How To Chainsaw a Tree

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Are you a chainsaw user, and you’re looking to cut a tree, but you don’t know how to? If yes, then you are definitely in the right place at the right time.

How to chainsaw a tree is something that every chainsaw user has at some point. The right way to use a chainsaw to cut a tree involves deciding if it is safe to cut the tree, gathering the necessary equipment, estimating the fall of the tree, clearing escape routes, planning the notch, cutting the notch, inserting wedges, making the felling cut, and ultimately removing branches and cutting into firewood. If you find it to be out of your comfort zone, you shouldn’t hesitate in contacting a professional to help you cut trees.

In this article, you will get to learn all about cutting trees with a chainsaw, how to chainsaw a tree, how to store firewood, and more. Continue reading to get all the answers that you are looking for.

How to Chainsaw a Tree

When felling trees, the correct method to cut it will be important. Not only should you be creating a safe working environment, but you should also be effective in the way you’re working. If you have experience dealing with chainsaws and cutting trees, you’ll know that some trees are easier to take down. If you are not sure about how to chainsaw a tree, this DIY guide will help you cut any type of tree with ease.

1. Plan ahead

When it comes to cutting trees using a chainsaw, preparation will be key. If you intend to fell and the type of equipment to gather, not only will you be in for a safer working session, but your post-felling work will be easier too. First, you need to ask yourself if there are any major obstacles around the tree like roads, buildings, overhead lines, and more. You should deploy warning signs if you know that a road crosses the forestry area or that many people pass by on a day-to-day basis.

2. Decide if it is safe to cut the tree

If you are looking to cut down a tree, it’s probably because it has become significantly bigger than the tree that was planted years ago. This means that you’ll have to take proper safety precautions right from the beginning.

Assess the condition of the tree. You have most likely given the tree a checkup to see if it has to come down, but you should take one more look. If the tree has broken, loose, or dead branches or if the tree has diseases or is dying, you should take the help of a professional. These branches can fall on you and end up causing serious injuries.

If you notice that the tree is soft and discolored or if the lower part of the tree trunk looks swollen, you’ll have to be cautious. This is a clear indication that the tree is infested with rot and that the wood fibers are weakened. When that happens, you should fall in the natural direction of the fall and if you aren’t certain, you should use a winch. Rot infestation normally resides higher up in the tree, so it might be a good option to fell the tree with an extra high stump.

You should walk around the tree and your property to look around for obstructions, including electrical boxes, vehicles, or heavy growth. Use caution in case there are power lines nearby. You shouldn’t attempt to cut down trees if there’s a chance that they can fall on the lines or if the equipment might touch the lines. If this happens, you must call the power company.

3. Gather the necessary equipment

Next up, you should assemble proper safety gear. Some of the equipment for your safety include – a helmet, hearing protection, safety glasses, work gloves, a jacket, and steel-toed boots. It is important to follow the necessary safety protocols too. You might require a permit from the homeowner’s association or city, so you should check the local regulations before starting. For your safety, you should have a family member or close friend nearby. Two eyes will always be better than one.

There are many felling tools that you can choose from when taking down the tree. The size of the tree will determine what type of forestry equipment you’ll require. For the smaller trees, you won’t normally require the felling tools. The force from your hand will be enough, possibly with some help from a long pole. The felling wedge will provide better felling force compared to different types of breaking bars. In extreme cases, you could use a rope and a winch, which is the safest and most popular way of felling a tree. 

Some of the felling tools that you will require are –

The foot-breaking bar will be suitable for small trees when you’re thinning. Insert the tool before you complete the felling cut, and then stand with your entire weight on the lever arm. The breaking bar will generally be telescopic and can be carried in a holster on the logging belt.

The breaking bar should be used on comparatively small trees. For maximizing the lifting force, you should insert the tool before making the felling cut at the back. You need to lift with your legs while keeping your back straight.

The impact bar will be used the same way as the breaking bar, but it can also be used as a striking tool when you’re using felling wedges.

Felling wedges will be best for medium to large trees. They’ll be inserted before you complete the felling cut and knocked in with an axe or impact bar. You must always use wedges that are made of aluminum or plastic so that there’s no risk of damaging the chain if you cut into them accidentally.

A winch should be used in situations where you require maximum force and safety. The wire should be attached as high up in the tree as possible to get maximum effect.

4. Check the felling direction

Now, you need to determine the felling direction by studying the tree carefully. Check how the branches look and how they grow. Moreover, consider the wind direction as well. If you aren’t sure of the tree’s natural direction of fall, you should check with a plumbline. Clear around the area in the intended direction of felling. Moreover, clear around 45 degrees behind the tree in both directions to create your path of retreat.

Sometimes, it can be tricky to measure the exact height of the tree and determine where it will fall. You must assess the tree for any uneven growth, overcrowding, disease, or other factors. In case the tree is heavier on one side than the other, it’ll fall that way, irrespective of your attempts to redirect it. 

A rough way to estimate the height of the tree is –

Hold a stick with your arm that is straight out in front of you such that the stick’s length is equal to the distance between your eye and your hand and with the stick held vertically such that a right-angled triangle is formed between the top of the stick, your hand, and your eye.

Now, point at the tree and stand at a distance such that the tree appears to be pointing at the length of the stick. In case the tree is leaning, you will get a more accurate result if you measure from the side. The tree should neither be leaning toward you nor away from you.

The distance between you and the tree will be equal to the height of the tree.

5. Clear the escape routes

Ensure that you’ve got a safe way to retreat from the working area. It would be best to have at least two routes away from the direction of the falling trees. You should make sure that they are clear of debris. In case something goes wrong, you will want to have a direct path to safety.

6. Prune the trunk

Once you have cleared the area, put the warning signs, and decided on the falling direction of the tree and your path to retreat, it’s time to prune the trunk. You need to check that you’ve got enough fuel in the tank to carry out the task ahead. After that, it’ll be time to prune the trunk so that you can get rid of any branches and twigs that might be getting in the way when making the felling cut. The safest way of pruning would be to work with a pulling chain from the top down. 

7. Decide the cutting technique

Once the tree trunk is twig-free to shoulder height, it’ll be time to choose the correct technique before you make the felling cut. When you are doing this, you should remember these two things – the hinge must have a uniform thickness with the appropriate dimensions and the felling wedge must be inserted before the tree can pinch the guide bar. The technique you’re using for making the felling cut will depend on the tree size, slope, and the size of the chainsaw bar

 8. Plan the notch

The notch cut will allow the tree to fall properly, so you’ll want it to be on the fall side such that the tree falls in that direction. The fall side is usually the heaviest side of the tree. You should make a cut at a comfortable working height. In case it feels like the stump is too big, remember that you can cut down the base of the tree later on.

9. Cut the notch

  • Begin with the top cut and move at a 45° angle downward 
  • Cut around one-third of the way into the tree trunk 
  • Below that, you should make a second cut, which will be parallel to the ground and this horizontal cut must be pretty close to meeting the first cut

10. Insert wedges

Depending on the tree you’re cutting, wedges might be necessary. If the tree’s diameter is over 18 inches, wedges will prevent your chainsaw from getting pinched. You can easily purchase them at any home supply store.

  • Once the notch is cut, you should start the felling cut 
  • Once you have cut enough to insert wedges, you should stop cutting and pound in the wedges 
  • Lastly, complete the cut 

11. Make the felling cut

This is what will make the tree finally fall. You need to move to the opposite side and away from the notch. Start making an even back cut around an inch or more above the notch. You should create a hinge so that you won’t cut all the way through. As the tree begins to move, you should stop the cut and move to a safe area.

How to Fell a Tree with a Chainsaw

12. Remove branches and cut the firewood

Once the tree has finally come down, it’ll be time for the cleanup job, which is essentially a two-step process –

1. Limbing

You’ll have to remove the branches from the tree trunk while taking precautions like –

  • Evaluate the area by ensuring that the tree isn’t hanging from another tree, isn’t wedged between trees, and isn’t falling on a tree that will spring up and hit you 
  • Stand on the upside of the tree while being sure of your footing 
  • Begin at the bottom of the tree before making your way up gradually and also cut the branches on the opposite side of the tree

2. Bucking

This is where you’ll be cutting the tree into sections. Some of the helpful tips are –

  • Before you start, measure the size of the fireplace or fire pit
  • Begin from the uphill side and be sure of your footing if the log rolls down 
  • Cut above three-quarters of the way to avoid touching the ground with your chainsaw 
  • Then, you’ll need to roll the trunk and complete the cut 

Remember not to rush to bust out the marshmallows immediately after you finish. Green wood is unlikely to burn well. It could easily result in creosote building, which can then lead to a fire. You need to give the wood at least 6–9 months to season properly. Further, there are also specific rules to consider when transporting firewood to prevent the spread of pests.

13. Get help from an expert

A tree that requires trimming or removal is a good enough reason to bring in a professional. If you are still on the fence about cutting down trees, you should ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Can you ensure your personal safety and the safety of others?
  2. Can you ensure the safety of your property and your neighbor’s property?
  3. Have you got the proper equipment?
  4. Are you confident in your own skills?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you should hire a licensed and insured arborist. Further, you should ask yourself how much will the entire thing cost. There are many guides and resources that will give you a better idea of the cost of professional tree services and give you more details about it. Once you have made the decision, you can watch the professionals at work, just make sure you’re keeping a distance.

professional logger cutting down a tree

How to Store the Firewood After Chopping Down the Tree

Here are a few tips that you should keep in mind when storing firewood – 

  • Stack the wood off the ground such that it doesn’t end up picking up moisture. You can either build your own rack for holding it or purchase one. 
  • Store the wood away from your house. Firewood is a great hiding place for bugs, rodents, and other critters, such that you keep the pile far away to discourage visitors.
  • Cover the wood properly. The idea of stacking the wood is so that the wood can get dry. If you reside in a climate that gets snow or a lot of rain, you must use a plastic tarp or metal sheeting for protecting it. Simply cover the top and leave the ends open such that air can get in.


How to cut down a tree properly?

You should be sawing until you’ve got enough room to insert a wedge into the cut to keep the chainsaw from binding. Then, insert the free-felling wedge into the cut while pointing in the direction that you want the tree to fall. Then, drive the wedge in and finish the cut while being sure that you don’t touch the felling wedge with the blade. Remember not to cut through the trunk.

How safe are chainsaws?

Chainsaws are quite dangerous machines that could prove to be fatal and cause major injuries if not used properly. It is important that anyone who is using a chainsaw at work should have received proper training and be competent to use a chainsaw for the type of work they’re required to do.

What size chainsaw do I need for cutting down trees?

Typically, a chainsaw having a shorter bar of around 14 inches and smaller will be enough for property maintenance, pruning, trimming, and cutting down broken tree limbs. Meanwhile, cutting down thick branches, small trees, and cleaning storm damage will require a longer bar around 16 to 20 inches to make the job safer and easier.

At what angle should I be cutting down the tree?

First, you should be cutting downward at an angle of 70°. You must stop once the cut reaches one-fourth to one-third of the tree trunk’s diameter. Now, it’ll be time to make the bottom cut for the notch. The second cut needs to be upward at a 20° angle.

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Hi, I'm Mike - but my friends call me Backyard Mike. I'm the founder of this website, and I'm addicted to outdoor power tools. I love to work with wood and share my knowledge here on this website with you. You can find more about me here.