How to cut down your own tree

Written by arthur barnhouse
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How to cut down your own tree
A sharp chain saw is a necessity when cutting down your own tree. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Cutting or felling a tree is not a job that presents itself all too often. Yet, when the task is at hand, it is imperative that you are equipped with the proper know-how. Failure to acknowledge the difficulties and dangers of cutting down your own tree can result in serious injury to yourself and others. Costly property damage has also been known to occur due to a lack of attention to detail. After all, the last thing you want to see is a falling tree crashing into power lines, a house or your vehicle.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Heavy duty work gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Shears (if necessary)
  • Chain saw
  • An assistant

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  1. 1

    Put on the necessary safety equipment to protect yourself from possible injury. A good pair of work gloves and safety glasses/goggles are a must. Also have a friend or family member nearby who can call for help if an accident were to happen.

  2. 2

    Remove any brush, shrubs, briars or other debris that is near the tree you plan on cutting. Use shears to cut the undergrowth, as you don't want to dull the chain saw blade. This will provide you a clean and clear work area.

  3. 3

    Decide in which direction you want the tree to fall after you cut it. Make sure the direction you choose is clear of any and all obstacles, including houses, power lines and vehicles. Then plan in which direction you're going to move as the tree begins to fall. Try to choose a route that is at a 45-degree angle away from the tree. Do not attempt to move behind the tree as it falls. Occasionally, the trunk of some trees will kick backward.

  4. 4

    Make the undercut. The undercut should be on the side of the trunk that faces the direction in which you want the tree to topple. Cut a straight line horizontally into the tree. According to the University of Missouri Extension, you should cut to a depth that is approximately 1/4th of the tree's diameter. Then cut down at a 45-degree angle toward your initial cut. The second cut must intersect the first. When you've finished, you should be able to remove a wedge-shaped piece of wood from the trunk.

  5. 5

    Make the back cut. Stand to the side and away from the trunk while making this cut. You will need to reach with the chain saw. Begin the back cut on the opposite side of the trunk from the undercut. Also, be sure that you start the back cut about 2 inches above the hinge point in your undercut. Never cut below the undercut. The back cut should be a straight cut. Do not, however, cut completely through to the undercut. A small section of wood must remain between the back cut and the undercut.

  6. 6

    Shut off the chain saw and step away as soon as the tree begins to fall. Follow your escape route away from the tree.

Tips and warnings

  • If you're cutting a small tree, such as a Christmas tree, you shouldn't need to use an undercut. You can simply cut straight through the trunk and push the tree in the direction you wish it to fall. You should be able to use this method for any tree that is 6 inches or less in diameter.
  • If the tree is leaning severely to one side, you may wish to contact a professional to cut it down. Leaning may compromise the direction the tree falls, even if you use a correct undercut.

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