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Felling with a chainsaw step-by-step

Plan your tree felling carefully. Trees must be felled safely and in the direction you want them to fall. Here is our expert step-by-step guide to doing this.

1. Planning and preparations

Once you are familiar with your chainsaw it is time to fell your first tree. To make felling as safe and efficient as possible it is important to plan felling in advance and always think one step ahead. To start with, never work alone in the forest. Always make sure you have someone with you. A mobile phone is a good idea; as it lets you quickly call for help if you need it.

2. Choose the felling direction

Once you have chosen a tree to fell, you should decide what direction you want it to fall. You should consider the following: Is the tree leaning? Do the branches hang mostly in one direction? Which direction is the wind blowing?

The easiest choice is to fell the tree in the direction it would naturally fall due to slope, overhang and wind direction. Felling in another direction requires a special technique, more effort, and is sometimes just impossible.

It is an advantage if you can fell the tree across a log, rock or stump. This ensures a comfortable working height for limbing and cross-cutting. Note: If other people are in the vicinity, the safe distance for them is at least two tree lengths.

3. Limbing the lower trunk

First cut away any low branches that could get in the way. But remember never to cut above shoulder height. Do not stand directly behind the saw. Use the trunk as a barrier between yourself and the saw.

4. Clear your work area and path of retreat

Clear the ground around the tree and a few meters/yards behind it. You need to be able to take a few steps backwards if the root end should spring up.

5. Felling a tree in the right direction

To make a tree fall in the chosen direction, you should use a method that professional loggers call “directional felling.” This means that you cut a sort of hinge in the trunk, which steers the tree as it falls to the ground.

To create this hinge you first cut out a wedge-shaped piece, using a “directional cut,” on the same side you want the tree to fall. Next you make the “felling cut,” by cutting horizontally from the opposite side. However, you should not saw through the entire stem, but leave a hinge of about 3 cm. This hinge controls the felling direction.

6. Directional cut

A. Stand with your feet apart behind the tree and lean your left shoulder against the trunk to keep you steady. Aim along the top of the front handle in the felling direction. This gives you the right direction for the directional cut, since the handle on a Jonsered saw is at right angles to the bar.

B. First make the top directional cut. Keep a firm grip around the front handle with your left thumb, apply full throttle and bring the saw downwards at an angle of about 60 degrees. The depth of the directional cut should be about 1/4 to 1/5 of the trunk’s diameter. Start high enough up on the trunk so that you have space for the bottom directional cut.

C. Stay in the same position and make the bottom directional cut. Keep your left thumb around the front handle and use full throttle (control the throttle with your right thumb).

Bring the saw upwards at an angle of about 30 degrees and stop precisely when you reach the top cut, neither too far nor too short. It is very important that both cuts meet precisely so that the hinge steers the tree all the way to the ground.

While you are making the bottom cut you should look down the top cut to see when both cuts meet. If you have done it properly you should have a perfect directional cut with a 90 degree opening.

7. Felling cut

First a tip: Stop the engine and check the fuel level now. If the fuel runs out in the middle of a felling cut it could be dangerous.

A. The felling cut should be level with the tip of the directional cut, or slightly above it. Do not forget to leave a hinge with a uniform thickness of at least 3 cm, about 1 1/4 inch.

B. If the diameter of the trunk is less than the bar length, you simply make the felling cut directly from the back and in the felling direction.

C. If not, you should start by bringing the saw in from the side of the trunk and moving backwards around the tree as you cut.

D. Stand firmly with your feet apart, keep your left thumb around the handle, and apply full throttle before you start cutting.

E. When the felling cut is roughly halfway, stop the saw and insert a pry bar or drive a wedge into the cut. This prevents the tree from falling backwards and trapping the saw. A pry bar also makes it easier to fell the tree. Then complete the felling cut, but take care not to saw into the pry bar.

Note: If you are a beginner we recommend that you do not fell trees with a diameter larger than the length of the bar, because it is easier and safer to fell the tree with a single felling cut made from the back of the tree.

Traditional felling, US, 4min 52sec