more important with a larger tree.

Dead Or Rotten Trees

Chances are if you’re wanting to get rid of some trees, a few of them might be dead or rotten. There’s no use keeping dead or rotten trees around and there is a certain protocol to follow to remove them.

If you decide to cut them down yourself, be as cautious as possible while using your chainsaw. If you have a rotten tree, it will take a bigger hinge to safely fall to the ground.

Dead and rotten trees are often unstable, which is why it can be a good idea to get a professional’s help. There are tree removal services available or you may have a friend that knows their way around a chainsaw that can help get rid of the dead or rotten trees for you.

Lodged Trees

A tree can become lodged when you’re cutting it down or it may be lodged to begin with. If this is the case, you don’t want to leave the tree lodged for long. It’s a safety hazard that should be attended to as soon as possible.

This is another instance where calling in some extra help can pay off. If you have to leave the lodged tree for any reason, consider roping off the area for safety, especially if there are children around.

Safety Guidelines

Just like any other project you’re tackling with a power tool, there are safety guidelines in place to keep you as safe as possible during the process. We’ve included some things that are important to know before you start up your chainsaw, as well as some things to keep in mind during the process of cutting down a tree.

Safety Gear

When it comes to using a chainsaw, there’s a lot of safety gear that you need. Before you start cutting down a tree, make sure you have safety glasses on to keep out dust and debris, along with ear muffs or high-quality ear plugs.

You’ll also need a helmet to protect your head from falling branches. Gloves can be important to protect your hands, and lastly, kevlar chaps will stop a chainsaw instantly in the event that the bar drops to your leg.

Calculating A Felling Zone

Size up the tree and check where it can fall. It’s important that when you’re calculating the fell zone, you keep in mind emergency exits for yourself and anyone who is with you. You should have at least two available exits to use in the event that something goes wrong.

There’s a trick you can use if you have an ax at your disposal. Hold the ax at arms length with the handle pointed towards the sky. Close one eye and back up until the ax handle top is even with the tree top as well as the base of the handle, even with the trunk of the tree.

Where you’re standing at that moment is where the tree should end up. You can mark this area off if you’d like an added measure of safety.

Felling Wedges

Using fell wedges not only is a great way to keep you safe, but they make the job much easier. Use two fell wedges to prevent your saw from getting pinched during a cut. You’ll be able to pick a couple of these up wherever you end up buying your chainsaw.

Don’t Cut Alone

Never cut alone. Having an assistant can often be life saving when cutting down trees with a chainsaw. Have your assistant stand a few feet behind you, with their eyes on the tree. You can come up with a code, just as a tap on your left shoulder to let you know that you need to put the saw down and get out of the area.

This can come in handy with large branches that fall from high heights, or if the tree decides to fall in the wrong direction. Make sure your assistant is wearing all of the same safety gear you’re wearing.

Check Your Saw

Make sure your chainsaw chain is on correctly before powering up. If it needs oil, do that before you start cutting. Double check where all the safety features are and that you know how to use the trigger properly. This may seem like common sense, but glances over the machine once more won’t hurt you.

How To Fell A Tree

Before you fell a tree, use your chainsaw to clear away any branches that are in reach. After you do this, clear them away from the ground by putting them in a pile. This is an extra safety step you can take to make sure that no one trips over any branches, especially the person powering the chainsaw.

After this is done and you have your felling zone set up, along with your emergency exits planned out, it’s time to start cutting. Follow the directions below to properly fell a tree with a chainsaw.

  1. Start off by making a top cut into the tree trunk. This should be done at a 60 degree angle. Do this when you’re about a quarter of the way through the tree.
  2. Next you’ll want to make an undercut. This should be a horizontal cut that ends up meeting the top cut you made first. After this is done it will look like there is a notch carved out of the tree. This should be on the side of the tree that is facing in the direction of the fell zone.
  3. For step three you’ll want to look around to make sure that the fell zone is clear. Look for animals, children, or anything that could be in danger. This is a good time to double check that your exits are clear and easily accessible.
  4. Now it’s time to move to the opposite side of the tree. Once you’re there, saw a horizontal felling cut a couple of inches above the undercut. Do this until you’re a few inches away from the notch. You’ve now created a hinge that helps to control which way the tree falls. The hinge should be as wide as 1/10 of the tree trunk.
  5. Make sure the chainsaw is powered off, with any safety locks on. Place the chainsaw near one of your exits paths.
  6. Now is when the felling wedge will come into play. Place the felling wedge in the notch and use it as a level to get the tree to start falling in the appropriate direction.
  7. When the tree begins to fall, now is time to go to your exit path. Once you’re there, you’re able to safely watch the tree fall. Someone must keep eyes on the tree at all times to make sure it’s moving in the proper direction. Moving away at an angle helps you stay out of the felling zone, as well as the opposite direction it could fall on accident.

If you’re sawing down a tree that’s larger than you expected, there are a few more rules you’ll need to follow.

Using the instructions above, follow directions one through three as they’re already listed then incorporate these next steps.

  1. Follow steps 1 to 3 outlined above.
  2. Then, create a plunge cut using the chainsaw bar nose. Insert it into the tree behind where you’re going to cut a hinge. It’s important to not allow the chainsaw bar nose to come in contact with the tree.
  3. Once it’s inserted you should turn your chainsaw so that it’s parallel with the notch. Now is the time to apply some pressure to the chainsaw bar.
  4. Start sawing away from the hinge for a few inches.
  5. Saw around the tree trunk until you’re about midway through. Once you’re at this point, insert the felling wedge.
  6. It’s important to know that if your chainsaw gets stuck during this process, do NOT try to pull it out. Stop the saw and use a breaking bar to get leverage on the trunk so you’re able to easily pull out the saw safely.
  7. Saw until the chainsaw bar is parallel with the notch.
  8. Now you’re able to continue on with the original directions starting with number 5 and continue through to 7.

Where To Buy A Chainsaw

If after all of this you’re chomping at the bit to buy a new chainsaw, that makes two of us. You have a variety of different options when it comes to where you can buy a chainsaw. If you’re on a tight budget, you can browse online markets for lightly used chainsaws. Though this is the cheapest option, you may not know what you’re receiving when you buy it.

Another option is to go to a local hardware store. This way you’re supporting a small business and getting a high-quality product you know will work. You also have the option of going to a store like Menards, Home Depot, or Lowe’s. Their employees are knowledgeable and can help you with any questions or concerns you may have about specific chainsaws.

The last option is to check out what’s available on Amazon. There are plenty of chainsaws available at a variety of different price points. You’re usually able to get free shipping straight to your door.

You’re also able to read reviews from people that have already spent money on the product and taken it for a test drive. If you’re on the fence, check out some of the reviews for the chainsaw you’re thinking of picking up.

Final Words

By now you are much more educated on how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw. There are plenty of safety measures to follow to keep you and anyone around you as safe as possible. There are also plenty of places to pick up a chainsaw and fell wedges.

Make sure you assess the tree to make sure it’s not dead or rotten before you begin cutting. You can always call in backup if the tree becomes lodged. Whether you’re cutting down trees for firewood during the winter months or you’re just cleaning up your yard a bit, we hope you feel a bit more comfortable cutting down a tree with a chainsaw now. Good luck!

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