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Felling a Tree

Felling a tree can be done safely by preparing carefully and cutting correctly.

| October/November 2005

  • Felling Trees
    To fell a tree, make three cuts: a horizontal and angled cut to create a wedge-shaped opening; and a final felling cut that allows the tree to fall on its hinge.
    Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
  • Felling a Tree
    Felling a tree safely should be the number one concern.
    Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors

  • Felling Trees
  • Felling a Tree

Anyone can bring down a tree safely by preparing carefully and cutting correctly.

Cutting down trees can be dangerous work, especially in yards with buildings and power lines nearby. Even if you are cutting firewood out in the forest, you should prepare carefully before you begin sawing. Trees don’t always fall exactly where you intend, and if they bounce off neighboring branches, you could be injured if you are standing too close. Wherever you are cutting down a tree, having someone along to help or just watch is a smart thing to do.

To do the job well, you’ll need to establish a comfortable work area. First, clear out a place around the tree where you can get a firm footing and have enough space to work with a chain saw. Lop off any lower branches in your way. Before making any cuts, walk around the tree and study it. Are you sure this is a tree you want to eliminate-is it a nut or fruit tree; does it have nests in it; is it a rare species.

Judging the Fall

Once you have decided which tree to cut, think about where the tree will naturally fall. Which way is it leaning? Stand back and hold an axe in front of you by the tip of the handle. The handle will be plumb (straight up and down) because of the bottom weight, and by sighting along the handle, you can determine the lean of the tree. This is the most important indication of which direction the tree will go.

Next, look at the balance: If there are too many heavy branches on one side, it may pull the tree over to that side. Pay close attention to the top of the tree; if it is nodding in one direction when the wind blows, this will influence the way the tree will fall.

9/29/2015 7:04:52 PM

Oh wow, that's quite interesting to know that the first cut should be at a 45 degree wedge. This sure would be great to keep in mind since pretty soon I'm going to be doing a tree removal on my backyard. Well, it would be for next week because of the tools and equipment that I would need to get.

Brian Wood
12/1/2011 7:02:19 PM

I like this guide from OSHA:

Bill Ross_2
1/1/2009 8:22:49 PM

I have cut many trees but I recently cut one and it began to fall in the wrong direction, threatening some power lines. I called the power company who came out and cut every tree that could conceivable fall onto a power line for free!

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