Introduction: How to Cut Down a Tree

Cutting down trees seems easy, and it can be, but if you don't do it right it can be dangerous and time consuming. A friend of ours had a tree that was rotting and needed to be cut down, so we offered to help. I figured it was a perfect opportunity to write an instructable!

This instructable is meant to help you cut down a tree safely and correctly, but chain saws and falling trees are inherently dangerous. Practice caution whenever attempting to cut down a tree. Do it at your own risk. You alone are responsible for any damage that results from a tree removal gone wrong.

This instructable also assumes previous knowledge about the use and safety practices associated with chainsaws. If you do not know how to properly handle a chainsaw, either learn from an experienced operator or hire a professional to cut your tree down.

Step 1: Supplies

  • At least one chainsaw, it's nice to have two (more on that later)
  • Gloves, preferably leather
  • Safety Glasses (you really do need these, my dad had to go to the ER once from a splinter of wood in his eye)
  • Friends

You also may want:

  • Leg protection
  • Ear protection
  • Boots

Member morfmir also has this to say about safety equipment:

"The most imported thing are protection pants. Always ware them when using chainsaw. Cutting wood can be unpredictable, if the saw slips into your legs it can be deadly. The safety pants stops the chain before it cuts into you.

Helmet, my helmet have saved me from falling branches more than ones. When you start to cut, dead and dry branches from the top of the tree can get lose and fall to the ground. When your concentrated on the saw you don't see the falling danger. And if it is a big branch it can cause serious injury.

Safety boots. freshcut wood are very heavy, if you get the log over your feet if will crush it. Next it will also protect your feet and toes from the chainsaw.

Ear protection, chainsaw are very noisy you will lose your hearing if your don't ware ear protection. Most helmets have build in hearing protectors.

Gloves and eye protection. This you already have, that's good. If you use helmet most of them have a face screen that protect the face and eyes. Plus it will not get misty in bad weather like glasses."

Step 2: Plan the Fall

Pick a wide open area that will fit the entire tree and keep it clear from people, pets and anything that you don't want broken. Trees are heavy. Make sure that if the tree is on a hill you do not try and make it fall up the hill. If you cannot land it down hill, perpendicular to the hill is your best option.
Pay attention to the surrounding ground. If it's on a hill, be sure to keep everything downhill clear from people. Also plan an escape route that you can quickly use to leave as the tree starts falling. Be aware that if there are more branches on one side of the tree, it will tend to fall in that direction, try not to force it to fall in another direction.

If you don't feel comfortable that you can safely land it, have a professional tree service do it instead.

You also need to have a plan for the wood. That might mean firewood, selling the logs, or just letting it decay in your backyard. The thinnest branches either need to be put out for yard waste pickup (if your community does that) or piled somewhere to rot.

Step 3: Cut a Wedge

The wedge is what determines what direction the tree will fall in. It compromises the integrity of the tree. The direction that the wedge is facing is where the tree will land.

First cut in a downwards direction about halfway into the tree. Your next cut should be perpendicular to the tree, and lastly upwards. Remove pieces of the wedge as you can. If you were to cut upwards first or second, your chainsaw would likely get stuck under the weight of the tree.

Step 4: Fall the Tree

Once the wedge is removed, the tree may begin to fall on it's own. If it does, use your escape route to get away. If it doesn't, you can begin cutting from the opposite side. It's best to cut slightly downwards. Pretty soon the tree will fall. As it does, remove the chain saw and use your escape route to get away from the falling tree. Keep your eyes open, this is the most fun part of the entire instructable. Feel free to yell "Timberrr!!!"

Step 5: Clean the Tree

The first thing you want to do is trim off the branches from the tree. If you're using it for firewood, pull the thicker branches aside, and throw the lighter brush into it's own pile for disposal. Cut what logs you can out of the thicker branches and get rid of the trimmings. what you do with the trunk depends on what your plan is.

If you're using it for firewood:
  • We cut the trunk into log sized lengths and then then leave them for about a year to dry out. Later on we use a chisel and hammer to split them.
If you're selling it:
  • In the past when we've sold trees, they required 9 foot logs, do whatever your lumberyard asks.
If you're paying someone to come and collect it:
  • Cut it into smaller pieces that you can then roll over to your curb. They may or may not require the brush to be bundled.

Tip: When we were selling trees, I found that the best method of rolling the large logs is to use a thick branch as a lever. Simply shove one end under the tree and push up to roll it.

Tip 2: Watch out for the large pieces when you're cutting them. If the section you're cutting is raised, your saw may get caught between them as you cut. This is why it's helpful to have an extra saw...to help free the first.

Step 6: Transporting Wood

A wheelbarrow is your best friend when moving stuff around. We used one to carry all the smaller logs and brush. The handcart was great for the really big pieces. There really isn't a lot for me to tell you about this...it really all depends on your particular case.

Once you have the wood taken care of, you're all done. Congratulations...you're a lumber jack!

Comments

author
SebastianB39 made it!(author)2016-03-04

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http://www.adelaidetreesurgery.com/service-tree-removal.php

author
graftintrees made it!(author)2015-12-23

Great tips for proper protective gear while cutting a tree down. I also have a great resource to share on felling a tree: http://www.graftingardeners.co.uk/straight-felling-a-tree-safely/

author
bikenny made it!(author)2015-12-20

Thanks for tips! Anyone ready to cut down first tree, they must take in to account all the safety procedures to ensure that tree cutting activity is as safe to them and others as possible. Moreover need pay attention strong winds could make the tree fall in a direction other than that which was intended

author
bikenny made it!(author)2015-12-20

Thanks for tips! Anyone ready to cut down first tree, they must take in to account all the safety procedures to ensure that tree cutting activity is as safe to them and others as possible. Moreover need pay attention strong winds could make the tree fall in a direction other than that which was intended

author
DanielaA5 made it!(author)2015-09-18

I thought cutting tree is easy until I actually tried it. Then I realized I better learn some tricks before I try it again. I'm going to get the safety equipment you listed, I don't want to injure myself again! Or call a specialist to do it, that actually may be safer and faster. http://www.allseasontreeservicealberta.ca/

author
DaveyH made it!(author)2015-04-09

I've been pretty nervous about this one tree we have to cut down. It doesn't look like it'll be too hard, but I just don't want anyone to get hurt. It's just about leaning on our house and if we make the wrong move it'll probably fall on it. We're considering hiring a professional, but we're short on money right now. Any suggestions on what we should do?

<a href='http://www.kiwitreelopping.com.au' >http://www.kiwitreelopping.com.au</a>

author
QCtreeclimber made it!(author)2010-05-15

DON'T DO THIS WITH OUT THE PROPER PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT!!!!! CHAPS, SAFETY GLASSES GLOVES HEARING PROTECTION AND BOOTS (PREFERABLY LEATHER WITH STEEL TOES).  NEVER NEVER NEVER  DO THIS IN SHORTS!!! THIS IS WRONG!!!!

author
Mindmapper1 made it!(author)2015-04-06

quite agree with what you say. never do this without proper safety gear if you value your wellbeing. also never work on your own.

author
hifatpeople made it!(author)2010-10-10

YOU DONT NEED TO USE ALL OF THAT!!! JUST USE AN AXE AND COMMON SENSE AND YOUR GOOD TO GO!!!!!!!!! WHY ARE WE YELLING?!?!?!?!?!?

author
RosemaryG2 made it!(author)2015-01-31

Would this be doable with a handsaw. My douglas fir is about 10in dia at the base. I don't have a chainsaw and am not afraid of hacking at it with a manual saw for half a morning if need be. To me that is easier than figuring out where to get a chainsaw and how to use it.

author
VilmaT made it!(author)2014-11-13

I had no idea that some many factors were involved with tree removal. I used to think that you pay by the hour, but now I know that you have to pay for a company to remove it based on their size and state of well-being. It is definitely worth it to pay though, because I have heard about many tree trimming accidents.

http://www.jandjtreecare.com/services/tree-removal/

author
SophiaLiam made it!(author)2014-05-28

How much experience with a chainsaw do you need before it's safe for you to cut down a tree? Is it good to practice first? I'm hesitant to do my own tree removal, because I am not experience with this type of thing at all.

Thanks,

Sophia Liam http://www.northshoretreeservices.com

author
evan_124 made it!(author)2009-06-16

what i would really like to see is a good instructable about how to remove the trunk and root ball easily after you get the tree down for those of us who cant afford a big trunk grinder or pros to come and tear it out for us

author
Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2009-06-16

We generally just leave the trunks, as our trees normally get cut down because of safety. For this one, we just cut it as close to the ground as possible. You could also buy some stump remover. You drill into the stump, pour in the chemical and it eats it away.

author
bricabracwizard made it!(author)2011-10-17

Thanks, just knowing there is such a thing as stump remover! Grinding out stumps is expensive!

author
cheapasdirt made it!(author)2011-10-17

Warning: Attempting this instructible is dangerous and not recommended. Numerous points contained here within are incorrect and should not be attempted.
Attempt at your own risk.

author
suryachalla made it!(author)2010-09-09

Dear Mr. Weissensteinburg,

I knew nothing before this about the dangers involved in "tree felling". From the comments I've read above, it seems that you have taught us a lot from what you have left out of your article, rather than from what you have written!

Granted you might be a "pro" for whom trees are second nature, but when you're instructing, it should show your professionalism by going to the "grass roots" or "basics".

author
QCtreeclimber made it!(author)2010-05-15

There are so many things wrong with this instructable.  I have no idea why homeowners always want to make an angled back cut. This is WRONG.  I climb prune and remove trees everyday, I use a chainsaw on a daily basis and what you have done is Horribly wrong.  First of all you should never do this in shorts, you need to wear chaps hearing protection and boots in addition to your safety glasses and gloves.  NO ONE SHOULD ATTEMPT THE INSTRUCTIONS HERE, THEY ARE WRONG AND YOU CAN KILL YOUR SELF OR OTHERS!!!! HIRE A PROFESSIONAL, ITS CHEAPER THAN A FUNERAL!!!!

author
quadracer made it!(author)2010-08-16

Thanks for pointing this out. I work at a saw shop and I dont even test saws with out chaps, glasses/steel toes and gloves, let alone when im falling trees. Never drop trees alone people.

author
Chancellor1101 made it!(author)2009-07-16

Look in the background i dont think your neighbors are too happy with you :P lol

author
lemonie made it!(author)2009-02-09

I love chainsaws And would like to add that (in the interests of safety) they should not be used while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or in poor light. L

DSCF0247.JPG
author
Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2009-02-09

Lemonie, you're back!

author
s666666666666 made it!(author)2008-12-30

If anyone is considering felling a tree and has any questions or even the slightest amount of doubt in their ability. I would either A - look up any info you can until you're comfortable, or B - get a professional to do it. Here in British Columbia, Loggers that fell trees actually have to get certified. So obviously there is a bit more to it then cutting a wedge and a back cut. Possibly mention in the instructable about "kickback" and what it is and how to prevent it. I work at a Stihl dealer and have seen a few guys with pictures after their kickback incident. Also you should use the chainbreak whenever you're not going to be cutting or when you're walking around with the unit running. The chains are extremely sharp. There was one guy who touched his leg with the chainsaw while it was idling. Didn't notice till he got in the house, leg felt warm and wet, poured the blood out of his boot and went to the hospital. On a lighter note. good general instrucable and if anyone wants to see some cool videos. check youtube for tree felling or falling tree etc etc. There are some MONSTERS that come down.

author
Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2008-12-30

Thanks. I didn't delve too deeply into general chainsaw safety and operation, as this instructable deals more with the actual felling of a tree, and assumes previous knowledge of the use of a chainsaw. I'll add something about needing proper knowledge, though. I wouldn't want anybody oversimplifying the process and making a mistake,

author
morfmir made it!(author)2008-12-28

I like your effort, and the overall instructable are well written. But your instructions are faulty from start to end. You will kill your self or some other if you don't take safety serious. Falling trees and chainsaw are not toys and can be deadly if not handled right. very, very, very bad idea to cut down a tree without any Safety. Please remove this instructable, or make a BIG remark that this is the way NOT TO CUT DOWN TREE. /Thomas

author
Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2008-12-28

Instead of simply telling me that it's wrong, why don't you tell me what you think should be different?

author
morfmir made it!(author)2008-12-28

You have to thing more about safety. Specially personal protective wear.
The most imported thing are protection pants. Always ware them when using chainsaw. Cutting wood can be unpredictable, if the saw slips into your legs it can be deadly. The safety pants stops the chain before it cuts into you.

Helmet, my helmet have saved me from falling branches more than ones. When you start to cut, dead and dry branches from the top of the tree can get lose and fall to the ground. When your concentrated on the saw you don't see the falling danger. And if it is a big branch it can cause serious injury.

Safety boots. freshcut wood are very heavy, if you get the log over your feet if will crush it. Next it will also protect your feet and toes from the chainsaw.

Ear protection, chainsaw are very noisy you will lose your hearing if your don't ware ear protection. Most helmets have build in hearing protectors.

Gloves and eye protection. This you already have, that's good. If you use helmet most of them have a face screen that protect the face and eyes. Plus it will not get misty in bad weather like glasses.

/Thomas

author
Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2008-12-28

Do you mind if I just copy and paste what you wrote into the supplies page? With due credit, of course. Thanks for the tips.

author
morfmir made it!(author)2008-12-29

That is fine, glad to help. An glad you did not injure your self. /Thomas

author
blugyblug made it!(author)2008-12-28

I seriously hope there won't be a tree hugger comment. There will be one inevetibly though... Ah well.

author
Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2008-12-28

We only cut down the trees that need to be cut. This one was close to their house and was rotting. The neighbor's was already dead, and when we sold them, all of those trees were growing way too close to our driveway.

author
blugyblug made it!(author)2008-12-29

Yeah we had to cut down the branch of a tree because it was hanging over our driveway.
Dead trees make good firewood. Since they are dead, they dont't absorb moisture and are dry...
=good firewood.

author
reedz made it!(author)2008-12-28

I really like this, it is pretty informative. Perhaps you could add a note: Trees generally fall in the direction you want, however if a tree is already leaning or has a lot of branches on one side it is more prone to fall that way. Otherwise, 4/5

author
Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2008-12-28

Thanks, i'll add something about the weight of the branches.

author
pbonk made it!(author)2008-12-27

I'd suggest a few more pieces of safety equipment:

- Helmet with face shield and hearing protection
- Leg chaps and long pants
- Steel toed boots

More info here, safety gear

author
GorillazMiko made it!(author)2008-12-27

Look at dem nosy neighbors..

author
Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2008-12-27

Not as much nosy as amused...I think they just enjoyed the show.

author
NachoMahma made it!(author)2008-12-27

. Good job.

author
LinuxH4x0r made it!(author)2008-12-27

Nice. I personally prefer the *relative* safety of using a reciprocating saw with a 12" blade.

author
bumpus made it!(author)2008-12-27

Warning! Get really drunk first. Then it won't hurt so much when you chainsaw your face off and crush your family. - Tim Anderson.
:D

author
Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2008-12-27

I saw his version right after I published this one...let's just say I didn't regret publishing this one, too.

About This Instructable

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Bio: I enjoy photography, horticulture and carpentry, and am almost always doing something relating to of those things.
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