Introduction: Remove Bushes and Stumps the Easy Way With a Farm Jack (AKA Hi-Lift Jack)

Picture of Remove Bushes and Stumps the Easy Way With a Farm Jack (AKA Hi-Lift Jack)

We recently bought a 100 year old house, and the previous owners loved unruly bushes and trees. We had quite a few that were touching the roof of the house or spilling over onto the neighbors driveway, so we decided to get rid of the bushes and trees we didn't want.

If you have ever dug up even a modest sized bush you know how back breaking it can be, and how slow it is to try to remove them. Even if you have a truck and chain, it's not a great idea to just start by pulling it out with your truck before digging up the roots, and it isn't a sure bet your truck will be able to do it (if you have the time search youtube for "truck pulls tree fail" and you'll see what I mean). The amount of force you need to pull the tree out sideways instead of up out of the ground can tax even the beefiest of trucks.

To fix this problem, I decided to make a simple "tripod" mount for my Farm Jack (also called a Hi-Lift Jack). This allowed me to pull the bushes and stumps UP instead of SIDEWAYS, and once I loosened them up, I could yank them out of the ground (even with my old 2 wheel drive pickup).

There is a commercial product available that uses some metal legs, it looks very nice, but they also want around $150 for it. I didn't pay that much for my Farm Jack, so I couldn't justify spending that much on the metal legs. With a cheap 2x4 and a few odds and ends from the hardware store, I was able to make my own tripod system that worked fantastic!

Step 1: Making the Tripod Legs

Picture of Making the Tripod Legs

Materials Needed:

  • 1 Farm Jack (also known as Hi-Lift Jack)
  • 8' long 2x4
  • 9" long 1/2" bolt
  • 4 large washers to fit bolt
  • 1 wingnut to fit bolt

This was very simple to make. I simply cut my 8 foot 2x4 in half. Then towards the top of the 2x4s, I drilled a hole with a 3/4" spade bit (just has to be larger than the 1/2" bolt so the boards can move around). To assemble, just slip a washer onto the bolt, then thread through the first 2x4, then another washer, then through the top hole on your farm jack, then a washer, then thread through the other 2x4, then the final washer, and then the wingnut to hold it all together.

I bought my jack from Harbor Freight for around $50. Some tools from Harbor Freight are iffy, but this jack is pretty rock solid, and I have no complaints at all. You can get it even cheaper if you wait for one of their regular coupons or parking lot sales, but I've also seen similar deals online for these types of jacks, and I'm sure they are all great.

We're now ready to attach it to the bush/stump and get removing!

Step 2: Setting It Up and Using It

Picture of Setting It Up and Using It

To prepare the bush or stump, all you have to do is to trim it down low enough that you can fit the tripod over it (but not too low that you can't wrap a chain around it). The idea is that you wrap your chain around the base (as low as you can) of the stump or bush, and then attach it to the arm on the Farm Jack. I used a little metal hook I bought at the hardware store to attach the chain to a hole in the arm of the jack, but again, this may vary depending on how your jack is constructed.

Once it's all attached, I start raising the jack arm up with the lever. There were a few times that the first time lifting the stump would only pull it up half way, and I would have to release the jack, and then reattach the chains lower (often it would pull part of the roots out of the ground, and I could loop the chain under the exposed roots system), then I would reattach the jack and lift it up again, and it would pull it the rest of the way out. But often times it will pull it right out of the ground the first time like it did with the video on the first step.

Once it's pulled up and "loosened", you can attach the chain to a truck or vehicle to pull it the rest of the way out. You could do this by hand, but it's usually pretty heavy as the roots have all of the dirt attached and it can be pretty unwieldy. As it was mentioned earlier, it is best to pull it UP first with the jack, and then you can pull it SIDEWAYS with your vehicle.

Step 3: All Done

Picture of All Done

Here you can see the bush in that corner step is gone and I'm starting to work on the stump of a lilac tree I cut down using the same method. We removed 8 bushes and tree stumps that day all about the size of the one in the video (including that big one in the background against the fence in the picture), and every one worked great! This is a great method of removing small and medium sized bushes and tree stumps that will save your back. We have a bunch more in the backyard that we will tackle in the spring, and we have had neighbors ask if they could borrow the jack once they saw how easy it was.


Quadrifoglio made it! (author)2016-04-26

It is slow, tedious, and hard work; but it does work. The worst part was getting up and down to attach the chain. Then I had the bright idea to see if someone KNEW how to wrap a chain on a tree. That is when I found this video The one important bit of info comes just after 15 seconds; make a clove hitch with the chain. I could leave one end attached to the jack and “tie off” the lose end. It was about 2 to 3 times faster than what I had been doing.

One other tool that was really needed was a landscape axe. I watched the “dig around the roots and cut them with a pruning or a chain saw. Watch out for the dirt though, it can damage the saw” videos (Ha!). I started digging out the first tree, a larger, multi trunk mulberry that has annoyed me for years. After furtzing around with the shovel and the first root, impatience overtook me and I took the landscape axe to the roots around the tree and winched it out. It was over and done in a lot less time than it would have taken just to dig out the roots. Also, the axe couldn’t give a crap about getting dirty (clean, stone, and Boelube before you put it away).

My axe is a Seymour AX-P3 3-1/2-pound Pulaski axe with 36-Inch hickory handle. It arrived dull, which was expected, but took and holds a sharp edge. Minor stoning keeps up the edge.

The support legs for the jack are a Superstrut 1-5/8 inch x 10 foot green 12-gauge strut from the orange bigbox (there is also a 14-gauge but go big or don’t go at all). I had been looking for 2x4’s to recreate this Ible but all I found were crappy and knotty. The strut already has holes so it is infinitely adjustable, not that that is needed in a yard where the high spot is maybe 8” higher than the low spot.

I cut the strut in half (just use a hacksaw and forget about the steel or fiber cutoff wheels) and bolted 2x4 pontoons so that the end of the struts would dig into the ground but “float” on the pontoons. At the top, I used a long bolt with angle cut iron pipe as spacers. If I was going to use this on a regular basis, I would find a higher rated bolt (it is all bent to heck but it held). I also bolted on a 2x6 base. The whole thing is heavy, clocking in at a minimum of 50 pounds.

It pulled mulberry, oak, redbud, and holly without a problem. Pecan is a different story that I will have to figure out.

If you do this Ible, be careful. There are lots of ways to get hurt with pinch points, thousands of pounds of pressure on the jack, legs, and chain, and an unforgiving steel handle.

SebastianB39 (author)2016-04-01

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Lovetra (author)2016-03-03

Oh yes, People also want to borrow my antique Handy-Man, if I trust them, I write down their name address and phone, put the note on my bulliten board, board with the date they borrowed and if it isn't back in a couple of days I make a phone call.

When I don't know them---- I go with the jack and it comes home with me!

Lovetra (author)2016-03-03

I have my Father's old, still working HANDY-MAN-JACK-- He taught me to do a few things with it in the 1950's. I think it is heavier constructed than the more modern ones, with just a little rust. One was wrap heavy chain around post a few times as close to ground as you can get it, (wood, metal, didn't matter), place the hook so the chain had a loop, place tongue of jack in the loop with the jack on solid ground or 2x something block of sturdy wood, pump the jack and it's out. Simple.

BUT-- I never thought of the tripod for bushes--- It's gardening time and I have one bad one to remove. Time to pull out the Handy-Man and oil it up!

W01 (author)2015-12-17

I like the above technique when you cannot get a straight line pull with a vehicle.

If you can there is another option.

Materials needed.

Good Condition Tow Chain

15 or 16 inch rim without the tire.

You only need to clear a small section so you can reach the lowest place on the bush.

(The more you leave of the bush the better)

Wrap the chain around 3-4 times and place the hook as close to the wrap as possible insuring it is catching the entire chain (don't just stick the end of the hook in a loop).

Use a piece of Parachute cord to secure the hook in place to prevent it from coming loose,

Now lay out the chain in a straight line to your truck/tow hitch attach it and with a parachute cord tie it in place.

Place the Chain over the Rim and push it as close as you can to the bush.

Now insure everyone are at least 3 times the distance of your chain away on the side from the vehicle not standing in front or behind.

Have someone watching the bush and signaling you.

Get in your vehicle.. take up the slack.. You only need to pull it a foot or so to break the roots free so there is no reason to move more than a a few feet.

Bump your gas pedal and bounce the bush out.

It may take a bit to get the hang of it.. But it works quite well once you get the hang of it.

Lots of Lucks


Quadrifoglio (author)W012016-02-28

Yes, on the be very careful. I watched a neighbor destroy the bumper, tailgate, and rear glass of a '70's Jeep Cherokee 4x4 when the chain got loose under tension. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Turned out the "bush" was a sprouted out Yew stump that was over a foot in diameter.

KenC7 (author)W012015-12-17

You say "place the chain over the rim". This could use a bit more description. Is the rim laying flat on the ground? Is the rim vertical? Is it perpendicular to the chain, or in line? I totally didn't get the point until I started going through the possibilities like that. Now I'm betting that you put the chain over the rim so the rim looks like a big pulley wheel with the chain going through it like a belt would - in-line with the chain, and vertical.

W01 (author)KenC72015-12-17

Yes the rims purpose is to function as a pulley and pull up like the Jack. So it has to be set upright or in a position to roll..

I had rims laying around. I would not use a tire (such as a spare) the type of stresses induced (in a narrow area of the tire) are not of the type a tire is designed to resist and I see no sense in taking any safety related chances it might damage the tire in a way I cannot see.

Because I have an engineering background I am a bit more safety oriented perhaps.. That is why I said bump not jam on the gas and race across the street.

There are always dangers when using significant forces and people need to be careful and act reasonably.. Be it with a Jack a Truck and a Chain or anything else.

Plant root systems are designed to find water and resist wind roughly parallel to the surface so their ability to resist vertical forces is limited.

You know I tried to get something like the Brush Grubber.. It was a chain with spikes to grab the the brush limbs and a ring to cinch up tight.. I could not find one locally and there all around $100 or more online.

I have found it takes a bit more time to get a solid bite into the base of the bush than I think it would with something like the specifically designed devices referenced above.. But then again I saved the $$ and the technique works..

Be safe and have fun..

throwedoff (author)W012015-12-18

I have done this many times using a spare offroad tire (6 ply) mounted on a rim and inflated. Since I use a four wheel drive vehicle, I always place the transfer case into its low range and ease into the throttle. I have pulled up bushes, small tree stumps, and chain link fence posts with no problems. Also, since I have a twenty-five foot chain and a thirty foot long 30,000 pound recovery strap, I don't have to be close to the object being pulled. I forget where I saw this method, but I saw it in a magazine. Of course safety is always paramount. When using a cable, chain, or recovery strap, a heavy blanket or blankets should be placed over the lines to act as a damper in the event they should break. A cable, recovery strap, chain can store a tremendous amount of energy while under a load. If one of those types of lines should break while under stress, they can whip or snap in any direction with catastrophic results. That is why a damper should always be used.

W01 (author)throwedoff2015-12-18


Use of a blanket/s (or an old piece of carpet) as a damper to reduce the chance of injury should the cable or chain break, While I am familiar with the safety measure I did not think to include it.. I still would be cautious with the use of a Spare Tire.. for the reasons previously listed. I will toss a blanket on the next time I do it thank you.

Brings to mind a saying,

"All of us are smarter than any of us"

This really is a pretty neat site..

melarky (author)KenC72015-12-17

I saw this video on Youtube of a similar sounding method, I don't know if it's exact though since this one uses the tire on the rim, not just a rim. Looks like a great way to do it though:

melarky (author)W012015-12-17

Someone else posted a comment about using a rim, seems like a great way to do this as it will pull "UP" instead of "SIDEWAYS" like the jack is doing.

SebastianB39 (author)2016-02-16

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Trike Lover (author)2016-01-03

The brand name of these jacks in Western Canada has been "Jack-All" for the last 50 years or so, made in Winnipeg, Manitoba if memory serves. I have had several, including some stolen, but my first old original "Jack-All" still works just fine. I had not thought of using 2x4 for this - a great idea, cheap and simple - but years ago my next-door neighbour, a welder, made a couple of "A-frame" legs using sections of bed frame angle iron, nested together and welded along the edge seams, and then welded a loop at the top of each made from a link of a heavy logging chain. We drilled holes near the

AzzysDesignWorks (author)2015-12-30

Hi-Lift is a brand name, and trademark, of an american made product, unlike the chinese copy in the video.

CementTruck (author)2015-12-30

I've seen these jacks used as log splitters too. they run $50 at harbor freight but can be bought cheaper with their sales and discounts.

bluidmidget (author)2015-12-30

My husband was great at coming up with ideas to solve problems. He's gone now but I'm glad I paid attention to some of the things he did. I had 8 cemented in chain link posts I wanted removed. My husband taught me to use the hydraulic jack and a heavy chain, wrapping one end of the chain snugly around the bottom of the post and the other end around the jack and securing both ends with a bolt and nut. It took a couple of times of moving the chain down towards the lowest point on the post to remove the posts from the ground but it was quick and easy. Didn't have to build anything and what's even better is that since I already had the jack, I didn't have to buy anything either.

melarky (author)bluidmidget2015-12-30

Nice, I plan on trying something similar when the whether gets nicer (removing chain link fence posts that are cemented into the ground). Glad other have had success with similar setups.

namora (author)2015-12-20

When I was working as a landscaper I would dig a ditch around the shrub to the depth of a foot at the drip line for that plant then lay a chain around the shrub in the bottom of the ditch. I would use the center of the chain if possible and wrap it so the chain would cross itself on the side of the bush away from the vehicle leaving the two ends pointing to direction of pull. I would use a chain about the size of a child's swing or a bit larger, The object here is to cut the roots to free the plant ball and if a deep enough ditch is dug replanting is quite possible. If you need a deeper ditch then it is best to dig a trough for the tension part of the chain a well. take up tension by hand to set the chain properly and with a steady and firm pull the shrub will come free. I have removed fairly large plants with this method.

doug21951 (author)2015-12-19

Try an old tractor rim!

milkcartonkid (author)2015-12-17

hi,its a instructable. But I've always used an old rim to pull stumps. take a sharpshooter shovel and dig a little til you can wrap the chain around a few roots. Put the rim close to the stump as possible. put the chain over it and pull it with a truck

melarky (author)milkcartonkid2015-12-17

I saw a video on youtube of something similar (used an actual wheel on a rim, not just the rim), and it seemed to work great too. Here is the link to the video I saw: is that what you're talking about, or do you do it a different way?

milkcartonkid (author)melarky2015-12-19

im gonna watch the video real quick and let you know :)

pooter1433 (author)milkcartonkid2015-12-17

Pretty cool idea. You should make an Instructable for that!

cybercapri (author)2015-12-17

Great idea and wonderful concept. Here is something you may want to consider, use a fence pole about 6' long to aid in the jacking process, the longer the leaver the less force required to use the jack. Also use a scrap piece of 4x6 pressure treated to act as a base for the jack so that it does not sink too easily into the ground. You could probably use 2x10 and double it but anything wider will keep that end out of the ground. Thanks for sharing your idea, I hope others can get use of it...

melarky (author)cybercapri2015-12-17

Did you suggest that because you could hear me wheezing and puffing as I pumped the jack :)

cybercapri (author)melarky2015-12-17

Not really, though I did hear you imitation of the "WOLF" as he "HUFF, PUFFED and blow down those little piggy's houses..." LOL..., however it was based more off of life experiences as I've used similar items to jack up vehicles or houses to change tires or level floors. I've just found longer handles provide more leverage... Also I saw how the jack was digging into the ground and though it's not a huge deal, it does force you to jack higher because that end sinks into the ground.

melarky (author)cybercapri2015-12-18

That's a great point about the base, there were one or 2 stumps/bushes that I wish I could have had one more pump in before I had to reposition the chain, so having it not sink down would help a ton. And the lever would have been handy for sure too. Thanks for the tips!

cybercapri (author)melarky2015-12-18

Experience is the best teacher, I am happy to assist you... Also others that will copy your project might also benefit from my suggestions, so it's like a WIN WIN all around...

oilitright (author)2015-12-17

Farm jacks are the shizzles. I've seen houses lifted for foundation work, moving out building. And f you have a vehicle stuck they are life saving. And like you've shown here for pulling stuff out of the ground hard to beat.

melarky (author)oilitright2015-12-18

Once you get one you start looking for ways to use it ;)

RiversP (author)2015-12-17

I have an off road 4 wheel drive and a log chain that could lift the whole house. That little stump wouldn't even know what hit it.

melarky (author)RiversP2015-12-18

Wish I had your setup!

Wazzupdoc (author)2015-12-17

Very inspiring! I had a similar problem removing a chain-link fence from the backyard. Each post was four feet high with three feet of cement around the bottom. I dug one out and then got an idea. I went to Pep Boys and bought a 2 ton engine hoist! It worked beautifully! Those posts popped out of the ground like pulling a loose tooth! I pulled up some shrubs too. It's the strongest guy in the neighborhood and folds up for storage.

melarky (author)Wazzupdoc2015-12-17

That sounds great, are those hoists expensive?

Wazzupdoc (author)melarky2015-12-18

I got mine on sale for $199. Harbour Freight has them too and they have 20% off coupons everywhere. BTW we named it William Randolf Hoist.

melarky (author)Wazzupdoc2015-12-18


dan.blake.7583 (author)2015-12-18

Every small stump / root ball I had to remove (as a pro) I just cut around the plant with an ax, (no digging depending on species) and pulled it out with a truck and chain. Hummmm, the way you ended up doing anyway.

cyberdove (author)2015-12-17

Good idea. Another method is to dig the dirt around the stump and cut it off just below ground level then rebury it.

goykhman (author)2015-12-17

I own a Hi-Lift jack and I do not understand how a tripod fits in the whole scheme of things.

melarky (author)goykhman2015-12-17

cyberpigue is right, it's just to stabilize it so that you can just pump the jack up and pull the stump/bush straight up instead of to the side and you don't have to balance the jack while you do it. If you are having to balance the jack, as soon as you get some tension on it, it will want to pull the jack toward the bush or stump. Some things you could get away without the tripod part though.

goykhman (author)melarky2015-12-17

I commented without the benefit of watching the video. I got it now.

cyberpigue (author)goykhman2015-12-17

It's needed to keep the jack from just tipping over. For some things you can manage to hold the jack upright wit your own strength, for others, it's too much pressure to hold.

bradwick1 (author)2015-12-17

There is an American made product called a "Brush Grubber" that works much easier and cheaper especially for multiple bushes. BG allows a firm grip on stump higher up so it can be torn out sideways easier. This is quite ingenious approach so im not knocking it at all. May even work with a brush grubber which is more efficient than a chain wrap.

melarky (author)bradwick12015-12-17

Yeah, that would be nice, there were a few times that I didn't tighten the chain sufficiently, and as I would jack it up, it would slip up the trunk instead of pulling it up, and I would have reset and reapply the chain to the base better. Something like this would be great for that.

AntonH9 (author)2015-12-17

that is what i call easy job easy done

melarky (author)AntonH92015-12-17

So much better than digging and cutting roots etc...

msd-boston (author)2015-12-17

Great idea w/ the tripod, Melarky.

One important caution is no matter how loose the stump gets, please do not attach it with a strap to a trailer ball as in the photo. Even with a 2WD truck you could put way more lateral force on the ball shaft than it's rated for. If broken, the ball turns into a potentially lethal 2" projectile! Google this for some interesting photos and x-rays... Instead, attach the strap or rope to a secure point on the vehicle frame and live to fight another shrub!

melarky (author)msd-boston2015-12-17

that's a great tip, I should definitely be more careful, I hope others see your comment before they try this out.

whatabout (author)2015-12-17

Very cool. That will give my jack something to do. It just sleeps on the back of the old Bronco now.

A neighbor had a 3' diameter stump, drilled some deep holes (3/8") and then dumped a bag of self lighting charcoal on it.

The holes allowed the fired to go deep and then let rain and insects in to finish the job.

Appears to have worked. No new trees growing out of it.

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