Chainsaw Cutting Techniques
Felling a tree requires a good degree of skill and careful planning. It is a potentially dangerous activity that if not handled with care can pose serious injury risks and even death. That is the reason why we recommend getting a professional to do the work if you feel that you don’t have enough confidence to do it yourself especially when felling big trees. However, if the size of the tree is manageable, you can choose to do the work on your own. In this brief, we are going to help you go about planning your tree cutting and felling a tree safely using proper chainsaw cutting techniques.
Chainsaws are the most useful and at the same time the most dangerous small machines that people can own and operate at home. For this reason, it goes without saying that the operator should have appropriate PPE at hand and of course make proper use out of it. You should always wear correct fitting Chainsaw Personal Protective Equipment that is going to reduce the impact of any injuries, in the unfortunate case they do actually occur. Always remember this when operating a chainsaw, wear a hard hat, eye and ear protection, approved work boots and gloves at a minimum. You should choose good gloves that provide for a solid grip and enhance work positioning. Also where possible use leg protection such as Ballistic Chaps or even Chainsaw Pants to provide a further layer of protection and work comfort.
Proper Body Positioning
When we talk about the safety and the efficiency of using a chainsaw, proper body positioning is key. There are several things you need to do while you are operating a chainsaw. One of them is to ensure that your feet are firmly planted on solid ground. The other thing that you should always remember is to operate a chainsaw with both hands on the saw in the appropriate position. This ensures that you have full control even in case of a Kickback event taking place. If you must remove one of your hands from the chainsaw for some reason (like when carrying the machine) or if you needs to take two or more steps to move to the next cut, ensure you have already engaged the chain brake.
The best way to hold the machine when you are moving from one cut to the other is to use the left hand on upper forward handle bar. This enables the operator to keep the machine close to the body for more control and handling when the saw is off of course.
While running the cutting system which is located on the right side of the saw, keep legs and hands on the left side of the saw. The operator needs to learn how to hold and operate the machine correctly in order to increase confidence levels and decrease the risk of accidents. It is recommended that you should hold the machine from the saw’s left side. This way, you will be able to see the angles of the cutting system during operation.
Always Be Aware of the Potential Reaction Force
Ensure that every time you operate a chainsaw you are aware of this force that can pose a potential for real danger to the operator. It is usually caused by the cutting system itself. This force can occur as a result of the friction on or against the cutters on the chain. It can also occur in cases where the chain teeth become dull and begin grabbing wood fiber rather than softly cutting through it. The other thing is that reaction forces will be different at different points around the bar. When operating a chainsaw, be careful of the following four forces:
- Pull – This is likely to happen if you cut with the bottom part of the bar. In this case, the saw tends to pull away from you into the cut.
- Push – This happens when you cut with the top of the bar. Here, the saw tends to push back towards you. This is the riskiest case that you can ever go through. If the operator doesn’t get full control of the machine in this case, then there is likelihood of injuries.
- Pull-in – This happens when the lower front quadrant of the chainsaw bar comes in contact with a hard surface. The reaction force here is for the bar and the chain to pull into the wood.
- Rotational Kickback – This happens when the kickback quadrant of the chainsaw bar comes into contact with a hard surface.
Just bear in mind that one force can lead to the other. The forces can cause kickback that occurs at a rate more than 7 times quicker than a human being reaction time. To tackle the potential of this occurring, ensure that the body is positioned the right way, your hands are in the right positions and your feet and legs are stable.
An accident is defined as an unplanned event that results in personal injuries especially when using a machine. Although an accident is uncertain, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of being hurt or indeed injuring others. At this point in time, we am going to share some of the most effective modern techniques of felling a tree that can reduce the probability of being hurt when carrying out the somewhat routine task of cutting down a tree.
Although traditional tree falling techniques used a combination of Back-Cut and the Simple Notch Technique, they are still effective techniques however, if proper measures are taken and put in place. However, more advanced cutting techniques foster better results and they also reduce the risk of personal injuries significantly. Some of them are discussed below.
Please watch this informative video from The Center for Urban Agriculture youtube channel that will help outline some of the main points from this article.
The traditional tree falling methods if performed incorrectly can result in something we call ‘’Barber Chair’’ This is the potential dangerous situation you want to avoid where the tree splits vertically up the truck and then anything can happen, a controlled situation turns into something uncontrolled. This can lead to personal injuries, entrapment and to some extents death if the tree large enough.
A better method for handling this problem is Bore Cuts. They provide a better way of reducing the danger. Bore cuts use a chainsaw to make cuts through the center of the truck at right angles to the direction of fall. This ensures that there is an intact part of the truck to hold the tree upright. After that, the operator is required to cut on completion of the notch and back cut will release the tree.
To fell the tree more accurately and safely, you need to know how to do a Bore Cut or Plunge Cut. A Bore cut helps you reduce the risk of the tree falling in an uncontrolled manner. In those trees that are leaning backwards or in other undesired directions, a bore cut will allow you to use wedges to control the direction of fall.
However, there are several chainsaw operators who are afraid to use bore cut because they think it often leads to a kickback but the reality of the matter is that your chainsaw will not kickback if you lead with the bottom of the bar tip instead of the top of it. If you are reluctant, practice a few of these types of cuts on a pre-cut log or stump and soon you will be comfortable with how it works and how the saw reacts.
If you are just starting your chainsaw cutting journey, after getting the hang of using your saw and practice cutting down some trees, leave a stump 2-3 feet high to practice a bore cut. With time, you will gain enough courage to tackle trees using this technique. Remember to hold the chainsaw correctly to make a horizontal cut. The other thing worth noting is that you can use the thumb on the throttle rather than using the index finger because it is more comfortable for horizontal cutting.
Figure out where you want the hinge to be and then hold the saw in such a way that the bar is perpendicular to the back of the hinge. In case the bar is covered by wood, rotate the machine until the saw is parallel to the back side of your hinge. Make the bore cut well back of the hinge until you have cut all the way through the tree.
After this, cut towards the hinge carefully until the hedge length will be about 80- percent of the tree diameter. When you are done with this, jump to the opposite direction and cut away from the hinge but ensure you leave a strap of wood at the back that will hold the tree safely on its stump. The best way is to cut through the strap from the outside because it is quick and easy. It also means you will be safely away from the tree when it falls. When felling a tree, there may be some instances when you need to use felling Aids especially when the tree cannot fall on its own even after the completion of a Standard Notch and back cut.
- Felling Aids – These are all the tools and equipment that helps bring down a tree. There are some trees that remains standing even after the completion of a standard notch and back cut. Some of the felling aids includes Metal Breaking Bars which slip into the back cut and use human power to leverage the direction of fall. The other common tool is a Wedge that is placed into the back cut to help hold the tree in place and stop it sitting back on the cutting bar and causing a jam. A sledge hammer may also be used to drive the wedge into the cut. The other equipment that can be used in this case is the Rope. If the tree is located in an area where its natural falling direction can cause damage, the operator may think of leveraging man power with the use of a rope to fell the tree in another direction.
This is another tree falling technique that involves falling one tree on the other to bring both of them down. This technique is usually used to fell trees that are caught up in branches or even to push a tree against its natural lean. If you choose this method, then the choice of the driving tree is essential. The driving tree should have appropriate height and weight to fell the other tree. It should also have a natural lean that will make it simpler to fell it over the other tree.
In some places especially in more urban settings, the conventional methods of felling a tree can be risky to people and properties. For this reason, there are several alternatives which includes using cranes to remove these types of trees. This typically involves felling the tree piece by piece. The weight of the tree is first of all secured on the crane before cutting. This method significantly reduces the risk of damages that could otherwise be caused by the felling tree.
Buck pulling is the easiest method of felling a tree. It involves felling the tree against its natural lean. However, this is only possible if you want to fell a tree which is away from properties. If its falling direction is safe, then you should implement the appropriate cutting techniques and the tree will fall naturally. However, this mechanism involves the use of a winch system to haul the tree against its natural lean. If you think that the tree may want to fall on its natural lean, then attaching a rope as high as possible to pull it in the preferred direction is a better option.
Five Step Tree Felling Plan
There is no better and safer technique of felling a tree other than planning before you start cutting. We now talk about a five step tree felling plan you should consider before you start any tree cutting exercise.
- Assessing the Site – Assess the site for any hazardous trees, terrains, power lines and other potential risk factors. You should also at this point begin to assess the strength and the direction of the tree going to be cut and how best to cut it.
- Individual Tree Assessment – This is also important, look for tree defects, decay, heavy lean or any other unusual characteristic. Note the soil moisture and the condition of the ground. The other thing is that you should check the other neighboring trees for interlocked branches with the tree you intend cutting.
- Prepare the Operation Area and Plan Your Escape Route – Clear away all vegetation and obstacles that may be in the way. Ensure that the escape plan is clear and safe.
- Use Safe Felling Techniques – Having already laid down some of the most effective tree falling techniques now it may be time to use them. After assessing the ground, the wind and the condition of the tree, then choose the cutting technique that best matches the situation at hand.
- Retreat and Observe – This is the last thing you should do before you are done with the felling task. Remember to finish the falling cut on the safer side. When the tree starts to fall, escape and observe the tree. Pay a closer attention because it can fall in an unplanned direction.
The Bottom Line
There are several things you can do to reduce the risk of injuries while you are felling a tree. Take caution while cutting and be ready to tackle any upcoming issue as it arises. Be sure not to run before the tree starts to fall. This can be very dangerous as you may run directly into the path of the falling tree.
We hope this article will help you avoid the risk of injuries completely when you are operating a chainsaw or at least reduce the impact of a potential risky situation occurring while operating a chainsaw of any size or type.
If you are looking for more chainsaw related content please check out the Rechargeable Chainsaw Blog or browse the other articles on this site.
Thanks Folks and Happy Cutting!