When felling a tree with wedges, first prepare for the job. If you are using a chainsaw to cut down the tree, make sure the chainsaw is in good operating condition. Also, make sure you are wearing protective gear for tree felling. Then, plan the direction of the tree’s fall and clear the area. Establish at least 2 escape routes in case the tree falls in an unexpected direction.
Once you’ve covered these basics, notch your tree on the side that you want to fall toward the ground. Then, begin your felling cut from the opposite side, toward the notch. When you have cut deep enough that a wedge can be driven into the felling cut without interfering with your chainsaw, drive in your first wedge. Continue cutting and driving in wedges as you go. Make sure you do not cut all the way through to the notch or the tree may fall dangerously. The felling cut and the wedges will be enough to make your tree fall in the desired direction.
How Do You Angle a Tree to Fall in a Specific Direction?
Felling wedges are the best tool for angling a tree to direct its fall. However, extreme care should be taken when felling leaning trees. Felling trees both with and against their natural lean can be dangerous. Consult our guide to cutting down a leaning tree before you begin.
- Felling wedges are the best tool for directing the fall of trees when you are tree cutting.
- Take special precautions and follow precise steps when felling leaning trees.
- It is advisable to always use felling wedges, even when you are cutting down a straight tree.
A felling wedge is useful for more than correcting tree lean during felling. Even if your tree is straight, other factors may make its falling path unpredictable. By using felling wedges correctly, you can ensure that your tree falls safely every time.
How Much Does a Felling Wedge Move a Tree?
How much a felling wedge moves a tree depends on the tree’s height and diameter. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a 1-inch (2.5 cm) wedge driven into a tree can drastically shift the position of that tree’s top branches. Here’s an example:
- The example tree is 70 feet tall (21 meters).
- The diameter of the tree is 12 inches (30 cm).
- A 1-inch wedge driven into the tree will move the top branches 70 inches (178 cm) in the direction the wedge is pointed.
Moving the upper branches of a tree a full 70 inches in the direction you want it to fall can drastically shift the center of gravity. It can also overcome substantial tree lean. Keep in mind, thicker trees will not be as affected by wedges as thinner trees. Large trees will need multiple wedges in order to tilt the tree.
What are the Best Tree Felling Wedges?
The best wedges for tree cutting are made of hard plastic with spikes on one side of the wedge. These spikes should always face the ground when driving in your wedge. They will grip onto the wood and prevent the wedge from slipping back out.
- Our favorite felling wedges are these made in the USA wedges.
- Choose wedges with spikes on one side to keep the wedge from backing out.
- Use high quality wedges to avoid broken or split wedges.
Always use strong, well-reviewed wedges. Cheap tree wedges can easily split or break, which can lodge them in the felling cut you’re making. This will add complications to the tree cutting process and make the job more dangerous. When in doubt, always go with a higher-quality wedge.
10 Steps to Fell a Tree with Wedges
When you are ready to begin felling a large tree, it’s important to have felling wedges on hand. Although tools like breaking bars can be useful for cutting down small trees, nothing beats a wedge for taking down a tree with a thick tree trunk. Here’s how to use felling wedges:
Wear the Right Protective Gear
Whenever you are cutting down trees, it’s essential to wear the right clothing and protective gear. Make sure you are wearing the following before you begin:
- A long-sleeved shirt.
- Heavy gloves.
- Boots with reinforced toes.
- Eye protection, such as a face shield or safety goggles.
- Earplugs or other hearing protection.
- A hard hat.
If you are working in a wooded area, it’s also essential to wear a brightly colored shirt or vest. This will allow other workers to spot and identify you from a distance.
Gather Your Tools
Before you begin felling a tree, make sure you have all your tools and supplies on hand. The following are necessary before you begin cutting:
- At least one assistant.
- Felling wedges.
- Chainsaw fuel.
- Bar and chain oil.
Make sure your chainsaw is ready for the task. Check the sharpness of the chain and replace it if necessary. Ensure that the chain is properly tightened, that your chainsaw is fueled, and that the bar and chain oil reservoir is filled. An improperly serviced chainsaw is prone to dangerous breakages.
Determine Where You Want the Tree to Fall
Now that you’re ready, observe the tree itself. Find a path for it to fall that will not cause it to fall on buildings, equipment, vehicles, or other trees. If this is not possible, the tree will have to be removed in sections, working from the top down. It is best to hire a professional arborist to remove trees that cannot be safely felled.
- Observe the area to find a clear path where the tree can fall.
- Do not choose a path that will cause the tree to fall on other trees—tree hangups are extremely dangerous.
- Move all people, pets, tools, and vehicles out of the intended felling path.
Move any tools, vehicles, equipment, and other objects out of the area before you begin felling. This is essential to prevent the tree from unexpectedly falling onto something valuable. It also makes the area clear of obstructions, which simplifies the next step in the felling process.
Establish Multiple Escape Routes
Observe the area and remember the planned path where the tree will fall. Establish at least 2 escape routes that you can take to clear the area in the event the tree begins to fall unexpectedly. A single escape route may be obstructed if the tree falls in the wrong direction. So, plan for the worst. This way, you’ll prevent injury to yourself and any assistants working with you.
Make a Notch in Your Tree
Begin cutting by making the perfect notch in your tree. When notching a tree, remember these essentials:
- The notch must always be made on the side of the tree that will fall toward the ground.
- Start the notch between ankle height and waist height.
- Begin with a flat cut one-fourth of the way through the tree.
- Make your second cut higher up the trunk. Cut down at a 45-degree angle so that the two cuts meet.
- Remove the triangular section of wood.
- If necessary, use your axe to deepen the notch so that the two cuts meet precisely.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that a properly felled tree will fall toward the notch. So, make your first cut with this in mind.
Start Your Felling Cut
Begin your felling cut on the side of the tree opposite the notch. It helps to think of this as cutting toward the notch from behind. Follow these steps to begin a felling cut:
- Think of the notched side of the tree as the “front side” of the tree.
- Start your felling cut from the “back side” of the tree, opposite of the notch.
- Begin your felling cut 2–3 inches (5–7.5 cm) higher than the bottom of the notch.
- Make your felling cut straight toward the notch. The chainsaw should be sideways, with the bar parallel to the ground.
- Cut slowly.
- Do not cut all the way through to the notch.
- Stop once your chainsaw bar is deep enough that you can insert a wedge behind it without hitting the chainsaw bar.
- Do not remove the chainsaw from the felling cut.
- Leave the chainsaw running
- Use your chain brake to lock the chain and prevent injury.
It may seem strange to leave a running chainsaw sideways in the felling cut, but this is the best way to ensure you can continue to cut after inserting your felling wedges. Always use a chainsaw with a chain brake for this job. Older models without chain brakes are not safe for use when felling large trees.
Hammer in Your First Wedge
With the chainsaw running and still inserted in the felling cut, you’re ready to drive in your first wedge. Here’s how to do it:
- Make sure the wedge is oriented so the spikes on the wedge are facing toward the ground.
- Position the wedge so it is facing in the direction you want the tree to fall.
- Do not drive the wedge in at an angle—the wedge will cause the tree to lean in whichever direction it’s pointing.
- Use your sledgehammer to drive the wedge into the cut.
- Check to make sure the wedge does not make contact with the chainsaw chain or bar.
- If possible, drive the wedge in until it is almost flush with the tree trunk.
It is extremely important to ensure that the wedge does not interfere with the chainsaw. A felling wedge that makes contact with the chainsaw during cutting can damage both the wedge and your chainsaw. It’s better to drive the wedge in part way than to risk damaging your tools.
Continue Your Felling Cut
After the first wedge has been driven in, continue your felling cut toward the notch. However, it’s essential to leave a “hinge” of wood between the felling cut and the notch. This hinge should be 10% of the tree’s diameter. So, if your tree is 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter, leave a 2-inch (5 cm) hinge. Gradually cut to this point. It’s a good idea to stop every few inches to drive in another felling wedge.
Drive in Additional Wedges
As you cut deeper toward the notch, stop periodically to repeat the process for hammering in new wedges. Typically, you will begin by hammering in new wedges beside the first wedge. Just make sure they are all pointed in the same direction.
- Continue your felling cut gradually.
- Maintain a “hinge” between the felling cut and notch that is 10% of the tree trunk’s diameter.
- Repeat the previous process to drive more wedges in behind your chainsaw bar.
- For additional leverage, drive in wedges on top of one another.
To create more leverage, you can drive in a second wedge on top of your first wedge. By stacking wedges, you cause the tree to tilt much more drastically in the direction of the intended fall. Work slowly and carefully when employing this method. A second wedge is commonly enough to cause a tree to fall as long as the felling cut has been made to the correct depth.
Fell Your Tree
If you have made your felling cut as deep as it can safely be, remove your chainsaw from the felling cut. Then, drive in more wedges. This is typically where driving in a wedge on top of another wedge is useful. Stacking wedges often produces the leverage needed to fell a stubborn tree.
- Continue your felling cut.
- Do not cut through the hinge under any circumstances—this can cause the tree to fall in an unexpected direction regardless of the wedges and notch.
- Have an assistant on hand to alert you when the tree begins falling.
Keep in mind, trees can fall at any time. Many trees begin falling before you have driven in all your wedges or completed your felling cut. It’s best practice to have an assistant stand behind you with a pole or broomstick. Your assistant should be watching the tree. Instruct them to tap you on the shoulder with the pole once the tree begins falling. This will alert you to step away if you are still cutting or hammering. Always clear away from a tree as soon as it begins falling. In some cases, falling trees can kick backward dangerously.
How Do You Use Wedges for Tree Falls?
In order to use wedges to control the direction a tree falls during cutting, follow these steps:
- Wear protective clothing.
- Gather your tools and enlist an assistant.
- Determine a safe felling path for the tree.
- Clear vehicles, tools, people, and animals out of the felling path.
- Establish at least 2 escape routes to take in case the tree begins to fall in an unexpected direction.
- Notch your tree on the side you wish to fall toward the ground.
- Begin your felling cut from the opposite side of the tree, toward the notch.
- Drive your first wedge into the felling cut behind the chainsaw.
- Continue your felling cut, pausing to add more wedges.
- Stop cutting when there is a hinge of wood between the felling cut and notch.
- Drive in additional wedges until the tree falls.
Your safety is essential whenever you are felling a tree. Special cutting techniques may be required when cutting down a leaning tree. If you are not familiar with chainsaw operation, hire a professional arborist to safely cut down your tree.