How to fell a hung up tree


Safely felling problem trees - UW-Madison Extension Forestry

Photo Credit © William Klase

Art and science of harvesting treeschainsaw, safetyBill Klase

There are some simple things you can do get hung-up trees on the ground safely and efficiently.

A family project in the woods can be a great opportunity to reconnect with relatives you haven’t seen in a while, and get a good deal of work done.  A recent work day at a family property was all of that and much more.  It is the much more part that I will share some insights from, today.

Having worked with some of the accomplished chainsaw operators out there, I have developed a healthy respect for the power of the tools we use and the trees we address.  So, I arrived at the work site wearing all my safety gear, and intent on taking a measured tone to the work we needed to accomplish.   It seems I was the only one that day with that intent in mind.

My siblings and in-laws arrived with nothing but their chainsaws and a determination to get the work done as fast as possible.  The extent of their safety equipment was work gloves and the misguided notion that they “knew what they were doing.”  Let me cut into the story here and state that no one was injured during our workday, thankfully.

Without much of a plan in mind, everyone who had a chainsaw just started cutting anywhere they thought work should be done.  This led to multiple trees being felled and processed within very close proximity to each other, and sometimes two people processing the same tree at once.  Additionally, there were folks running around grabbing branches and rounds for stacking and chipping (an added dimension of noise and arguments on what should be chipped or not).

For the problem trees, “simple” solutions were instigated to get the job done.  That meant cutting from a ladder or a tree stand, or by climbing the tree and working while perched between branches.   All of these done without a safety harness, and cutting with the chainsaw above the shoulders.  Did I mention that no one was injured already?

Now, I am not much of a preacher and prefer to lead by example, but I was having little impact on my gung-ho relatives.  My pleas for only one person working on a tree at a time, or for folks to stand back during felling, or that “things can’t be just sewn back on” fell on mostly deaf ears.  I did manage to have a bit of an impact when it came time to address hung-up trees (trees that fall into another tree rather than on the ground) and widow-makers (trees with large branches or tops hanging from them).

You see, the chaotic felling and lack of skilled chainsaw use led to some newly created problem trees.  Since I was the one with the helmet, everyone pointed at me to get these down.

There are a number of ways you can deal with a widow-maker.  If it is in a remote part of your property where few people venture and does not need to immediately come out, then you can just leave it.   Let some future strong winds knock the hung up branches off.

If you need to get the tree down, then position yourself so that you are never standing directly below the widow-maker. Instead, work from the opposite side of the tree and make sure you designate a safe escape route before you begin to cut.  In other words, keep the tree’s trunk between you and the widow-maker, and try to fell the tree in the direction that the widow-maker is on.  If you are forced to cut while standing under the widow-maker, have a buddy keep an eye on the branches above while you are cutting.  Your buddy can give you a signal the moment the widow-maker starts to move so that you can retreat along your pre-designated escape route.

Hung-up trees require a bit different strategy.  You can just leave the hanger alone if it is not threatening anything, but you must mark off the area surrounding the hung-up tree so others don’t wander into this dangerous area. Unfortunately, people have died when a hung-up tree has suddenly come crashing down.

The safest way to get a hung-up tree on the ground is to use a tractor or truck and a long rope to pull it down. Sometimes it is possible to push or pull the hung-up tree to free it. But be sure to work from the butt of the tree.  If you are going to push it by hand, set down your saw and push with both hands for greater force and stability.

You can also try rolling the hung-up tree free using a cant hook.  To do this, partially cut the holding wood (or hinge) of the hung-up tree on the side adjacent to the supporting tree.  For example, if the hung-up tree is leaning into the right side of another tree, cut the holding wood on the left side of the hung-up tree and roll the hanger clockwise (as facing the butt) to your right. But whatever you do, never try to bring down a hung-up tree by felling another tree onto it or by cutting the supporting tree. Such attempts usually result in a bigger problem or a trip to the hospital.

At the end of the day, my relatives were a bit more sober about the work they were doing and they took better care to be as safe and efficient as they could be in the woods.

How to remove a hung-up tree – Husqvarna Chainsaw Academy

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Husqvarna
Chainsaw Academy

AuthorHusqvarna Chainsaw Academy

Last edited

March 30, 2021

Last editedMarch 30, 2021

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If you accidentally fell a tree into another – always start by taking a break and thinking through the situation calmly. Removing a trapped tree is always a hazardous undertaking and there is no need to rush. Choose the safest solution to the problem even if it takes longer. There are several options. Do not be afraid to call for help – your safety is more important than anything else.

Below are two methods that you can use to easily bring down a hung-up tree – as long as it is not too big or too entangled in the second tree. But first let’s take a quick look at recommended tools and some very important safety rules.

Tools

These are tools that will come in handy when removing a hung-up tree:
• Turning strap
• Turning hook. Often comes with the breaking bar.
• Winch (advanced, not covered in this topic)
• Forwarders or tractors fitted with grapple loader or winch (advanced, not covered in this topic)

Safety first!

Working with or close to hung-up trees can be very dangerous. Never leave a trapped tree unmarked. Mark the area with highly visible marking tape if you must leave the area to get other tools or assistance. Follow these rules and make sure to never put yourself or any other person in danger:

Method

Rolling the tree method

Slightly leaning hang-ups are usually easy to roll down. Use the turning hook or turning strap if you think that the tree is not too stuck. Here’s how to do it.

Step-by-step

1. Asses the tree

2. Adjust the hinge

3. Roll down the tree

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1. Asses the tree

Assess the tree to decide in which way the tree can be rolled down.

2. Adjust the hinge

You need to adjust the hinge to make is possible to roll down the tree. Start with sawing off the middle of the hinge so that two corners are saved. Then cut off the corner on the opposite side from the direction in which you intend to roll down the tree. Cut this corner with repeated saw cuts diagonally from above. Make sure to leave the corner on the same side that you intend to roll down the tree.

3. Roll down the tree

Take the turning hook (or use the turning strap to attach a branch as a lever) and roll the tree away from you. Lift straight with a straight back and knees bent. If the tree is large or has hung really tightly, you can increase the rolling force by using the turning hook or turning strap with a longer piece from a thin tree.

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Method

Step down method

Severely leaning hang-ups can be difficult to roll down, and must be levered or pulled backward. The method is based on removing the tree from the stump or the place where the tree is stuck with the butt end in the ground. The trunk should have a good sliding surface and fall off cleanly.

Be aware that the trunk could sever too early – never stand in the direction of movement or under the trunk.

It is important that the two saw cuts are not made too high up on the trunk as it could “fold down” at the breaking point. If the tree is too tightly hung, you should use a tractor, winch or other machine.

Here’s how to perform the step down method.

Step-by-step

Animation

1. Create a slider bed

2. Make the backside cut

3. Place a wedge

4. Saw the front side cut

5. Knock the wedge

6. The hung-up tree slides backwards

7. If needed, lever with a pole

8. If needed, repeat the process

Expand all steps

1. Create a slider bed

Lay branches and poles on the ground in front of the trunk to form a surface /slider bed.

2. Make the backside cut

Cut into about half the diameter of the rear of the trunk. Continue cutting from the other side if the guide bar is shorter than the tree diameter.

3. Place a wedge

Insert a wedge to prevent the backside cut from pinching.

4. Saw the front side cut

Saw the next cut from the front, parallel to the previous cut, but 3-5 cm below. Cut into about half the diameter of the trunk. Taper the front of the trunk.

5. Knock the wedge

Knock in the wedge until the wood fibres split between the two cuts. Stay alert – the trunk usually slides off the stump at the same time.

6. The hung-up tree slides backwards

Performed correctly this is the result of the step down method. The tree splits from the stump, slides backwards on the sliding surface, releases from the tree it got hung-up on and falls to the ground.

7. If needed, lever with a pole

If the hung-up tree did not come loose by knocking in the wedge: Lever the tree with a 2 – 3 m long rod/pole in the direction of movement until the tree breaks loose and slide down.

8. If needed, repeat the process

If the tree does not come loose, repeat the process from step 1. Remember: safety first. If in doubt, seek help from a hung-tree expert.

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Last edited

March 30, 2021

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