How to cut down a tree with a hand saw

Updated February 21, 2017

Sometimes it becomes necessary to remove a tree that is damaged or diseased beyond repair, poses a safety hazard or stands in the way of a landscape or construction project. Although many people use powered chain saws that cut through the trunk, these are heavy and difficult to use for those without prior experience or proper skill. Use a hand saw that cuts effectively through the trunks of smaller trees. Follow all safety procedures to prevent any injury while felling trees.

Inspect the tree for clues that suggest which way it will fall, such as any lean of the trunk to one side, uneven crown or growth of most branches on one side.

Inspect the tree's landing area: the area where it will fall when cut. Clear the area so it is free of any garden furniture or equipment.

Cut off heavy or large branches on the tree that may prove hazardous during cutting. Position the hand saw over the branch as close to the trunk as possible, and begin slicing back and forth, one-third of the way through. Use the entire length of the blade for each cut or stroke through the wood, and work slowly to prevent the blade from sticking or jumping.

Position the hand saw on the other side of the cut and begin slicing wood until cuts meet and the branch snaps off. Use a pole saw that consists of a long stick or handle and a saw at its tip if you're cutting branches high above your head. Cut those branches in the same way with the saw attachment.

Make the undercut on the trunk -- a wedge on the side of the tree in the direction in which it will fall. Make a sharp, diagonal 45-degree cut through the wood one-third of the way through the trunk.

Position the blade of the hand saw against the lower edge of the trunk parallel to the ground and begin cutting through it steadily until it meets the lowest point of the diagonal cut. Remove this wedge.

Move to the opposite side of the tree and locate the spot 5 cm above the tip of the wedge to make the back cut. Make this cut parallel to the ground, applying uniform pressure on the hand saw as it slices through the trunk. Leave a bit of wood between this cut and the wedge to serve as the hinge of the trunk that guides the direction of the fall.

Move to a safe spot on the opposite side of the fall line after forming the back cut. The tree will pivot from the narrow side of the hinge (next to the back cut) to the wider side of the hinge (next to the undercut) and eventually to the ground.


Wear safety goggles when using a hand saw.

Move away from the tree when you make the backcut so you are in a safe place in case the tree bounces back on its stump toward you.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand saw
  • Pole saw
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About the Author

Tanya Khan is a freelance author and consultant, having written numerous articles for various online and print sources. She has a Master of Business Administration in marketing but her passion lies in writing.