The ability to safely fell a tree is not just something for lumberjacks but is a skill that might be needed if you have any sized garden with a gnarly tree that has had its day. You will of course need to eye up and measure the desired trajectory of the doomed tree, then correctly notch it so that it can be worked on in a correct way. Above all, safety comes first. Death is a very real possibility if you get this wrong!
You need to check with your local state or municipality authority; some will require you to obtain a special permit in order to be allowed to fell a tree. You wouldn’t want to end up with a hefty fine when you could have just made that quick phone-call or sent that quick e-mail.
It is imperative that you wear a strong helmet or hard hat, as well as safety goggles. There is often a lot of movement that occurs all the way up the tree trunk – anything from a heavy branch to bits of falling debris could cause you significant harm if you don’t take precautions. It is also worth wearing Kevlar chaps so as to protect your precious legs when operating a chainsaw, regardless of whether it is a gas chainsaw or an electric chainsaw. If it hits the main artery then you could be dead even if the tree misses you!
There needs to be a plan with regard to where you want the tree to land. It should be well away from things such as roads, fences, and power lines. It should also be free from other trees which, if hit, might themselves become unstable and either fall down or later have to be felled.
4. Health check
The tree in question should not be leaning in any particular direction or it will be hard to guide into the desired falling direction. It should also not be diseased or partly rotten because it may split into sections upon being severed, further compromising the operation.
You need to be meticulous about measuring the height of the tree and the subsequent length of surface area it will need to be resting on, once felled. Throw an old washing line or rope up so that it nestles on an upper branch. Add a few more yards for good measure and allow that much space at ground zero. Next, slice a notch on the side of the tree which you hope will fall first; remove as many entangling branches from the trunk as possible. Use a pole saw to help with this, rather than a ladder which is potentially risky.
6. Smooth landing
Smooth out the circumference surrounding the tree, so that there is no risk of you tripping up or stumbling over the ground as you rapidly walk for cover. Remove anything that can be removed; anything that could potentially ensnare your feet. Otherwise, the last memory of your life will be that of a falling tree hurtling towards you!
7. Cut at an angle
Using your chainsaw, slice a 70-degree angle traveling down the trunk, and then a horizontal slice to meet the original cut’s trajectory, thus making a satisfying triangular indentation. Make sure that that second slice occurs at about 2 feet from the base of the tree, and that you do not cut more than a third into the tree’s girth. You must firmly grip the chainsaw’s handle with both of your hands, making sure you are not interrupted by a member of your family calling out to you, or your cell phone ringing.
8. Bore through
Walk around to the side of the tree and endeavor to punch in two boreholes, either side of (90 degrees to) the original part which you’ve already cut. Each time, insert the blade’s tip so that you bore through at least a few inches of the tree, then hammer into it a wedge of wood, jamming it right into the borehole. The tree is now significantly weakened but not yet ready to topple over.
Here comes the exciting part. Engage your chainsaw and slice through the remaining part of the trunk that has not been touched, ie. the bit which is still connecting the trunk, holding it together. With a smooth, consistent motion you should eventually get to the point where you hear a final crack. The tree will thus begin to keel over in the direction of your original notch. Before this point, switch off the saw and rapidly walk (don’t run) at least fifteen from the base of the tree. All that remains for you to do is slice reasonably sized cylinders of a log which can be used in your fireplace or even sold on to those who have a wood burner.