Ellen Bauske has served as the program coordinator for the UGA Center for Urban Agriculture for ten years and has a wealth of expertise in Urban Agriculture Extension programing and project implementation.She currently coordinates national and statewide urban programs in water issues, safety training, turfgrass, Integrated Pest Management, and arboriculture. Prior to joining the Center for Urban Agriculture she helped create AWIS Weather Services and served as Executive Vice President and Director of Marketing of that company for seven years.She holds a M.S. and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in Plant Pathology and a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell College. Dr. Bauske has had the great pleasure of working in plant breeding, biological control, Integrated Pest Management, and Extension.
First and foremost, make sure you have your PPE on. Starting at the top, a helmet, safety glasses, ear protection, gloves, chainsaw pants or chaps, and finally, boots, preferably with steel toes.
Now determine what equipment is needed to assist the tree in its intended path of fall.
You will need a well-maintained and properly running chainsaw that has an engine which can safely operate a bar length slightly longer than the diameter of the tree. The chain should be sharp and in good repair.
If the tree has back or side lean, a throw line and rope or mechanical advantage set may be needed to help pull the tree over.
Wedges are required equipment on-site any time a tree is being felled. You may need multiple wedges and an axe to drive them. Wedges are a great way to provide mechanical advantage to a tree.
It is a good practice to place a wedge in the back cut of any tree being felled, regardless of the direction of lean.
Move all the equipment you have determined you will need to the base of the trunk. If you don’t have all the equipment you need, then walk away and save the job for another day when you do have the equipment.
Help Fight Crime
If you are a landscape professional, know a landscape professional or employee a landscape company who has been a victim of theft, please share this with them.
These crimes are escalating – a local company was shot at and robbed at gunpoint. The Georgia Urban Ag Council is tracking these crimes to give data to local law enforcement. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-687-6949. Please help spread the word.
Before you drop a tree, you need a plan. The Five Step Felling Plan can save your life.
The first step of the Felling Plan is called heights, hazards, and lean. You cannot drop a tree safely with out determining the height, assessing the tree and area for hazards, and measuring lean.
How tall is the tree?
There are many ways to determine the height of a tree. There are cell phone apps that can help you, and tools such as a clinometer or transit. The technique demonstrated here relies on free equipment almost always available at your work site: a stick!
The stick trick for measuring tree height is easy and fairly accurate. You need to find a stick as long as the distance between your hand, when your arm is outstretched, and your eye. (Measure with your safety glasses on! Don’t poke out your eye!) Break off the stick or just hold it in your hand at that length.
Line your hand up with the spot on the tree where you will cut the notch.
Rotate the stick 90 degrees without moving your head or dropping your arm.
Then walk backwards, away from the tree, until the tip of the stick is even with the top of the tree.
It is important to hold your hand and arm still and to move your eyes, and not your head when you are lining up the tree.
When the tip of the stick lines up with the tip of the tree, you should be standing where the tip of the tree will fall.
The height estimate must be adjusted for front and back lean and topography. If the tree leans forward the height will be over estimated and if it has back lean, this method will underestimate the height. Similarly if the tree is on a slope falling up hill the height estimate will be low and if it is falling downhill the height will be overestimated.
What are the hazards?
Next, it is time to look for hazards. Take a walk around the tree and look at it very carefully. There are many potential hazards. Anything the tree may hit on the way down is also a hazard. Buildings, fountains, electrical wires, people, wildlife, and cars are just a few of the hazards that must be avoided.
Another tree which can change the direction of the fall or hangup the tree you want to fell is a potential hazard.
Some sites are loaded with hazards!
We talked about hazards found on the tree itself in the previous newsletter, but I have to remind you to take a good look at the tree as well.
Does the tree lean?
There is an easy way to tell if a tree has lean. Make a circle by placing your index fingers and thumbs together. Peer through the circle and step back until you have most of the tree’s canopy in the circle. Drop an imaginary line from your index fingers and thumbs to the ground. How far is that line from the base of the tree? In this case it is 4 feet.
Lean needs to be measured at two separate locations. First measure lean in the line along which you intend to drop the tree. Then, move 90 degrees perpendicular to that and measure lean.
Generally if the tree has 3 feet or less of side lean, the notch may be adjusted to compensate. If it has more than 3 feet of side lean the tree will not fall in its intended path and you must come up with a new plan.
If you decide to adjust the line in which the tree will be felled, re-assess the lean again in the new line of fall and again, 90 degrees perpendicular to it.
When you finish this first step, you should have identified an intended path of fall.
We usually end with a video, but there are so many on YouTube in which cutters failed to assess Height, Hazards, and Lean that it is pointless to select one here.
Warren Williams of North American Training Solutions demonstrates a cool cut below. This stump cut can come in handy when one of your clients wants you to make a plant stand out of the tree stump or just wants the stump cut low.
After the initial starting cut, the cut is made with the top of the saw. Keep the tip of the saw in the tree. The saw tosses the chips into the cut (pictured above) and the cookie floats on the chips. As a result, the saw doesn’t get pinched. A very large cookie from a large tree floating on theses chips can easily be pushed off the stump.
This is not a cut that should ever be used to take down a tree, but it can come in handy at cleanup.
Flower Pot Cut or Impress Your Stump Grinder
Warren Williams of North American Training Solutions demonstrates this cut.
Carefulness costs you nothing. Carelessness may cost you your life.
You’ve seen the movies, the good guy (or bad guy) tosses his burning cigarette into a pool of gas, igniting a fire. The fire burns up to the gas tank, which explodes into flames, eliminating the bad guy (or good guy). Nice way to end a movie, but not likely.
A cigarette doesn’t burn hot enough to ignite gas. Gas, both in fume or liquid form, ignites between 500 °F and 540 °F. A cigarette at its hottest (when the smoker draws on it) is between 450 °F and 500 °F.
Gas ignition with a cigarette is improbable. The cigarette just isn’t hot enough to start a gas fire.
However, a match or a lighter burns very hot, well over 1000 °F. That is more than hot enough to ignite liquid gas or fumes! Since you have to light a cigarette before you can smoke it, don’t smoke while you are handling fuel or fueling your saw.
We aren’t sure if these are good guys or bad guys blowing up, but this made us laugh (it is accurate too, the lighter does them in). Enjoy!
Carefulness costs you nothing. Carelessness may cost you your life.
While saw chains and cutters all have the same end purpose, different configurations offer differences in speed and handling and may require different maintenance.
Have you got a standard, semi-skip, or full-skip chain?
The standard or full house chain has the most teeth and is common on bars up to 24 inches. It cuts fast and smooth.
The semi-skip saw chain is a specialty chain used by people who want a balance between standard and skip chains. They are only available with square chisel cutters.
Finally, the full-skip chain is used on bars 24 inches or longer. It has better chip clearance in long cuts and a quicker sharpening time. However, it can be prone to vibration, and it can be grabby on smaller cuts because it has fewer teeth.
Even though they all have the same parts, there are different types of cutters. Low profile cutters are generally found on consumer and small arborist saws. They have safety features and are low kickback. The chisel is the most popular. It has the fastest cutting speed and does not dull quickly. The semi-chisel doesn’t cut as fast, but stays sharper longer than the chisel. The square chisel is not very common and needs to be sharpened on a machine by a professional.
Comparing the cutting speed of various chain types…
This is a nice video comparing the speed of different chains and cutters.
The most common cause of accidents is kickback. Kickback occurs when the top quarter of the saw blade, also known as the kickback zone, contacts a solid object (wood or metal). Because the cutter is coming down the edge of the saw bar in the kickback zone, the depth gauge is lower than it should be in relation to the tooth. Literally, the saw bites off more than it can chew, stopping or slowing the chain. The result is a rotational force that flings the bar backward, into the operator. When the bar rears back, the chain break will be activated and stop the chain in 1/55th of second. The saw may still strike you, but the chain is not rotating and the damage will not be as severe.
DO NOT USE THE KICKBACK ZONE AND ALWAYS BE AWARE OF ITS LOCATION!!!
Low Kickback Chains (aka Safety Chains)
Low kickback chains are commonly found on saws for homeowners and are standard equipment on many new saws. As you can see from the picture, low kickback chains have an additional depth gauge between the cutters. The extra depth gauge is either the result of a special drive link (called a bumper drive link) or putting a bumper on the tie straps.
The depth gauge sets the depth or thickness of the chip produced by the cutting corner of the cutter. The depth gauge is an important safety feature. The thicker the chip, the more severe the potential kickback. By regulating chip size, depth gauges also regulate the severity of reactive forces.
Low kickback chains really do reduce kickback, but they’re not popular with professionals for two reasons. If you’re felling trees, it makes a bore cut nearly impossible. The bore cut is a safety technique that minimizes the possibility of getting injured or killed by the barber chair or stump jump. Because the upper half of the bar tip won’t cut well, bore cuts go very slowly.
If you sharpen the chain yourself, a safety chain can be more difficult to sharpen. This isn’t a problem if you take your chain to a dealer to sharpen.
Do not think because an accident hasn’t happened to you that it can’t happen.
Do you need to sharpen your chain?
If you notice these signs while working with your chainsaw, it is time to sharpen or possibly replace the saw chain.
The saw chain does not pull itself into the wood. It has to be forced to cut by applying pressure to the engine unit.
While doing a split cut or a cross cut (making a vertical cut) the saw chain creates fine sawdust instead of coarse strands.
Smoke crops up even though the chain lubrication is in working order and the chain tension is correct.
The chainsaw runs in one direction causing a crooked cut. This is an indication of dull cutting teeth on one side of the chain or uneven cutting teeth lengths.
The chainsaw “rattles” and “bounces” during the cut. It is difficult to achieve precise positioning.
The above information is from the Stihl blog, yet another great resource. There are many good videos online that will help you sharpen your chain and help you use the service marks on the chain.
We have two other important pieces of information for you.
As you see, there is just one saw safety class listed below. That is because it is the only training on the books right now. Baring a miracle – THAT IS YOUR LAST CHANCE in central Georgia. Sign up!
The saw safety newsletter is going to take a break in December. We will be back in January and start right in on the four essential safety features of every saw. Until then, do not depend on others for safety – help yourself!
Check out the Big Shot throw line launcher. It’s a slingshot for tree work.
Want to put a rope in a tree? It has to be in the right place in the tree and it can be difficult to get it there. Tired of throwing and throwing and not setting a line?
Warren Williams, Instructor at North American Training Solutions, demonstrates one in the video below. According to Warren, the Big Shot can launch lines up to 100 feet in tight places and, “It is pretty easy to learn how to use it, doesn’t take a ton of practice.”
It can be used with a standard throw weight and throw line system, or with the specially-designed bullet-style weights. The Big Shot throw line launcher is available from many different venders. It starts at about $125 and goes up – as they say, you get more if you pay more.
It is our goal to help you create a culture of safety in your workplace and we hope you have found this newsletter useful. There are some other great resource available to you.
The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) also has some great resources you can use. Have you seen their Fatality & Near Miss Rescue Alerts? They come out on Monday. The email is a list of accidents and near misses related to tree care. It is clear, concise, and can provide much to talk about with your colleagues. It is also very easy to subscribe and to unsubscribe.
If you are on Facebook, you might want to check out and like dripline.net. It is an informal way to find out what is going on in the tree care industry. Accident reports, humorous stories, tree epidemics – anything and everything tree care – is here. Never a dull moment on this page!