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How to Cut Down a Tree With a Chain Saw

By Larry Amon

Cutting down a tree, especially with a chain saw, is no small task and can be extremely dangerous. It requires planning and precision. Here is how to properly prepare for your tree-cutting project and how to make cuts that will determine the direction your tree will fall.

Size up the tree you are going to cut. If the tree is wider than the bar you are using, you should not cut the tree down without professional help. Look for all the obstacles that may be in the way of the tree as it falls. Consider the angle of the tree and if it will be feasible to fell the tree in the direction you want. Look for and plan all possible escape routes.

Assess the tree branches. More branches on one side will affect how the tree falls. Look for anything that can change the weight distribution. Look at all of the branches carefully. Loose branches may fall during the cutting process and can cause severe injury or death.

Plan to cut the tree in the direction of any lean. Cutting to fell a tree against a lean requires advanced skills. Clear out the area around the tree for good footing. Plan and clear escape routes at a 45-degree angle away from the fall. Make sure you will not slip or trip in your escape routes. You don't want to run straight back, as the tree may kick back off of the stump. Plan to get away as quickly as possible.

Make a wedge cut. This cut should be made on the side and direction the tree will fall. At about a 60- to 70-degree angle, cut a wedge that goes no more than a third of the way through the diameter of the trunk. The bottom of the wedge should be flat.

Make a cut behind the wedge cut. Make the saw even with or an inch or two above the notch. Make a parallel cut and cut quickly and smoothly without cutting all the way through the tree. Leave a half-inch to an inch between the cuts. This is called the hinge and will control the speed and direction of the fall.

As soon as you hear or feel the tree begin to fall, stop cutting immediately. Turn off the saw and escape quickly. Do not turn around to watch the tree fall. Make sure you are safely far away before looking back.


Things You Will Need

  • Chain saw
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Chaps
  • Helmet


  • Before you begin, read all of the safety instructions with your saw.
  • Follow all safety precautions, and wear safety goggles, a helmet, gloves and chaps rated for chain-saw use.


  • Never cut alone. It is very important to have a partner present for safety reasons.
  • Never cut down a tree near power lines.
  • Use a chain saw with a blade that is sharp and in good condition.
  • Do not cut higher than is comfortable or safe.

About the Author


Larry Amon has been working in the computer field for more than 10 years and has experience writing scripts, instructional articles and political commentary. He has been published online, as well as in "NRB Magazine" and "Delmarva Youth & Family." He started a nonprofit media organization in 2000.