Skip to main content

How to cut down a tree without ending up in the emergency unit

A simple guide to cutting down trees

how to fell a tree 1
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The cutting of trees is a serious business. Anyone who has given at least an hour of their life over to watching home movie fails will have seen countless mistakes where trees have fallen the wrong way, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage. Knowing how to cut a tree down is a useful skill for every outdoorsman, survivalist, or budding arborist who wants to clear some deadwood from their garden.

Difficulty

Hard

Duration

30 minutes

What You Need

  • An axe, saw, or chainsaw

  • Protective clothing

But don't just go indiscriminately hacking away at trees. Sure, felling a tree gives you the most reliable firewood — once it's properly seasoned of course — but felling live trees doesn't fall into responsible firewood collecting when you're camping. If you do need to cut a tree down though, you need to know how to do so safely. You might be a budding lumberjack, but that doesn't mean you're hardier than a mighty oak.

A man fells a tree in the snow.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to fell a tree

Before you start your tree sawing — or chopping if you're using an axe — you need to think about whether you're the right man for the job. I'm not taking anything away from you here, but remember those home movies? If there's a good chance that you're going to take out your house, your neighbor's truck, or even worse, yourself, then perhaps it's time to call in the professionals. If you're sure that you have a safe fall zone and are totally prepared, then it's time to gear up.

Step 1: Pick a fall line for your tree. You need an area where your tree isn't going to get hung up on other trees or vegetation, with a clear shot to the ground. You're going to make your first cut on this side of the tree.

Step 2: Ready to cut? Hold on a second there. Plan your escape route before you make that first cut. When that tree starts to fall, you need a safe place to go. The best option is to leave in the opposite direction to where the tree will fall, but at an angle to avoid any kickback.

Step 3: It's time to make your cut. Remember, this cut should be made on the side of the tree you want the tree to fall towards.

If you're using a chainsaw — or hand saw — make your first cut at around 60°, diagonally downwards towards the ground, stopping when you're around a third of the way through the tree. Then make another cut straight across to meet at the base of your first cut.

If you're using an axe, make your cut by alternating between cutting upwards and down, until you have an open-mouth style cut of around 45°. Again, this should go to about a third of the way through the tree.

Step 4: Make a straight cut — or as straight as possible if you're using an axe — on the opposite side of the tree a couple of inches above your first cut. Keeping your second cut higher should stop the tree from kicking up when it falls and reduce the likelihood of injury.

Step 5: When your tree starts to fall, make good your escape. Now is the time to shout 'timber' if it makes you feel authentic, although having lived with a couple who had a dog with the same name, things might not work out how you'd planned them.

Step 6: Once your tree is felled, it's time saw it into logs, split these logs, and season them ready to be used as firewood. Whatever you do, clean up after yourself!

Tom Kilpatrick
A London-born outdoor enthusiast, Tom took the first ticket out of suburban life. What followed was a twelve-year career as…
Stock up for emergencies with these great survival food packs
Can you call yourself a survival prepper if you've not got a high quality meal solution?
Collection of survival food and dehydrated meals.

The world is falling apart at its seams. Well, perhaps not, but natural disasters and extreme weather phenomena are becoming increasingly regular throughout the U.S. You've just got to look at the snowfall on the US West coast to see that these once-in-a-generation events are happening more to our generations than is necessarily fair — I blame climate change but that's a whole different argument. Getting snowed in, flooded, or hurricane bound in your basement is not a matter that should be taken lightly; we never know what's about to hit us next, so it pays to be prepared.

If you're fortunate enough to have a basement or a bunker, you might have a full setup that's ready for you to move into at a moment's notice. Regardless, it's worth having a cold weather sleeping bag, as well as a stove and some fuel on hand so you can stay warm and take on calories. When it comes to survivalist food, you could always just stash a huge selection of tins in your basement, sure. But you're a true prepper, right? That means having the right food that provides ample calories while also being edible.How many times can you eat a tin of beans before you get fed up? Not a lot, right? These survivalist food kits aren't just providing raw calories; they're actual food that you're going to want to eat. You can't get calories from food that you don't eat, so get prepared properly for the next impending disaster with these kits.

Read more
How to wax skis to maximize your slide down the slopes
How to wax your skis for the season ahead

Ski season is right around the corner. With those perfectly corded groomers calling your name and the deep powder drawing you into the trees, you need your skis to be in top condition. Dry spots on your skis can grab at the snow, accidentally initiating turns when you don't want them or making you feel twitchy on the slopes. If your skis are totally dry, you're never going to keep up with your buddies as they tear it around the ski resort.

Read more
Review: How the EcoFlow Delta 2 held up to Hurricane Ian and its aftermath
A lesson in portable power: A review of the EcoFlow DELTA 2
EcoFlow DELTA 2 portable power station on the counter.

Years ago, shortly after my wife and I first moved into our home, we were hit by a storm. It wasn’t a hurricane, and it wasn’t a particularly bad storm, but it was a storm nonetheless, and it knocked out our power for over a week. We lost all of the food in our fridge and freezer. We had to drive to my in-laws to take a shower. There was no AC, and we live in hot and humid Florida, so it was absolutely miserable.

It’s an experience I’d rather not repeat, and yet, every hurricane season the opportunity is certainly there. More recently, Ian passed by us, wreaking havoc on the southern parts of the state. We live near Tampa, but fortunately, we were on the outskirts of the storm’s path. Still, there was ample opportunity to lose power, as we have before, and since our roof was damaged, the winds and rain were clearly dangerous enough to do some destruction.

Read more