How to Chainsaw a Tree: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Chainsaw a Tree: A Comprehensive Guide

I’ve always found the process of felling trees to be an exhilarating experience. The roar of the chainsaw engine, the focused precision of each cut, and the triumphant timber as the tree crashes to the ground gets my adrenaline pumping every time. However, I’ve also learned over the years that chainsawing trees can be an extremely dangerous endeavor if proper precautions aren’t taken. From wearing the right protective gear to carefully planning each cut, there’s a lot that goes into safely and effectively felling a tree.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk through the essential steps involved in chainsawing a tree. I’ll cover everything from assessing the tree and surrounding area, gathering equipment, making notch cuts, monitoring the tree’s fall, and processing the wood after felling. My goal is to provide chainsaw operators with the knowledge and techniques needed to safely and successfully take down trees. Whether you’re an experienced sawyer or new to using chainsaws, this guide has tips that can help maximize safety and efficiency when felling trees. So let’s get started!

How to Chainsaw a Tree?

How to Chainsaw a Tree: A Comprehensive Guide

Felling a tree with a chainsaw is a multi-step process that requires careful planning and execution. Here are the key phases involved:

Assess the Tree and Surrounding Area

Before ever starting up your chainsaw, it’s crucial to thoroughly assess the tree you’ll be cutting down. Consider factors like the tree’s height, diameter, lean, and condition. Look for decay, fungus, cracks, or other defects that could make the tree behave unpredictably when felled. It’s also essential to scan the area for any hazards or obstacles like power lines, structures, fencing, or other trees that could be struck by the falling tree.

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You’ll also need to plan your escape path and determine the optimal direction you want the tree to fall based on your assessment. Look for open areas away from buildings, vehicles, or other objects.

Gather Necessary Equipment and Safety Gear

When it comes to felling trees, having the right gear and using it properly is critical for safety. Here’s some essential equipment for the job:

  • Chainsaw – A professional-grade chainsaw with enough power for the tree’s size. Be sure it’s sharp and well-maintained.
  • Wedges and sledge – These help control the fall of the tree.
  • Ropes or winches – Useful for pulling or guiding larger trees.
  • Axes, shovels, etc. – Helpful for digging around roots or driving wedges.
  • First aid kit – Crucial for treating any injuries that occur.

Safety gear is also a must, including:

  • Chainsaw chaps – Protect legs from cuts.
  • Helmet with visor and ear protection – Shields your head and hearing.
  • Heavy work gloves – Guard hands from chainsaw and debris.
  • Steel-toe boots – Protect feet from falling limbs and the saw.
  • Eye protection – Goggles prevent sawdust in eyes.

Don’t take shortcuts here – wearing proper safety apparel can save life and limb.

Plan the Notch and Felling Cuts

Now it’s time to visualize your cutting plan. You’ll need to make two primary cuts when felling a tree: the notch cut and the felling cut.

The notch cut consists of two angled cuts on the side the tree will fall, forming a v-shaped notch. This notch does several things:

  • Helps control the direction of the fall
  • Prevents wood splitting as the tree falls
  • Provides room for the saw to cut the felling cut

There are different types of notch cuts to consider, such as open face, conventional, humboldt, etc. Choose one suitable for the tree species and situation.

After the notch is established, the felling cut is made on the opposite side of the trunk. This cut angles down to meet the point of the notch. Done properly, the felling cut allows you to accurately direct the tree’s fall.

Make the Notch Cut

Now it’s go time! To make the notch, proceed as follows:

  • Start the bottom notch cut first, keeping your saw moving side to side.
  • Next, make the top notch cut so it meets cleanly with the bottom cut.
  • Remove the resulting wood chunk so the notch lays open.
  • Correct any issues with the notch shape or direction using the chainsaw or axe.
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The open notch should face your planned direction of fall. Follow any relevant notch cutting guidelines for the tree species you’re felling. Also take extra safety precautions as the tree becomes unstable.

Use Wedges on Large Trees

When felling large diameter trees, plastic or magnesium wedges are extremely helpful for controlling the direction of fall. Here are some tips for using wedges:

  • Drive wedges into the backcut side of the notch before making the felling cut.
  • Use wood or plastic wedges first, then switch to magnesium wedges which are stronger.
  • Strike wedges with a sledgehammer to gradually lift the tree in the desired direction.
  • Add additional wedges if the tree begins settling back on its notch as you make the felling cut.

Wedges create immense leverage for guiding bigger trees right where you want them.

Make the Felling Cut

Now for the moment of truth – executing the felling cut. I recommend the following:

  • Begin the felling cut about 2 inches higher than the notch cut on the opposite side of the trunk.
  • Cut down at a slight angle, precisely meeting the notch.
  • Leave some “holding wood” about 1/10th the trunk width to control the fall.
  • Pull out the saw and retreat along escape path before holding wood breaks.
  • Watch out for limbs and the treetop as they come down!

Making the felling cut is when all your prior planning pays off. Exercise extreme caution and be ready to move as the tree goes over.

Monitor the Tree’s Fall and React Accordingly

During the entire falling process, you need to remain hyper-vigilant. Watch for these hazards:

  • The tree not falling in your intended direction
  • Snapped holding wood or kickback from the chainsaw
  • Falling limbs or treetop as they come down
  • Leaning or twisting of the trunk as it falls

Your escape path should give you enough room to avoid the entire tree. But be ready to move immediately if the tree starts falling erratically. Don’t turn your back on the situation until the tree hits the ground.

Remove Branches and Cut into Firewood

Congratulations, the tree is on the ground! Now it’s time to buck it up:

  • Carefully remove branches, starting with those supporting the log off the ground.
  • Roll remaining stem sections to expose the underside.
  • Buck the log into rounds based on your intended use.
  • Finally, split the rounds into firewood with an axe or hydraulic splitter.
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Having a neat stack of firewood at the end makes all the effort worthwhile. Be sure to avoid any logs with nails, fencing or signs of rot.


I hope this guide has provided you with a thorough overview of the chainsaw tree felling process. While chainsawing trees requires skill and experience, remember that safety should always be the number one priority. Never cut if you are tired or rushed. Invest in high-quality safety gear and maintain it properly. Study tree felling techniques and operators’ manuals for your saw. With practice and caution, you’ll gain confidence tackling those timberrr-ing trees. Thanks for reading, and be sure to share your own chainsaw tips and stories below!

Frequently Asked Questions

What safety gear should I wear when chainsawing a tree?

Essential safety gear includes chainsaw chaps, steel-toe boots, heavy gloves, eye protection, hard hat with ear muffs and face shield, and clothing that won’t get tangled in brush.

How do I choose the right chainsaw for the job?

Pick a professional-grade saw with enough power for the tree’s diameter. Aim for 3-5 horsepower per 10 inches of trunk thickness. Keep the chain sharp and tuned up.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when chainsawing a tree?

  • Not paying attention to which way the tree is leaning
  • Forgetting to clear an escape path
  • Cutting towards yourself instead of away
  • Attempting to cut a tree that is too large or hazardous for your skill level
  • Not wearing proper safety gear

How can I ensure the tree falls in the desired direction?

Make precise notch and back cuts, use wedges, and don’t cut if the tree has a heavy lean opposite your intended fall. Have a rope or winch ready to pull the tree if needed.

What should I do if the chainsaw gets stuck in the tree?

First shut off the saw if possible. Call someone for help. Don’t tug on the saw, and brace the log so it doesn’t roll. You may need to carefully re-cut the area around the stuck saw.

How do I maintain my chainsaw for optimal performance?

Regularly inspect, clean and replace the bar, chain, air filter and spark plug. Keep the saw sharp and properly tensioned. Check the oiler, fuel lines, chain brake, and muffler. Consult the owner’s manual.

Can I chainsaw a tree on my own, or should I hire a professional?

Consider hiring an insured arborist for large, hazardous trees near buildings or power lines. They have specialized training and equipment for more complex jobs. DIY is OK for smaller, isolated trees if you use extreme care and proper technique.


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