How to Prune & Fell a Tree with a Chainsaw

5/5 - (33 votes)

How to Prune and Fell a Tree

Felling a tree, also known as cutting down a tree, requires skill and planning. In the city, it’s best to have this done by professional tree cutters when the tree is mature, tall, close to power lines and houses. Small trees can be done yourself; I’ve cut down trees up to 10- to 15-feet tall without a problem.

When you live in a forest or woods, you can fell a tree yourself.

Felling a Tree Terms:

  • Felling: The process of cutting down a tree.
  • Notched Undercut: The first cutting procedure. A notch is cut on one side of the tree to direct the fall of the tree.
  • Back Cut: The final cut. This is made on the opposite side of the tree from the notched undercut.
  • Bucking: Cutting a felled tree or log into lengths.
  • Limbing: Removing all branches from the fallen tree to cut into lengths for splitting.
  • Pruning: Cutting limbs from a living tree.
  • Pruning shearsTrimming: Cutting small branches with pruning shears. My favorite brand is Corona® bypass pruners for 1-inch or less side branches and twigs.

Pruning shearsUsing chainsaws, handsaws, or pruners, make the cut at the outside of the branch collar. This is the swollen area where the branch or stems meet the trunk. The collar has chemicals that cause a callus to seal the wound.

Never cut too close to the trunk and never cut too far out from the trunk. This causes an ugly stub to give insects a way to enter the tree and that stub will never seal unless that stub is cut off.

Clearance pruning so that you can walk under the tree should be done when the branches are sagging low.

It’s not necessary to put a wound healer on the cut. The intelligence in the tree knows what to do.

  • Cord of WoodCord of Wood: Is the dry volume for measuring firewood. The name cord is the name given during the days tape measures were not invented so a string or cord was used for measuring.
  • When the wood is racked and stacked, the pieces are aligned, parallel, touching, and compact. It takes up 128-cubic feet or 4-feet tall x 8-feet wide x 4-feet deep.

Watch the following video to see how to cut down a tree safely, efficiently, and quickly.

Felling a tree using a chainsaw and wedge on backside of notched undercut demo video.


Follow all safety instructions including safety gear: eye and ear protection, gloves, boots not athletic shoes, no thongs or sandals. Safety gear is known as PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). A helmet with faceshield is an even better face protector. Only cut wood; do not cut plastic, sheet metal, or masonry. Practice cutting small logs before doing the big job. Your User’s Manual will tell you the diameter of trees or logs your chainsaw can cut.

What to Watch Out for

Plan carefully. Be sure your gas-powered chainsaw has fresh oil and that your electric or cordless chainsaw has fresh bar lube. Make sure you have a new or sharpened chain.

Falling treeCheck for obstacles in your work area such as power lines, brush, vegetation, fences, buildings and rocks. Check for vines that could interfere with the fall or snag your chain. Vines can also interfere with the fall interlocking with nearby trees. Your falling tree needs to reach the ground freely with no obstacles. Strong vines are poison ivy, kudzu, Virginia creeper, English ivy, and more.

Falling treeInspect the tree’s condition. If there is dead or decayed sections that could break off or have loose branches you might not want to tackle the job.

Plan for where the tree is to fall. This will depend on its size, lean, and shape. It will have a natural direction to fall. Make your calculations carefully before cutting.

Be sure you know where your helpers or crew are, and where you plan to go after the tree falls. Be sure to clear away brush as necessary to be safe. Always have a clear escape route lined up.

Watch videos for learning how to notch and hinge a tree to fall in the direction you want it to go.

How to safely notch a tree for direct felling video.

How to fell a tree with a chainsaw video.

Common tree felling accidents, kickback, and what you can do to prevent them video.

Limbing video.

Be safe and careful. Take your cell phone and let others know where you’re going and when you plan to be back.

Leave a Reply