How to Chop a Tree


While a chain saw can make quick work of felling a tree, there is something rewarding about chopping a tree down by hand with an ax. Perhaps it's the nostalgia of years gone by before the advent of power tools, or it might be the idea of doing something purely physical. Maybe you just don't own a chain saw. Whatever the reason, with good planning, preparation and alertness, a sharp and well-swung ax can effectively be used to chop down a tree.

Step 1

Determine the direction you want the tree to fall. The area should be clear and open, with enough space for the entire length of the tree to fit in once it has fallen. Ensure that the direction is clear of any buildings, power lines or other obstructions or debris.

Step 2

Identify an escape route. This is the track you will take as the tree falls and should be at around a 45-degree angle away from the direction the trunk will fall. Never move to the back of the tree--the trunk may slip back into that area when falling.

Step 3

Ensure that any debris or plant growth is removed from the area so that you can work around the trunk of the tree freely.

Step 4

Locate a point on the tree trunk where you will begin cutting. This will be on the trunk facing the direction you want the tree to fall. Stand to the side of the trunk from that point.

Step 5

Grasp the end of the ax handle in one hand and the center of the handle in the other. Align the edge of the ax blade with the point on the trunk where the first cut will be. Draw the axe back over your shoulder. With a swift chopping motion, swing the axe toward the trunk in a downward arc at a 45-degree angle to make your first cut. As you swing, slide your center hand down the handle to steady and guide the blade to the tree trunk.

Step 6

Remove the ax from the cut and repeat the chopping motion, this time cutting lower than the first cut and horizontally into the trunk. Continue to chop, alternating between the downward angle and horizontal cuts until a wedge-shaped notch has been cut away from about half of the trunk.

Step 7

Move around the back of the tree to the other side and begin to chop another notch on the back of the trunk, a bit higher than the first. Continue to cut this new notch until the tree begins to fall.

Step 8

As the tree falls, step quickly yet carefully away using your escape route. Always face and watch the tree as you move away. Allow the tree to come to a complete rest on the ground before approaching it to remove limbs and cut the tree into manageable sections

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't be over-confident. If you are not absolutely sure of what you are doing when chopping down a tree, leave the job for a professional tree removal service. Large trees that are improperly felled can fall unpredictably, resulting in injury or death and damage to property.

Things You'll Need

  • Ax


  • University of Missouri Extension: Felling, Bucking and Living Trees
  • Shelter Online: How to Use an Axe
Keywords: ax chop, ax tree fell, ax cut down tree

About this Author

In Jacksonville, Fla., Frank Whittemore is a content strategist with almost a decade of experience as a Navy Hospital Corpsman and licensed paramedic and more than 15 years writing for several Fortune 500 companies. Whittemore writes on topics that include medicine, nature, science, technology, the arts, cuisine, travel and sports.