Working with chainsaws

6 steps to successful tree felling

When felling trees, the correct working techniques are essential for not only creating a safe working environment, but also working more effectively.

1. Plan ahead

When it comes to tree removal using a chainsaw, preparation is key. If you plan the felling and which forestry equipment to bring, not only are you in for a safer working session, but your post-felling work will also be a lot easier. First, ask yourself if there are any major obstacles – such as overhead lines, roads or buildings – in the area. Deploy warning signs if you know that a road crosses the work area or that a lot of people pass by on a daily basis. 

Planning is key when felling trees

2. Check the felling direction

Continue by carefully studying the tree to determining the felling direction. How do the branches look and how do they grow? Also, take the wind direction into consideration. If you’re unsure of the tree’s natural direction of fall, step away from the tree and check with a plumb line (see fact box for details). Clear around the tree in the intended felling direction. Also clear about 45 degrees behind the tree in both directions, creating your path of retreat.

Check the felling direction

3. Prune the trunk

Once you have cleared the area, put up your warning signs and decided on the tree’s direction of fall and your path of retreat, check that you have enough fuel in the tank for the task ahead. Then it’s time to prune the trunk to get rid of all the branches and twigs that might get in the way when sawing the felling cut. The safest way to prune is to work with a pulling chain (underside of the chainsaw guide bar) from the top down. 

4. Decide on cutting technique

Once the trunk is twig-free up to shoulder height, it’s time to make the felling cut. When doing this, it’s important to remember two things: the hinge should have a uniform thickness with the right dimensions, and the felling wedge or breaking bar should be inserted before the tree can pinch the guide bar. Which technique you should use for making the cut depends on the tree size and slope, and on the size of your chainsaw. We have put together information about the different techniques here, so that you can determine which method best suits your conditions.

Chainsaw cutting technique

5. Check for diseases

If you notice that the timber is discolored and soft, or if the lower part of the trunk looks swollen or diseased, you need to be very careful. This is an indication that the tree is infested with rot and that the wood fibers are weakened. When this happens, fell in the tree’s natural direction of fall and use a winch if you are unsure. Rot infestation usually subsides higher up in the tree so one option might be to fell the tree with an extra high stump. 

6. Choose your tool

There are several felling tools to choose from when taking down a tree. The size of the tree determines which type of forestry equipment you need. For smaller trees, you do not normally need felling tools. Hand force is enough, possibly with the help of a long pole. A felling wedge provides greater felling force than the different types of breaking bars. In extreme cases, you can use a rope and a winch, which is the safest and most powerful way to fell a tree. Have a look at the fact box for more information about the different tools.

How to estimate the height of a tree

  1. Hold a stick with your arm stretched out straight in front of you, so that the stick length is equal to the distance between your eye and your hand. Hold the stick vertically so that a right-angled triangle is formed between your eye, hand and the top of the stick.
  2. Point at the tree and stand at a distance so that the tree appears to be as tall as the length of the stick. If the tree is leaning, measure from the side, so that the tree is neither leaning towards you nor away from you, providing a more accurate result.
  3. The distance between you and the tree is now equal to the height of the tree.
Estimate the height of a tree

How to measure the lean of a tree with a plumb line

  1. Aim the plumb line towards the top of the tree trunk.
  2. Measure the distance from the plumb line’s point of impact to the center of the trunk.

Felling tools

  • The foot breaking bar is suitable for small trees when thinning. Insert the tool before completing the felling cut and stand with all your weight on the lever arm. The breaking bar is generally telescopic and can be carried in a holster on your logging belt.
  • The breaking bar is used on relatively small trees. To maximize the lifting force, insert the tool (before completing the felling cut) in the middle of the felling cut at the very back. Lift with your legs and keep your back straight.
  • The impact bar is used in the same way as the breaking bar, but can also be used as a striking tool when using felling wedges.
  • Felling wedges are best for medium to large trees. They are inserted before the felling cut is completed and knocked in with an axe or an impact bar. Always use wedges made out of plastic or aluminum, so that you don’t risk damaging the chain if you accidentally cut into them.
  • A winch is used in situations where you need maximum force and safety. The wire is attached as high up in the tree as possible for maximum effect.
Felling tools

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