How to Make a Wedge Cut for Felling a Tree


Although trees with trunks less than 6 inches in diameter can be cut down with a single cut of a chainsaw, felling a larger tree requires considerable planning and should not be undertaken lightly. Wind direction, the condition and balance of the tree and operator escape route must be identified. The operator must clear the area around the tree and plan the direction of the fall to avoid buildings, and other trees and brush. Wear a hardhat, safety glasses, work boots and gloves from beginning to end for your safety.

Things You'll Need

  • Hardhat
  • Safety glasses
  • Work gloves
  • Work boots with steel toes and high tops
  • Long-sleeved shirt and pants
  • Sharp handsaw
  • Wood or plastic wedges
  • Long-handled sledge
  • Chainsaw
  • Plan the position of the wedge cut, also known as notch or face cut. The cut must be perpendicular to the direction of fall. You must be able to complete the cut across the tree while standing in a position that allows you fast access to your escape route.

  • Make the first cut of the wedge across the tree, from one-quarter to one-third of the way into the tree trunk, with the chainsaw. Cut straight in or angle the bottom of the cut slightly upward.

  • Cut the top of the wedge with the chainsaw, also straight across the tree perpendicular to the direction of fall. Start 5 or 6 inches above the “undercut” and cut down to the end of the lower cut, forming a notch. Knock the wedge out of the trunk.

  • Begin a back cut about 2 inches above and absolutely parallel to the inside of the notch. The wood between the back cut and notch of the wedge will form a hinge for the tree as it falls toward the wedge. Stop cutting 4 to 5 inches from the notch and ensure that the hinge is equally deep on both ends of the notch.

  • Use two wedges, spaced evenly around the back cut to guide the tree. Tap both firmly with a large-headed sledge if the tree does not begin to fall with the back cut.

Tips & Warnings

  • Plan your escape route in at least a 45-degree angle to the direction of fall.
  • Clear any brush and dry wood from the area surrounding the work space where chainsaw exhaust might carry sparks. Cut any low branches with your handsaw and move them away from the direction of fall and work area before beginning with the chainsaw.
  • The hinge formed between the wedge cut and the back cut controls the tree’s direction of fall. Cutting all the way through the tree removes that control and the tree may fall with the wind, toward its heavy side, or any way other than the direction you’ve planned.
  • Inexperienced cutters should attempt felling a large tree only with the help of an experienced friend.
  • If the hinge is not equally thick on both sides, the tree will twist as it falls, turning toward the thicker side of the hinge.
  • Never fell a large tree on a windy day. Winds over 15 miles per hour will force a direction of fall no matter how exact are the face and back cuts.

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