Thursday, May 29, 2014

Felling lesson

Ours is a family forest. Over the Memorial Day weekend, family member Chris came over to learn how to cut down a tree. Here's a video.

Chris hadn't used a chainsaw much before today. I picked 3 trees for him to cut. All of them were under 12" DBH leaning Ponderosa pines. This is a video of his third tree:

The trees were leaning downslope toward the road where we will yard them out. I had him fell them upslope so he could learn about aiming a tree against its favor. It's easy to go along with a tree's natural inclination with a quick Humboldt cut, leaving the fight to the skidder later. It's easy to get a wedge into a large-diameter tree and aim it. But smaller trees that lean are a common problem with a simple solution. Also by felling uphill the skidder can choker the butts instead of the tops and have a straight pull to the road. This was a great opportunity for me to teach the techniques I've been learning in logging workshops the past couple of years. The cut we used is one that involves boring through the tree. It's a really practical cut for medium diameter back or side leaners. Once you get used to it you won't go back.

First we found a snag and practiced bores. Chris got the hang of that quickly, and it's a challenging cut to make. The saw is running full throttle and the tip wants to kick off the tree. The secret is in the stance. Next I demoed the felling technique on a pine, stepping through the cuts and explaining them as I went.

Chris donned the chainsaw chaps, and the next three trees were his. I coached him through them and each tree hit its target. The tree in the video had some side lean so he tucked a wedge into the bore on that side. Then he made his back cut from the opposite side, slightly below the bore so as to miss the wedge. The tree sat back and pinched the saw, but he already had a wedge in. A tap on the wedge released the saw and he then wedged the tree over to its target.

His second tree was a small-diameter pine leaning back. There wasn't a lot of room to bore sideways and still set a wedge where we needed it. We used a different cut on that tree, which I'll eventually post about.

Overall it was a fun afternoon with beautiful spring weather. Four trees are on the ground, creating a planned fuel break, and they'll be easy to skid. And now our son can pick up a chainsaw with confidence and safety. Hopefully he'll be back to share in the forest work, there's always plenty of it here.

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