WHAT YOU NEED
Let's check the equipment you'll require. You need:
safety equipment, as described in the
owners Guide to Safety with Chain saws and shown in the illustration.
- Don't forget your first aid kit.
- Chainsaw, files and guides and tool kit.
- Your chainsaw manufacturer's booklet.
- Fuel and oil containers that are properly
constructed for the purpose. Don't use glass or soft plastics.
- Wedges and driving tools. have at least two
wedges. high-density plastic or soft metal are best.
- Canthooks. These are handy for rolling small
trees, or rolling and holding logs to assist with crosscutting.
- A felling lever. This is useful for small trees,
and one with a hook can be used as a canthook.
- An axe. You may prefer to trim with an axe. It's
also useful for splitting large firewood blocks.
- Know your Limitations
THERE are some felling methods and situations that
should only be tackled by experienced tree fellers or professionals. While
some are described later in this FAQ, they are listed here for your
guidance. These are jobs for experienced people only:
- Working in wind throw or with wind-affected trees.
- Felling large, heavily branched shelter belt
- Felling trees with a heavy lean.
- Felling trees that are liable to splitting or
slabbing. Willow and tawa are two examples of such trees.
- Felling trees on steep slopes or unstable ground.
- Working on or felling trees that overhang power
lines, buildings or public access ways.
- Driving trees one on to another.
- Back pulling trees.
- Felling dead trees.
There are two main things to consider when preparing
for felling; the general work area and the individual tree to be felled.
CHECK WORK AREA
It's important to check the work area for hazards before you start felling
or cutting. Under the health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, you are
required not to do anything that will harm another person in any place
where you work (this includes harm to yourself).
ASSESS TREE TO BE FELLED
- Check that there are no other persons, children or
animals in the work area. Make sure that no people with you, unless
acting as an instructor or assistant, are within two tree lengths of the
tree to be felled. This distance should be increased if felling is down
- Check for hazards in the area such as electricity
or telecommunication lines. Seek advice from the local controlling
authority if in doubt.
- If any road, railway or public access way is
within two tree lengths of your work area, contact the controlling
authority to find out what precautions they require to prevent harm to
other people and property.
- Check there are no buildings, equipment, fences or
above ground reticulation pipes within two tree lengths of the direction
of fall of the tree. With checking completed and precautions taken as
necessary, you're now ready to look at the individual tree to be felled.
- Where possible, plan to fell the tree so that it
clears any obstructions and falls into a clear open space.
- Check for any dead or broken branches or any
debris that may be dislodged and fall into the work area as the tree
falls. This is particularly common in old shelter belt trees and causes
many serious accidents every year. View the tree from different angles
so you don't miss anything.
- Look for branches interlocking with branches of
other trees. These can break off as the tree falls and drop into the
work area, pull the tree away from the desired direction of fall, or
cause other trees to uproot and fall.
- Note any vines which may affect the direction of
- Look for any rot around the base of the tree where
the felling cuts are to be made. These may affect the direction of fall.
- By looking at the lean of the tree, the location
of the heaviest branches and the general crown weight, you'll be able to
select the direction of fall.
- Wind can affect the fall direction and must be
considered along with the other points. Don't fell trees in high winds
or poor weather.
- If wedges or other felling aids will be required,
have them ready.
Check for Overhead Hazards. Material falling into the work area is one of
the most common causes of accidents when felling trees. Because of the
height from which the material falls, severe or fatal injuries can result.
Old trees and shelter belt trees are those most
likely to have material lodged in the crown. Dead branches, broken tops
and cones are common.
Make sure you thoroughly check the tree to be felled
and prepare your escape route as described later. Watch for falling
material even after the tree has hit the ground. Check for hazards
overhead before felling.
the Felling Site
Having assessed the work area and tree to be felled,
you now have to prepare the site for felling.
You are now ready to start the first of the felling
cuts. have an escape route prepared. Image
- If there are any low branches that may get in the
way as you make the felling cuts, cut them off.
- Be careful not to use the tip of the guide bar
while clearing around the tree. Work in an anti clockwise direction,
keeping the tree between yourself and the saw guide bar where possible.
- Clear an adequate work area around the base of the
tree and provide an escape route diagonally to the rear, as illustrated
- Look forward in the direction of fall and identify
any hazards such as stumps, logs, or ground undulations that may cause
the fallen tree to kick backwards or sideways on contact.
- If you have identified hazards such as material
that may fall into the work area, your companions should take up a
position where they can clearly see the hazard and can signal to you if
there is danger as you make the felling cuts.
There are three essential parts you need to consider when felling any
tree over 200 mm in diameter. They are the:
Let's look at these in turn.
- back cut, and
- hinge wood.
The Scarf is important because it:
The top cut is made first at a 45" angle
between one-quarter and one-third of the tree's diameter. The cut must
accurately face the desired direction fall and finish level. The bottom
cut must be made level to meet the top cut and form a clean, uniform
"V" right across the diameter of the tree when the cut section
- controls the direction of fall
- allows the tree to fall freely in the chosen
- minimizes splitting or slabbing.
This should be equal to one-tenth of the tree's diameter and is left
uncut ; the back cut is brought towards the scarf. This wood:
THE BACK CUT
- acts as a hinge and controls the tree's direction
- prevents the tree from twisting or breaking
sideways when falling
- prevents the tree from falling backwards if the
back cut closes
The back cut cleans out the wood from the back side of the tree to leave
the hinge wood and allow the tree to fall. The back cut is made level and
always above the 'V' of the scarf. As a guide, it should be at least
one-tenth the diameter of the tree above the scarf but never less than 50
mm and a maximum of 200 mm for large trees.
If you are in any doubt as to the lean of a tree,
insert a holding wedge in the cut as soon as practicable and drive it home
as the cut proceeds.
The back cut is taken up until there is an even
amount of hinge wood about one-tenth of the tree's diameter and parallel
to the scarf. The cut must never be taken up to or beyond the scarf cut as
the hinge wood is eliminated and there is no control over direction of
Once the back cut has been taken up and the tree begins to fall:
- Remove saw from the cut and switch off.
- Move into the planned escape route. Watch for
- Watch for the tree kicking back or bouncing as it
hits the ground.
Where a tree is too large to use only one cut for the back cut, the
following method can be used. It is commonly known as "quarter
Always finish the second cut from the safe side.
- Assess the lean and weight of the tree and cut the
scarf in the normal manner.
- Either draw your plan of work on paper or mark the
felling cuts with a paint bomb so that you can work with confidence.
- Select the side of the tree on which the first
part of the back cut will be made. If the tree has a slight lean, or if
there is rot or something in the head that could dislodge as the tree
falls, make the first part of the back cut from that side.
- Take the first back cut up to the hinge wood.
Place and tap home a holding wedge in the cut.
- Saw the second part of the back cut up to the
hinge wood, using the top of the bar.
This method of felling helps to maintain the hinge wood across the full
width of the stump.
Some Dangerous Practices:
cut of scarf has been made too deep, leaving no holding wood. Tree will
fall without control and may "barber chair".
cut at same level as scarf may result in tree hitching back off the stump.
Cut has been allowed to carry on leaving no holding wood or hinge. Tree
will fall without control.
Back cut at same level as scarf may result in tree kicking back off the
Back cut overcut may result in wrong fall direction and
Trees with a small sideways lean, or a slight lean away from the desired
direction of fall, can be felled where desired by using the techniques
Remember, if the tree has a large sideways lean or
is leaning heavily backwards, these techniques will not be successful and
may even prove dangerous. Get an experienced person or professional to
handle this type of tree. A different method of felling may be required.
The methods explained below involve the use of driving wedges.
High-density plastic wedges and a mallet or suitable driving tools are
Let's look at methods of felling trees with side
lean and those that are leaning back so that they are assisted to the
desired direction of fall. Remember to have all the equipment you will
require before starting any cuts.
- Remove the bark from the wedge position so that
solid wood is exposed and the wedge is immediately effective.
- Drive the wedge home as the felling cuts proceed
so that maximum assistance is obtained from the wedge's leverage.
- Don't attempt to drive a plastic wedge into a
closed cut as splitting or shattering of the wedge can cause facial
ARE LEANING BACK
- Make the scarf facing the desired direction of
- Start the back cut on the leaning side of the
tree, leaving slightly narrower hinge wood than normal.
- Put the wedge in the cut.
- Continue the back cut from the other side,
allowing for wider hinge wood, and tap the wedge in as the cut takes
- Drive the wedge home when the cut is complete. The
tree should fall in the desired direction.
There are two methods of dealing with trees that are leaning back from the
desired direction of fall. Remember that wedges are limited in changing
the direction of fall.
The Standard Method
Split Level Back cuts
- Cut the scarf as normal in the desired direction
- Back cut as normal.
- As soon as there is sufficient solid wood, insert
the wedge or wedges in the cut and drive in as the cut progresses.
This method is particularly effective on smaller trees as it allows for
the wedge to set when there is still a large amount of holding wood
- Make the scarf slightly shallower than normal (but
still one-quarter of the diameter) in the normal manner.
- Make one side of the back cut in the normal manner
and set the wedge in this cut opposite the scarf and in line with the
desired direction of fall.
- Make the final part of the back cut tilting it
down to avoid the wedge. Keep the wedge driven up as the final cut is
made. Use another wedge if necessary.
- Make sure both back cuts are slightly overlapped
but be sure they are still the correct distance (one-tenth of the
diameter) above the joined scarf cuts.
Felling Hazards And Difficulties
The following tips will help you to identify and
assess hazards and difficulties when felling trees.
CUT UP TREE
- Felling uphill. Be aware that the tree may slide
back or kick up into the work area once it hits the ground. Move quickly
along the escape route to distance yourself from the stump area. Don't
turn your back, watch the path and progress of the tree you have felled.
- Felling trees across slope. Make sure you are not
in the path of a rolling tree. Move back along your escape route away
from the falling tree.
- Spars (trees with no tops). Make the scarf
slightly deeper but not over half the diameter. Place a wedge in the
back cut as soon as practicable to ensure the correct direction of fall
as there is no crown to assist in tipping the tree.
- Trees scarfed and back cut but not on the ground.
These are of two types, known as "cut-up" and
This is where the tree sits back on the back cut. It can result from
misjudged lean, failure to place a wedge in the back cut or perhaps a gust
HUNG UP TREE
- If a machine is present, it can assist to push the
tree in the desired direction.
- Otherwise, wedges can be inserted in the back cut
and driven home until the tree falls.
- If the back cut is too tight for wedges to be
inserted, you can re scarf and back cut the tree in the reverse
direction. Make the second lot of felling cuts the diameter of the tree
above the first as this will reduce the possibility of splitting. Insert
wedges before there is any chance of the tree sitting back and keep them
driven home as the cut proceeds.
This is a felled tree that is prevented from falling to the ground by
lodging in another tree.
If a machine is present, the tree should be brought to the ground.
Otherwise, use a canthook or levering device to dislodge the tree.
If these two methods fail, seek assistance. Bring in a suitable machine to
assist or contact an experienced feller, who will be familiar with methods
of dealing with the situation.
"Hung-up" and "Cut-up" Trees Never move forward within
two tree lengths of the intended direction of fall of any
"hung-up" or "cut-up" tree, or the direction of fall
of a "hung-up" tree.
Where a tree is "hung up" or "cut up" tree it must be
brought to the ground before you continue any other work. Do not leave
such trees unless you have marked the area while you seek assistance, or
someone else is present to warn other people of the hazard. Never leave
"hung up" or "cut up" trees over a lunch or smoko
break or overnight without taking the above precautions.
Now you have your tree safely on the ground, you
must prepare it for crosscutting into lengths, whether for fencing or farm
material, saw or pulp logs, firewood or simply for disposal.
Before any work is done on the felled tree, examine it to see if any
- If there are any trees that were adjacent to the
felled trees, give them a quick check, there may be broken branches or
suspended material that could fall into the work area.
- Make sure the tree is stable and will not roll or
move when you start to work on it. Place chocks if you think movement is
possible, especially on slopes.
- Always finish the cut from the uphill side of the
- If you have the equipment, trees lying in
difficult or dangerous positions should be pulled into a safe and stable
position before trimming or crosscutting is started. Trimming should be
carried out while walking alongside the tree, provided the tree is
stable and debris or scrub are not a hindrance.
- If trimming has to be done from the top of the
log, the distance to the ground should be no greater than 1.5 metres.
This method of trimming can cause back strain and result in falls and
- Trees that are actually on the ground can be
trimmed with relative safety. Beware of a tree suspended by its branches
as one large branch may hold the tree up. Cutting this branch can result
in the tree rolling on top of you.
- When a tree is held up off the ground, trim the
large branches from the outside in by making a couple of cuts to test
a tree held off the ground.
- Always work on the uphill side of a tree on a
- Use enough bar when trimming to lessen the chance
of nose or bar contact and the resulting kickback.
- Watch for limbs that are under tension. These can
spring back and inflict severe injury. Stand on the side away from the
tension and release the tension with two cuts, first on your side and
then on the other side.
With your tree trimmed and stable, you are now ready
to start crosscutting it into desired lengths. Make sure you have your
wedges and driving tool with you.
- Examine the tree and determine if any portion is
liable to roll, drop or swing when the cut is completed.
- Don't crosscut logs that are suspended more than
1.5 metres above the ground. Crosscutting above this height means the
saw is being used above shoulder level. Log control can also be lost as
logs twist or roll.
- If it's not obvious what is holding a tree on a
slope, you should assume that it may move at any time. Work out of the
danger area. Make sure others are not endangered if the cut log rolls
down the slope.
- Never attempt to crosscut a tree or log that is in
a dangerous condition or if the cut cannot be completed. It may be
possible to make a cut in a less desirable position that could eliminate
- When about to crosscut, get a firm footing and
avoid standing on any loose material. Clear a sufficient area to operate
in and a path to escape if danger occurs.
- Look for any defects such as rot or large branches
that may affect your crosscutting.
- Make sure the carry-through of the saw does not
bring the chain into contact with the ground or objects that may damage
- Mostly the tree will not be lying in an ideal
position for crosscutting and the following points will assist you to
have trouble-free crosscutting. The most common situations are tension,
compression and and pressure.
This can occur as top, bottom or side tension and compression. follow the
cutting sequences outlined below for trouble-free crosscutting.
A tree on a slope can create difficulties when it is directly up-slope as
its weight tends to close the saw cut.
Trees with Root plates
Wind thrown trees that have the root plate or root
wad still attached require special treatment. When crosscut, the root
plate can spring back to its original position and the log can move
sideways towards the cross cutter.
A similar situation can occur as sections are cut off the tree until the
root plate counterbalances the tree and springs back into its original
allow people to stand where they would be in danger of a root plate
- Never stand on and cut trees that have the root
plate still attached.