How to Cut a Tree

How To Cut A Tree: Steps, Tips And Tricks To Do It Safely

Tree felling is something that should generally only be attempted by the expert. However, if there is a tree in your backyard that is relatively short and small, you can handle the task yourself. Whether you are dealing with a massive tree or a tiny tree, there are precautions you need to take. Additionally, there are tips that can make the entire process quite easy. Some of the basics of cutting down a tree have been detailed below.

The steps to cut a tree

If you are going to cut down a tree safely, you will need to go about it methodically. Here are the steps that should be at your fingertips during the entire process.

1. Pick the tree you will cut​

When deciding to cut a tree, establish the main reasons why you have picked it. For instance, you may want a Christmas tree, or the tree may have become a hazard to you or your family. If you have already picked a tree, you will need to evaluate how feasible it is to chop it down.

If you are cutting down a tree for utility, ensure that it can serve that purpose well. Some trees are good for use as wood while others are great for use in construction. Additionally, ensure that you own the rights to the tree you pick. If that is not the case, ensure the landowner is okay with your decision.​

2. Plan for where the tree will fall

Before cutting down the tree, you will need to measure its height. Besides that, you should check whether it is leaning in any direction. You will need to ensure that there is no chance of it falling on any property or person.

Additionally, you will need to decide what you intend to do with the tree after it falls. If you plan to move it, ensure it falls in a position where moving it will be easy. However, if you plan to leave it where it falls, you must be aware that it will rot slowly and may be used as a home for roaches, rats, and other pests.

Go around the tree and view it from various angles and distances. It will help you determine how likely it is that the tree could land on any property close to it. You should only proceed to cut it after you establish that it can safely fall away from your house.​

3. Choose the tool you will use

You can use an axe, which works great for small trees or you can use a chainsaw. Chainsaws are more heavy duty, more expensive, and more dangerous. You will have to ensure that you understand how to handle these machines. Just one mistake could cost you a limb or your life.​

4. Stay safe

When chopping down a tree, avoid standing in the path of the falling tree. Additionally, ensure there are no kids, pets, or neighbors who will walk in the direction of the falling tree. If a tree is large enough, it could crush someone to death. If the tree is to be felled in the woods, ensure that you know where everyone is before cutting it down.​

Cutting a Tree Down With a Chainsaw

The tree cutting process can be quite easy with a chainsaw. However, you will need to know how to use it carefully if you want to be safe. Here is a short video explaining the entire process.

When cutting down a tree with a chainsaw, you will need to keep safety and a good plan in mind. That means you will have to find a clear path in which the tree will fall. When using a chainsaw, you will also need to have the right safety equipment. Chainsaws can be quite damaging to the ears and eyes. Thus, those two areas need to remain protected if you are going to be using the chainsaw.

When using a chainsaw, you will need to make notches in the direction in which you want the tree to drop. This notch is made by creating a top and a bottom cut at the base of the tree. The notch should face in the direction in which you want the tree to fall. Most people who cut down trees prefer to use the Humbolt notch. If you are going to use this notch, ensure that you get it right.​

Cutting Down a Tree with an Axe

If you decide to chop down a tree with an axe, ensure that you choose the right type of axe. The felling axe is the type that you will want to use. Felling axes can be further subdivided into wedge axes and rounding axes. The wedge axes are commonly used on softwoods while the rounding axes are used on hardwoods. A felling axe will have a handle that is about 31-36 inches long. Pick a size of a felling axe that you are most comfortable with; it should not be too light or too heavy.

When using an axe, you will need to determine the direction in which the tree will fall. You will then need to start making a notch in that direction. Ensure that you cut an angle. Remember that an axe is not a chainsaw. Thus, you cannot make your cuts straight. All cuts need to be made at an angle.

After making the notch about a third through the tree, go to the other side and begin making a cut. Create a wedge shape cut about a third of the way. Go to the first side and continue cutting the notch deep into the tree. The wood in between these two notches will create a hinge on which your tree will rest. You can now choose to shove your tree or move as far away as possible toward the side of the tree. If possible, ensure you steer clear of the area in which the tree may fall.​

The Difference Between a Big and Small Tree

Small trees can be felled without having to worry too much, about where the tree will land. However, if you are cutting down a large tree, you will probably need to cut the top branches first. The reason for this is that the branches could affect the direction in which the tree falls. With a simple ladder and some prep steps, you can safely cut off all the top branches. After, it will just be a simple case of felling the tree trunk.

How To Trim Large Tree Branches

When cutting large tree branches, you will need to be very careful so as not to damage the bark of the tree or interfere with its ability to heal naturally. If you cut a tree right, you will find that it is no more difficult than cutting it in the wrong way. The main advantage is that you will not have to deal with trying to get rid of a dead tree later on.

Understand How the Tree Heals

When a tree is cut, it forms a special kind of tissue that covers the wound and prevents the entry of disease and decay. The scar will remain on the tree forever, acting as a seal so that the tree can continue to grow. If you are pruning your tree, you have to get it right to avoid accidentally killing your tree.

The Cuts You Should Make

  • Cut 1- Make a small notch at the bottom of the limb, about two feet away from the tree trunk. The botch help to keep the tree branch from splitting as you make your next cut.
  • Cut 2- Just a small distance from your first notch make a relief cut that goes through the entire branch. This helps to get rid of excessive weight on the branch so that you can make the final cut with ease. It helps to prevent possible splitting during the final cut.
  • Cut 3 - This is the most important cut. The cut has to be made at the point where the branch collar transitions into the smooth bark of the tree. If the saw cannot be cut from the top, you can start making your cut from the bottom.Ensure that you make a clean cut that does not have a jagged edge. Such a cut could make it hard for the tree to form scar tissue. Additionally, avoid painting the tree after cutting it. The practice of painting the tree has been found to cause the tree to become infected.

Avoid these Mistakes

  • Do not leave the branch too long: The scar tissue will only start forming if the branch is cut at the position of the branch collar. Branch stabs, which are too long, can prevent the healing process from starting.
  • Do not cut the branch too short: In the past, it was thought that a branch should be cut flush to the trunk. However, that is not so. Without a branch collar, the tree will not be able to form scar tissue. It is the main cause of rotten holes or seeping wounds in trees that have been pruned.
  • Do not forget to make a relief cut: If you do not make this cut, you will have most of the weight as you are trimming the branch. The result is that there is a risk of the branch splitting off. It can lead to a lot of damage on the trunk, which leaves it susceptible to insect infestation and disease. Besides that, it will take much longer to form scar tissue.

For small branches we recommend using a Portable Table Saw.

2018 Tips and Tricks

1. Always Have the Right Safety Gear

Tree felling is a risky business. You can lose an eye, your hearing, or even a finger without the right gear. Safety gear includes thing such as gloves, eyewear, eye protection, and a helmet.

2. Bring a Come-Along To Any Job

During the process of felling a tree, it is quite easy for the saw to get pinched. In such a case, you may need wedges, an axe, and a rope to free your saw. Freeing the saw can be a dangerous operation that requires more than one person.

3. Always Check the Natural Lean of a Tree

Before chopping down any tree, check its lean. The direction in which it leans should be the one you make your first notch. It is easier to get the tree to fall in that direction than trying to force it.

4. Watch Out for the Barber Chair Effect

This effect happens when a tree refuses to lean forward but instead splits vertically. This effect can be quite dangerous to the person doing the cutting. Here is a good demonstration of this effect:

5. Have a Clear Escape Route

Even when you are sure the tree will fall in a certain direction, you should always clear at least two escape routes. That way, you will not be caught up in the thickets when things go horribly wrong.

6. Ensure You are Allowed to Cut Trees

In some jurisdictions, only trained professionals are allowed to cut trees. If the law catches up with you, you may end up paying a fine. Additionally, it might bring about problems with your insurance cover since that would be reckless endangerment of your life.

7. Use Wedges When Handling big Trees

When you begin making the felling cut at the back, you must always have wedges with you. It is especially so for any tree that is bigger than 18 inches. The wedges should be tapped in gradually as you fell the tree. They are useful in helping to prevent the saw from being pinched.​

Common Accidents that Occur During Tree Felling

For whatever reason you may need to cut down a tree, you will need to be aware of these common accidents. That way, you will know to watch out for them the next time you are cutting down a tree.

  • Being hit by falling objects: When cutting down a tree, the vibrations from the chainsaw could cause weak branches to fall off and hit you. Besides that, the tree itself could break unexpectedly and hit you. The falling objects could cause minor scratches or even lead to a hospital visit. In worst-case scenarios, you could die.
  • Falling of the tree: When chopping down the tree, you may have to climb a ladder or a rooftop to get rid of some of the branches. If you are not accustomed to climbing ladders, it is quite easy for you to fall when chopping down the tree. Always ensure that you have the right harnessing.
  • Electrocution: This is another common accident, which occurs when people are felling trees. You should never attempt to cut or trim a tree that is near power lines. The tree branches could conduct electricity, which could travel all the way, down to where you are. Additionally, the tree could fall on the wires and cause them to snap. The falling wires could easily electrocute you and anyone else near you.
  • Being cut: The splintered wood, the chainsaw, or even the axe can cause cuts. If you have little experience using axes or chainsaws, ensure that you take the time to understand them before using them. Most accidents around tree cutting occur because of improper use of equipment.
  • Losing limbs: It is quite easy to saw off an entire arm or leg when using a chainsaw. Even when using an ax, you could easily chop off your toes if you do not know what you are doing. Some of the losses can be because of the equipment malfunctioning. It is thus important that you always check if your equipment is in good shape.
  • Injuring Your eyes: When chopping trees, there will be sawdust and debris being thrown at you. If you do not have the right safety glasses on, those wood chips could easily land in your eyes. The result could be that they puncture the eyes or cause corneal abrasions. You could become partially blind if you are not careful.
  • Scrapes on the skin: The bark of trees is quite rough. It is quite easy for it to scrape your skin as it falls to the ground. If you want to avoid this problem, always wear the right kind of heavy-duty clothing when cutting trees.
  • Bites and stings: The tree you are cutting will be home to various insects and animals. Some of them may react violently as the tree falls. For instance, any snakes hiding in the tree could bite you out of fear. Additionally, you may disturb a hornet’s nest, which will react by delivering stings. Be wary of these creatures when felling trees.
  • Poisoning: Some trees emit a poisonous sap, which can easily cause death. Additionally, some trees are covered in poisonous plants such as poison Ivy. Just keep in mind that there may be plants within the area of the tree cutting, which could harm your health.

Work Area Safety

When using a chainsaw, you should never harm yourself or anyone working in that area. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Ensure there are no people or animals within the area where the tree will fall. The people should be at least two tree lengths away from you.
  • Never work in adverse weather such as snow, heavy rain, or high winds.
  • Ensure that you clear the work area so that you always have stable footing. Never try to reach or stay off balance when working.
  • Walk carefully on the sloping or uneven ground.
  • Always shut down your chainsaw when carrying it.
  • Check for any hazards in the area you are working such as power line and telecommunication cables.
  • Always check for objects that may dislodge from the tree during the tree felling exercise.​

Safety Gear

1. Helmet or Face Shield

Every tree removal expert must have a helmet or face shield on when cutting trees. The helmet protects them from falling debris. It also protects them in case they slip and fall.

2. Gloves

Heavy-duty gloves are an important part of working in tree felling. They keep the hands safe from cuts, abrasions, and any poisonous plants that the tree cutter may encounter. Additionally, it allows them to have a good grip on any equipment they are using.

3. Protective clothing

When working with a chainsaw, you will be bombarded with debris from the chainsaw. It is important to have clothing that can withstand these hits.

4. Earmuffs and Safety Glasses

These devices help to protect the eyes and ears from any damage that may result from debris and noise coming from the chainsaw.

5. Work Shoes

When working on trees, you cannot wear regular tennis shoes. You will need to wear tough shoes that can withstand walking in the brush. The shoes also need to have a firm grip to allow you to work well.

6. Chainsaw chaps

Chainsaw chaps are great for protecting your legs. Use them to avoid being hit by flying wood pieces.

7. Chainsaw Safety

Here is an infographic for using the chainsaw safely:​

Safety tips for operating an Husqvarna chainsaw

Source: ​Apexpr​​​

Tools You Can Use to Cut Trees

If you are planning on cutting down trees, you will have a wide array of tools from which to choose from. Here are some of the most common tools used in tree cutting:

1. Axes

Axes are among the oldest methods used for cutting trees. They are quite easy to use, and they work quite efficiently. Axes can be used to cut tree trunks while pickaxes are used for cutting trees roots.

2. Crosscut saws

A crosscut saw requires two people to work. These types of saws come in varying lengths. It is important that you choose a length that correlates to your tree.

3. Chainsaws

Chainsaws can run on electricity or gas. They are amongst the most powerful tools for cutting down trees. Gas-powered saws are the best option if you are cutting down a large tree.

4. Stump Grinders

After cutting the tree, you will need to get rid of the stump. Getting rid of a stump can be hard since its roots run deep in the soil. Stump grinders make this process quite easy.​

Checking Your Chainsaw

Before using a chainsaw, always make this two-minute check every time. It will help to avert any potential problems.

  • Ensure that the chain brake is working well
  • Check that the lubrication system is working by revving the engine and operating it for a few minutes. Always ensure that your chain is properly lubricated. You may also activate the oiler and point the bat at an object. If the oil shows up, your chain is okay
  • Check the throttle trigger, throttle control lockout and on/off switch are working
  • Check that the chain has been tensioned and sharpened to the requirements of the manufacturer. If the chain is not properly sharpened, you will have to work harder for the chainsaw to cut
  • Ensure that the chain is not rotating when the throttle control trigger is let go
  • Ensure that all the nuts and bolts are secure
  • Ensure that the high-tension lead is not showing any wear

If you have lent out the chainsaw recently, take extra care when checking these points. They may not be taking the same care for your saw as you do.​

General Chainsaw Maintenance

A well-maintained saw is safer to use, and it will ensure the saw continues being used for longer. Here are some things you can do:

    • Always keep the guide bar grooves, oil holes, air filter, sprocket cover, cooling inlets, and the chain break clean.
    • Scabbards help protect the chainsaw bar, if yours didn't come with one, you can always buy a custom-made scabbard.
    • Check the guide bar for straightness
    • Turn the guide bar often to ensure it wears in an even manner
    • Check if the chain has any cracked rivets or side links
    • Ensure that all the nuts, bolts, and screws have the correct tension
    • Ensure that your chainsaw has all the components


Cutting down a tree is dangerous work. It is usually the right choice to hire an expert to do the work for you. If you cannot find an expert to help you, ensure that you understand all the safety precautions you must take.