Introduction: How to Cut Down a Tree

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

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 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 really all depends on your particular case.

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

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