Coping: Is Tree-Falling Really Prepping?

Oh, sure it is.  I can, in fact, come up with probably a half dozen (or more) survival situations where knowing how to drop a tree perfectly and precisely where you want it is nothing short of high art.

Need an emergency shelter with little effort?  Fall a tree, limb slightly, tarp it and live large.  Or, need to make sure that road you’re on isn’t too inviting for the roving gangs (of Zombies, of course!)?  Fall a tree and it should slow them down.

If you’re a “slicker” the odds of you doing the job “just right” are fairly low.  So today, a quick course is how to fall trees for fun, profit, survival, or in our case: more solar gain on the panels…


Our associate in this adventure is Jared – son of Oilman2.  If you live in East Texas and have a land issue, he’s your go-to guy.

Since I am paranoid about having big things fall out of the sky, we did a quick video review of what’s probably the best single video out there on how to fall trees.  It’s this one done by Husqvarna (as in chain saws).

If you have been a reader long enough to have followed “The Millennial’s Missing Manual” (which will be up on Amazon one of these days), the key thing to consider is what’s the PROCESS we planned to follow?

Here goes:

  1.  Watch the video and look for refresher/fine points.
  2.  Select which kinds of cuts we planned for this adventure.
  3.  Survey the tree and remove limb(s) that could damage solar panels even with an indirect hit.
  4.  Rig the tractor to the tree (to absolutely control the fall).
  5.  Make the Hinge Cut.
  6.  Make the Back Cut (and Timmbbbeeerrrr!)

Having watched the video, the Step was agreeing on the cut plan.  Looked to be straightforward enough.  We did opt for a sloped back cut  because this kind of cut is safer in that the cut-off part of the tree tends to reduce the risk of the tree ‘kicking out’ and injuring someone.

The flat back-cut in the video is better if you’re logging and trying to get maximum board feet.  But if you are falling with an eye toward safety, then the raised back cut seems to look safer.

In addition to the safety of the angled back cut, we also used a nylon rope (100-feet) and as Jared was finishing up the back cut, I’d be “loading” the nylon rope with energy.

A fine point from my sailing days here:  Usual sailing lines (sheets, halyards, and such) are made of low-stretch line, mostly.  If you set a sail, you don’t want its shape changing as wind loading changes.

There are certain kinds of rigging – like this tree set – where you want to be able to put some energy into the line – because tractors, for example, are not known for their nimble straight-line acceleration.  The down-side of a loaded line (and this is important in construction rigging) is that the stored energy (in the form of stretch) can take an arm off if you have a thousand pounds of pull on and you happen to be where what amounts to a 100-foot ‘rubber band’ is when it breaks.

The older the nylon (and more UV it has been around) the less predictable breaking strength becomes…thus endeth the rope lecture section.

Step 3 (back on plan) was to remove one limb that could have been problematic:

A few minutes later this hanging limb was hauled off.

Which gets us to Step 4, cutting the notch – making sure it is an angle that will allow MORE than 90-degrees of tree movement when falling.

After this comes the final (back) cut and our tree begins a nice, orderly drop… (step 5 leading to step 6 in progress below…)

And magically, it’s down exactly where we wanted it.

All that remained was a stump – still thinking about what to do with that:  Carve, grind, rot, etc.  And a ton of branches which Jared disposed of in a burn-pile down on the west 12 acre side.

A couple of operating notes:  The Poulan gas chainsaw wasn’t used.  The starter rope had slipped out of the internal notch, so that’s on my fix-it list.

So Jared did the whole project (including the limbing up on the ground) with the Black and Decker 10″ battery powered electric.  Fresh chain on  one and two pockets stuffed with batteries and you can cut a fair bit of wood.  Two days of charging all 8 batteries, though, lol.

A project like this is measured in several ways.

A.  Any injuries?   No.

B.  Did anything go not exactly as planned? No, except for the Poulan starter handle issue.

C.  If we had it to do over again, would anything be done differently?  No, except own a Stihl saw with a fresh Oregon blade, maybe…

D.  Did it accomplish the intended results?

And now we get to the real bottom line:


The north set of solar panels was putting out only one-third to one-quarter of what they should have been putting out.  This tree was overhanging them most of the day providing at least some shade.

Once the tree was gone, the panels were up to full output until about 2-3 PM before another tree (which is in our sights for another project day) will be felled.  That one, plus two more to the west of it, should result in another 6-7 kilowatt-hours per day.

To give you an idea on costs:  It you’re in an area where power is 20-cents a kilowatt-hour, think of it as $1.40 per day or $43 dollars a month less on the power bill.

Roll out the annual savings (around $350 prolly) and consider the tree would eventually block the other panels, too, and you get to the case where even  though it costs something in labor, in the end it was a “money saving improvement.”

Photo credits to Elaine.

Hope you never need to cut down a tree under adverse conditions,  If you remember a 90-degree notch and a down-sloped backside cut, our prepping session for today is done.

Ready for more coffee?

Write when you get rich (or find a blue ox)

12 thoughts on “Coping: Is Tree-Falling Really Prepping?”

  1. Ditto on the Stihl, I have a new Husqvarna with less than 10 hours on it, can’t pay it to start. Mostly what it does is leak bar chain oil wherever I sit it down – and that is with the special Husqvarna chain oil you have to use. Saving my pennies for a Stihl now.

  2. My Husq has leaks also. Dealer told me all was fine with the saw. Now rest it on the side, chain down, oil and fuel filler up.

    • My rancher Husq 455 broke (leaked oil too) and wouldn’t start after 3-4 trips to the saw doc ion town. Ran for a week or three then quit. Screw it – I can fix the Poulan starter
      Husq has the best damn tree cutting video tho – they spray paint a stihl orange?

    • I think leaks in a chainsaw is a normal thing.. I remember my father always complained about leaking chainsaws.

  3. “Survey the tree and remove limb(s) that could damage solar panels even with an indirect hit.’

    Cute story.. from friday.. everyone knows that I love solar energy.. I think the power companies are making a big deal out of changes that are coming no matter what and they could actually make the changes gradually one panel at a time and make the total change relatively painless instead they will go after the situation like tim taylor the tool guy on home improvement and put all their panels in one array.. ( which could be distroyed in a natural catastrophic event rather than spreading them out like leaves on a tree.. you will always need the root power source… ( they should be putting four to six panels on every other post one east three south one west or any other configuration use the morning noon and evening sun.. like leaves on a tree.. cheaper take it one post at a time not a huge solar array that will require changes in the systems that are already here )
    Now that i have stated my thought on that back to the story.. I had my roof redone a few years ago.. all of a sudden I thought god my electric bill keeps getting bigger I just assumed it was the additional electrical equipment more tv’s cell phones freezers etc.. shoot several hundred a month.. so I started replacing things gradually to make it more efficient if the power goes off due to a storm etc. I need to be able to keep the stuff in the freezer from going bad furnace and air on. a couple of years ago I had finally come the to conclusion that the first panels I had ever gotten were getting to old and not producing as they were when we first got them.. so the garden pergola went up and I figured this is as good a place as any to put them wire them into my existing system and we are good to go.. then I can remove the old ones in the future as they degrade further..
    the electrician went up…
    he had this strange funny look on his face..
    he said.. I bet they haven’t been working up to their efficiency have they.. I said.. no they haven’t.. I bet I know why he said.. ” They are unplugged” LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LMAO.. LOL LOL.. here I never once thought of sending an electrician up after the roofer got done with the roof replacement. LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL
    Now with the additional panels I am producing.
    So if you cut a tree down or make changes.. check to make sure you didn’t unplug something LOL..
    My friend the one that gave me so much guff about solar.. he and I were talking yesterday and he lives in the southwest over a hundred degrees he said.. LOL he has his windows and door open for the fresh air.. LOL he said his solar power system is working so good that he can do that and enjoy the fresh air without worry about his power costs going through the roof.. LOL LOL

    • here is another thing that a lot of people aren’t considering.. if the cost of energy does go to five hundred percent in twenty five years.. that means employers have to give a what forty percent increase in wages to keep up with that figure.. and employers faced with the same increases will have to either find cheaper sources for their wares or downsize the employee staffing go more modern with robotics etc.. in crease the cost of the wares.. a person flipping burgers at McDonalds that is making minimum wage would have to make almost sixty dollars an hour.. or more considering how high inflation takes it.. want hyper inflation the four hundred dollar cup of coffee or ten million dollar loaf of bread there it is.. and from what the utility companies have mentioned it already it is coming the only way to stop that is for the congresoids to reinstate regulations for the industry which won’t happen as long as we have lobbyists with fat wallets.. usually if they say this is what is going to happen it just means they have already decided what they are going to do.. all that is left is the slow implementation of their future game plans.

  4. Sorry to be a Monday morning quarterback….I can’t tell from your picture….but I’d respectfully suggest that anyone climbing a ladder into a tree makes sure that the ladder is lashed properly to the tree.

    You’re much more likely to get hurt falling then from ISIS.

  5. George,
    This is one of my pet bitches about tree cutting; Sloping back cuts! Do not do it! Why? It offers no safety but increases the danger in falling a tree!

    Bitch number two; Gravity exists! I know, obvious! Every time I see someone on a ladder cutting a tree limb, they never think about gravity or how to cut a limb. The result is that the limb usually swings back and takes out the ladder. The person on the ladder goes one way, the ladder in the opposite direction and the chainsaw yet a third direction. All described by basic physics.

    Why is a sloping back cut so dangerous? In the wrong tree, it will be fatal. What is the wrong tree? A tree in which you misjudge the favor (loosely called lean)and / or the center of gravity of the tree. Also, any unseen defects in the main spar brings up another set of issues. In the ‘wrong tree’, a sloping back cut will cause the tree to slide out with the top falling 180 degrees opposite of the intended lay. In other words, it will come down on top of you. That’s a suicide cut.

    An even more important issue is that a sloping back cut NEGATES the use of a wedge! Wood grain runs perpendicular,generally, and a sloping back cut makes it impossible to use a wedge because the wedge will shear off any diagonal supporting stump wood because of how the wood grain runs versus the cut. Wedges are an incredibly useful tool in felling trees. Vastly under appreciated and under used. Briefly, wood grain does not always run in a vertical direction. This occurs mostly in the stump, branch collar areas, and certain trees will have a twisted or spiral grain structure to the wood. There are certain signs that indicate this phenomena. There are serious issues to the felling cut when dealing with twisted grain in trees. Twisted grain and a phenomena called ‘wood pull’ can negate the property of proper wood cutting techniques which lead to loss of control of the cut wood. Beware. Always pay attention!

    When properly understood, you can shift the center of gravity of a tree by manipulating the face cut. There are four basic types of felling cuts for ground operations. Conventional cut (your picture), Humbolt style, Open face cut, and block out face cut. In addition to these, the depth of the undercut is a control feature also. The amount of stump shot (vertical hinge wood between undercut and back cut) is another critical element of the felling cut. Too much stump shot and the tree will stall and no amount of wedging will get it over. The generally accepted number is one to two inches depending on the size of the tree if you want stump shot. A winch or pulling vehicle will be required at that point along with the very high risk of a barber chair event. The back cut sets things in motion and there is no abort button. Sometimes sap cuts are advisable to prevent tear outs. Then there’s the thickness of the hinge wood issue. Ten percent is the usually accepted figure a ‘normal’ tree, but this varies depending on circumstances and can be reduced to as little as five percent or less under special instances, such as topping a tree. Then there is the issue of a ‘Dutchman’ cut. This is where the diagonal cut does not meet both sides of the undercut. This is a critical, but subtle issue to take note of. A small Dutchman will cause the tree to go ‘off gun’ and miss the lay. A larger one can stall the tree or even split out a defective spar. That is a ‘run for your life’ moment. Leave the saw, you can get another one.

    Sometimes, felling a tree can turn in to a race with the back cut. In those cases, you better have enough saw to execute the back cut fast enough to avoid splitting out the tree. Also, tree ‘launch’ from the forward momentum. Account for this in the lay. This is more of effect with the Humbolt and open face cuts. The conventional cut does this too, but it also seems to roll off the stump sideways more. Maybe that’s just my perception, but it causes me to go Humbolt style as a preferred cut.

    As far as ladders and trees go; Ladders are fine for entering a tree. Actual cutting in a tree from a ladder? NO! Remember…GRAVITY. Plus, where can you go on a ladder but down? At least on a rope I can move, as well as position myself and position the cut. I always have a ‘bailout’ option in mind if things don’t go according to the plan. Yes, there should always be a plan.

    Also, there is a skill to being a sawyer. It requires knowledge of various species of wood and how they behave when cut, methods of cutting to get the limbs to come off CLEANLY, and understanding the tree itself.

    I could go on for a long time about this topic. I’ve been cutting wood for thirty plus years for firewood. I climb and cut, as well as fell trees. I have, and run everything from a Stihl 201T to the Stihl 880. I generally prefer my 660 or 661 with a 32″ semi-skip or skip chain. I’ve seen lots of people make lots of mistakes and walk away with nothing happening. When it works, people become convinced that their technique is correct because, “It worked out fine.” It’s when things go wrong that it gets ugly. I see a lot of back sloped cuts and it drives me nuts when I see people doing it, because nine out of tens times it works just fine. It’s that tenth time that is a real bitch.

    One more point, (isn’t there always one more point?) the favor of a tree determines the the face cut setup. Whether a tree has head lean, back lean or side lean, all relative to the lay, determines the parameters of the face cut depth, and back cut. A deep face cut with a head leaner will most likely split the tree out and set up a barber chair scenario. Most people would say that, “This is an easy tree to cut, it’s already going in the right direction…” What you have is a dangerous tree if you handle it incorrectly. Similarly, a back leaner or side leaner have their own issues specialized techniques in dealing with them. Sometimes, climbing is the only option for those trees.

    As for me, I’m told that I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I’ve always enjoyed a wood stove in the winter contrary to AlGore. All right. That’s my two cents, non inflation adjusted.

    • “The person on the ladder goes one way, the ladder in the opposite direction and the chainsaw yet a third direction. All described by basic physics.”

      I never learned the art of falling a tree.. my father was the master at it.. he would look at a tree.. put his finger in the air to check the air speed.. walk around the tree.. and then the terrain where he wanted it to fall.. some tree’s he put a guide rope in some not.. he would make the appropriate cuts and the tree would land right where he said it would.. He cut tree’s for over forty years before he quit because of age.. I still kick my butt for not taking his saws when he offered them to me.. he had every size you could think of including a saw around four foot long that it took two men to handle.. the same thing with trimming a tree.. he would look at a tree.. then say.. well if I cut it here and trim it there.. it will bush out just like this.. and he would go to town.. when he was done you would have sworn he killed the tree.. LOL but every time it would grow out and look exactly how he said it would. one rule was the birds should be able to fly through a tree.. the other thing he would do.. is every week he would plant as many trees as he would cut down..
      lately I have seen some toys on the internet for splitting wood.. and think of dad.. he would have loved to have owned each of them.. I truly doubt he would have used them. he loved to take his maul and split them by hand it sounded like a shot gun going off every time..
      Makes me homesick to hear everyone talk about chainsaws and splitting wood.. it gives me some very pleasant memories of time spent with dad..

      talk about physics of cutting the limbs LOL..

  6. Best damn chainsaw in the world is a Huskie. Worse is a Poulan; cheap piece of sh*t and very hard to start. My Dad had a old Silver King with an extra long chain. I used to love how it sounded when it was taking on a load.

  7. YouTube has a plethora of tree cutting/felling videos of trees falling on roofs, cars, ladders falling, people hitting the ground.

    Everything you shouldn’t do gets done anyway.

    Trees aren’t called widow makers for nothing.

    Buy a Stihl chainsaw, follow starting instructions.

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