See also: Cutting down a tree the DIY way (Part 1)
Making the Proper Notch to Cut a Tree Down
Would it be nice if you were able to cut a tree down in the direction you intend without risking it to falling any other direction? It is! With this portion of the guide, you are able to discover how to Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and make a tree fall in the direction you intend. Warning: Do not attempt to do this without reading the guide “Cutting a Tree Down the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Way (Part 1)”, because it has the relevant safety material and precautions you should take, such as knowing what trees you should be cutting down, estimating the falling distance, and creating a safety path for you should the tree fall in an unintended direction. If it seems dangerous, call a tree service company to help.
Sidenote: Why do we use tree notches instead of just hacking away?
When you just go straight into the tree and hack away with a hinge cut right into the trunk of the tree. This often works with novices; however, the main concern is that you have very little control over which way the tree will fall. With that being said, there is no other reason to avoid the notch.
There are three types of notches used in tree falling, and each of them are able to be viewed on YouTube.com if you need clarification:
The open-faced notch
This is great for trees in which accuracy when falling is the key. If you are in a tight space where the tree has to fall in a tight amount of space and there is little room for error, this is considered the safest and most secure notch to use. With this notch, a high sideways “V” is cut into the side of the tree. The primary cut goes in a 330 degree angle (or a 30 degree angle below the horizontal) while the base cut goes at a 20 degrees angle above the horizontal. They should intersect at that 20% of the diameter mark that you measure (explained later in this chapter). Now, from the back of the tree, you make a flat cut on the back of the tree, meeting the point in the “V”, so is essence, you make a capital letter “Y”. The drawbacks are it is a longer notch to make, and you will have to remove the hinge, causing less wood to lost.
The Common Notch
It is named this because it is the most famous notch. It is a favorite among loggers because it is safe and very quick to use. It still requires some accuracy, though not as much as the open-faced notch. In this cut, the top notch is angled downward and hits at the 20% mark of the diameter of the tree while the bottom notch is not angled upward. Instead it is horizontal. Then cut from the other side to allow the tree to fall.
The Humboldt Notch
We like to see this as a reverse of the common notch. Are you able to guess why? It is because the top notch is the one going a horizontal while the bottom notch is the one going upwards. They intersect at the 20% mark of the diameter of the tree. Then the opposite cut is made horizontal to allow the tree to fall. This method saves a large amount of wood, so if you are cutting a tree down with the purpose of making wood, then this is the cut to use.
With the disclaimer covered, we are able to get to the rest of the discussion. A rule of thumb is that the size of the notch should be 20% the length of the diameter of the trunk. So, if the trunk is 5 meters, then you should have the tree trunk notch be 1 meter in length. The angles of the notches vary with the top notch being at a downward or horizontal slope and the bottom notch being at an upward or horizontal slope while the felling cut is at the opposite end of the notch and meets it at the intersection.
Important: Remember, you are going to planning the notch on the “falling side” of the trunk, because that is where the tree will fall once you cut through the tree with your felling cut.
Before you cut your notch, plan out exactly where the tree will fall. Once that is done, you should mark the center of the notch with your chainsaw and then mark it with chalk. Make sure it is at a height you consider comfortable, because you do not want to make the notch crooked or slightly angled out of the direction you want by slouching over and having improper technique.
Cut the Notch Properly
After you pick the type of notch you plan on cutting out, begin cutting the notch. If you angled your notches properly, they should meet at the center line where you chalked out where the notch should be. If done well, the wedge that is created by the two angles should fall out due to gravity.
Make the Felling Cut
If the tree is small enough (0.3 meters), you’re able to make a felling cut straight through with no concerns. If the tree is larger than that, you will want to start the felling cut and then plant plastic wedges into the cut (for information on plastic wedges, check the previous guide on “Cutting a Tree Down the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Way (Part 1)” in the materials section).
Sidenote: Why do we Use Wedges?
We use wedges because as we are making the felling cut, we do not want the chainsaw to get pinched and trapped in the tree if the tree leans back away from the notch we created on the other side.
Continue making the felling cut with wedges toward the apex. Sometimes you will not make it to the intersection of your notch at the 20% diameter mark before the tree begins leaning towards a fall. Once it begins leaning, remove your chainsaw immediately and walk away along your escape route.
Important: Remove your chainsaw the moment the tree begins leaning, because you do not want the tree to cause your chainsaw to move and strike you.
Important: The minute the tree begins leaning, walk away from the tree on one of your escape routes. However, keep an eye on the tree even when you are walking away, so you are able to react in case the tree falls in a way you did not expect (ie a strong wind blows the tree elsewhere. Do not take your eye off a falling a tree.