How to Cut Pine Trees


Thanks to many "choose and cut your own" Christmas tree lots, pine trees are one of the most harvested trees in the United States. According to Ohio State University, more than a million families in the state of Ohio cut down their own Christmas trees seasonally. Because of this, cutting down a pine tree is an activity that amateurs at felling trees attempt each year. Whether you are harvesting your own Christmas pine or removing a tree from your landscape, the process of cutting down a tree is the same no matter what the size.

Step 1

Familiarize yourself with any regulations involving tree harvest in your chosen location. The U.S. Forest Service allows tree harvesting on specific dates for trees of a specific size. These trees may be harvested with hand saws only, and you must have a permit to harvest trees in the National Forest. You must cut your tree at the ground level. Topping, or removing a tree at a point more than a few inches off the ground, is not permitted. A tree lot will have its own set of rules as well. You can call ahead to learn these rules, or check the website for the U.S. Forestry Service or the tree lot.

Step 2

Determine which direction that you want the tree to fall. Factor in external conditions such as the direction of the wind or the way in which the tree leans to help determine this factor. Keep a watch for power lines or other obstructions that may be in the way. If you encounter power lines, consider choosing another tree or hiring a professional to fell your pine tree.

Step 3

Clear away any debris or obstructions from the drop zone. This includes parked cars.

Step 4

Plan an escape route in advance. Larger trees can sometimes fall or roll in unpredictable ways or bounce. Smaller trees can bounce back and cause injury as well. Once a tree begins to fall, you should step back along your escape route to put yourself out of harm's way. Remove any debris, including large roots or rocks, that you could trip over as you retreat.

Step 5

Select the correct tool for cutting down your tree. Smaller, springy pine trees will cut down better with hand saws, while a larger, more rigid tree will respond better to an axe or chain saw. If the tree is very small, you can have a friend assist you by holding the trunk steady at a point well above where you are cutting.

Step 6

Make a V-shaped undercut on the side of the trunk facing the direction that you want the tree to fall. The cut should extend no more than one-third of the way through your tree's trunk.

Step 7

Make a back cut on the other side of the tree. This cut should extend two-thirds of the way through the trunk, and should be situated slightly higher on the trunk than the point of the undercut. As the back cut nears the V-shaped undercut, the tree will begin to tilt along the hinge of wood left between the two cuts and fall in the direction of the undercut.

Step 8

Retreat down your escape route as the tree falls. Do not return to the tree until it has settled in its new position.

Tips and Warnings

  • The National Forest Service forbids the practice of topping trees. This is because the practice will either kill or disfigure larger trees, which are usually excluded from permit cutting. Check the rules posted in any tree lot or public or national forest land before attempting to top a tree. If you are caught topping a tree when it is expressly forbidden, you may be levied a fine.

Things You'll Need

  • Axe
  • Hand saw
  • Chain saw


  • Univeristy of Missouri Extension: Felling, Bucking and Limbing Trees
  • Extension: How do I safely cut down a tree?
  • Ohio State Univeristy Extension: Selecting and Caring For Your Cut Christmas Tree

Who Can Help

  • US Forest Service: Christmas Trees
Keywords: cutting pine trees, felling Christmas trees, removing trees

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."