Help With Tree Cutting Strategy

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Forum topic by knotscott posted 01-21-2016 01:25 PM 1648 views 0 times favorited 44 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8129 posts in 3518 days

01-21-2016 01:25 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

A large ash tree fell in our back yard about 10 days ago. I plan to cut it into firewood with a chainsaw. I do have a fair amount of chainsaw experience, but have never been faced with a task quite this large or this precarious, so I’m looking for tips on how best to safely get this thing to ground level so I can cut it. The saw is a 34cc gas Makita with a 16” bar…new. I’d guess the trunk is ~ 20” diameter, and the whole tree is about 65’. The pics below give a good hint of what I’ll be facing. I plan to trim the smaller stuff from the top right down to those two “pillars” that are holding up the main trunk. The main trunk is suspended over 7 feet up by those big limbs, and that’s where my concern is….what’s the best approach for dropping the main trunk to ground level from those limbs?

(real winter has set in, and there’s now 8 or 9” snow covering the scene, so I probably won’t get to it for a while…just trying to plan my approach)

Thanks for any guidance!

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

44 replies so far

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 1373 days

#1 posted 01-21-2016 01:54 PM

Ok, I will attack this the way I would go about it if it was my tree. Mileage may vary.

Only work on the trunk from the bottom.

Start near the root ball and make a up cut . When you see it move back off. work up the trunk a bit to where your firewood length would be (24”?) do the same. When you see it move back off. Rinse repeat. You may only make it 8 or 10’. Go back to the root ball and bump it again. you see it drop then go up to the next cut.

The way I go about this is to safely work it in segments so it begins to relieve the stress and lower itself to the ground.

By the way, do you have a tractor or truck? You may find that after lowering it to the ground, slowly and in segments, never cutting all the way through, a bit of mechanical force can assist in getting it to a place where the stress isnt that bad.

By looking at pic 1 I would try to get all the sawing done from the pics LH side. It seems it would want to twist and roll to the RH side. But thats just my gut.

[Insert a bunch of safety warnings]

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View dhazelton's profile


2789 posts in 2439 days

#2 posted 01-21-2016 01:59 PM

That’s a tough one. Whichever one of those legs you cut the tree will want to roll towards you. Can you partially cut a leg (or both legs at the same height) up high with a hinge cut and use a chain on your pickup (if you have a pickup) to pull the tree in that direction and roll it to the ground flat? Some reading here may help.

View knotscott's profile


8129 posts in 3518 days

#3 posted 01-21-2016 02:04 PM

Thanks guys. No pickup or tractor (lawn tractor isn’t currently operational), and there’s really no easy way to get a truck back there.

I also failed to mention that the corner of the house is about 15 feet to the right of the pics. Once the top stuff is trimmed off, that really shouldn’t be an issue. The chain link fence on the left side could be a problem if the trunk rolls the wrong way….it’s the neighbor’s fence.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View dhazelton's profile


2789 posts in 2439 days

#4 posted 01-21-2016 02:14 PM

Anything secure enough to hook a come along on to back there?

You might be able to relieve some of the pressure on one of those legs if you put a long four by four (on a square of plywood) under the part of the tree where it wyes out and drive it inward with a sledge. That would let you cut one of those legs off. Then pull the bottom of the 4×4 out with a rope or the come along and it would fall flat.

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8129 posts in 3518 days

#5 posted 01-21-2016 02:28 PM

No place for a come along, but I should be able wedge a 4×4 under there.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View bondogaposis's profile


4983 posts in 2493 days

#6 posted 01-21-2016 02:40 PM

First I would clean up all of the debris and limbs and such so they are not in your way when you start on the tree. I would start at the root and work up from there. Have some plastic wedges handy, log tension is hard to read even for experienced sawyers. You don’t want to pinch your bar or you will have to find another chainsaw to get it out. After the first cut it should be obvious where the tension is, by looking at the picture I’d say it is going to either be on the top of the log or the bottom. If it is on the top make your cut across the top first then before it pinches your bar start cutting from underneath it should open up as you finish your cut. Use your wedges whenever you are unsure whether you are going to get a pinch. Having the log up off the ground is an advantage because you can get underneath it and keep your bar out of the dirt. Eventually as you work your way up the bole you and it gets smaller you will be able to work on the “legs” by then you should be able to man handle it any way you want.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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2789 posts in 2439 days

#7 posted 01-21-2016 03:18 PM

I think you need to search how to buck a tree that is being held up by it’s branches. I would NOT start from the bottom – the thinnest part of the tripod is the dogleg on the right in your picture and I would focus on that. The SAFEST way to cut the trunk is when it’s flat on the ground.

View ShaneA's profile (online now)


7033 posts in 2740 days

#8 posted 01-21-2016 03:25 PM

Clean up, cut off all the branches first that are not contacting the ground. Make it as light as possible in every way without disturbing it’s balance. I like to work from the smallest end to the largest end. I find it easier to make the through cuts on the firewood pcs when they are suspended. They just fall a couple of feet to the ground. Keeps from having to roll them around to complete the cuts.

Once you get all the cutable material removed. You may be able to rock it off the tripod type set up, then remove more material. Just whittle this thing down best you can before you have to attack any cuts that could bind the saw blade, and/or cause shifting.

View Woodknack's profile


12369 posts in 2522 days

#9 posted 01-21-2016 05:16 PM

I’m having trouble seeing a 100% safe way to do it without a vehicle. If you can anchor a come along and take weight off one of the legs that would be a good start. Personally I’d start the same as Shane by removing all the extraneous branches so they aren’t whipping around when it rolls.

-- Rick M,

View Joseph Jossem's profile

Joseph Jossem

492 posts in 2410 days

#10 posted 01-21-2016 05:30 PM

start from the small branches and work your way down

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10265 posts in 4194 days

#11 posted 01-21-2016 07:03 PM

ShaneA +1

Get the smaller stuff, that is NOT supporting the tree, out of the way… Someone else could then be cutting up & building the Kindling stack / pile while you’re working on the rest. :)

Then, go after the larger branches, that are NOT supporting the tree, cutting from the smallest ends letting the rest staying connected to the trunk, small fireplace lengths, down to the trunk. Get all of this done & out of the way before tackling the main trunk.

Using other props as required to keep the trunk stable, again, starting at the top, cutting fireplace length pieces, toward the trunk… Propping, etc. to keep tree stable… Leaving some branch stubs might be useful so that ropes can be tied to them & staked to ground, or tied to something else, to secure movement.

Work your way to the larger portions of the tree… tying, propping, etc. on the the way…

You can always make a ‘relief’ cut UNDER a section until it starts to ‘give’ a little; then, cut it off from the top (to stop the possibility of it pinching the blade).

Take it slow & easy… thinking your way through the tree…

Stack everything where it can sit until next year… to be dried enough to burn… :)

That is the way I cut down a Pine tree in my back yard… Cleaned all of the branches OFF as high as I could go, then made a relief cut to control direction of the fall, followed by the final Topping cut to remove the top… Then, I proceeded to cut off fireplace sized lengths down the trunk… I still have a large stub at the base; looks like I could cut it off to make a picnic table.

Hope this helps.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Snipes's profile


190 posts in 2387 days

#12 posted 01-21-2016 08:15 PM

I also would start from the root ball, leaving the small stuff attached in case it would start to roll it would slow it. Standing on right side of first pic, relief cut on top and upper cut. Work your way up the tree and it looks to me that it would eventually roll away from you.

-- if it is to be it is up to me

View tomsteve's profile


821 posts in 1361 days

#13 posted 01-21-2016 08:51 PM

that there is quite a predicament and w/o truck or winch power gonna be tricky.
here is one thought to get it down:
After all the brush is removed ànd ya have everything you can cut off of it, get a pair of 12-14’ 2 by 6’s. use one to wdege into the ground on the right side of the tree with enough room to wedge one against the tree to the point the 2 by 6 has a good bow jn it. get the other 2 by wedged into the grond close. now straighten up the one thats against the tree-basically pushing the tree to the left,wedge the free 2by against the tree then reposition the 1st one to do it agian.
hope this makes sense. its old school egyptian stuff.

View tomsteve's profile


821 posts in 1361 days

#14 posted 01-21-2016 08:52 PM

youd also be amazed at what a hydraulic jack and a 4 by 4 can do.
thats not old school egyptian.

View knotscott's profile


8129 posts in 3518 days

#15 posted 01-21-2016 09:01 PM

Thanks gang….plenty of food for thought, and I’ve got time to plan!

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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