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  • Writer's pictureMatt Weber

Fell a Tree with a Chainsaw

Whether you're removing trees to clear property or to remove a dead tree that poses a safety hazard, the techniques for felling a tree have remained largely the same over the years, relying on careful placement of a notch and hinge.

To fell a tree with a chainsaw, you should first assess the tree and the surrounding area to ensure safety. Make sure there are no power lines or other obstacles in the way.

Next, determine the direction you want the tree to fall, and plan your cuts accordingly. Is the tree leaning? Do the branches hang mostly in one direction, placing more weight on one side of the tree than the other? Which direction is the wind blowing? It’s easiest to fell

the tree in the direction it would naturally fall due to slope, overhang, and wind direction.

Felling a tree in a different direction than its natural path requires special techniques known as “directional felling,” greater effort, and sometimes cannot be accomplished, requiring a professional tree surgeon to dismantle the tree piece by piece.

Always establish a clear escape route for when the tree begins to fall, at about a 45-degree angle to the tree away from the felling direction. Avoid moving away from the falling tree in a straight opposite direction from which it is falling, because the tree can kickback off the stump and kill or injure people.


The notch is made in two parts: the top cut and bottom cut. Start by making a horizontal cut on the side of the tree facing the direction you want it to fall, about one-fifth of the way through the trunk.


Then, make a second cut, slightly higher than the first cut and angling downward.

This second cut should meet the first cut, creating a wedge-shaped notch.


Remove the wood to reveal the notch. This may take some encouragement from an axe or hammer.


Once the directional notch has been made, make the felling cut. This is a horizontal cut on the opposite side of the tree that is level with or slightly above the first cut. Cut toward and parallel to the directional notch to create a hinge and cause the tree to fall in the desired direction. The ideal hinge width is about 10 percent the diameter of the tree.


Wedges driven into the felling cut can help to open it and tilt the tree in the direction of the directional notch. It's important to always wear protective gear and follow proper safety procedures when using a chainsaw.


Once the tree has fallen, the de-limbing process can begin.

Most homeowners don’t have the equipment to cut and handle large trees, but professional lumberjacks and tree-removal services can make short work of this chore.


The Perfect Hinge

The purpose of cutting a directional notch is to create a hinge that controls the path of the falling tree. These diagrams show the particulars of ideal hinge size and placement.

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