How many times did you watch a movie in which people cut trees like it’s nothing? The answer is probably – a lot. Also, you probably went through countless video clips of people doing it the wrong way and consequently wrecking their patios, roofs, or sometimes even half of the house.

Based on these available materials, one can draw a pretty simple conclusion – cutting trees isn’t as simple as it seems and more importantly – one must know what they are doing or else they risk jeopardizing other people’s lives and property.

How to Cut Down a Tree Safely Using a Chainsaw

We have made a simple guide that is designed to offer a deeper insight into the whole process of safely cutting a tree with a chainsaw. Take a few minutes of your time and read it because it contains crucial information on how to prevent and avoid injuries alongside with how to actually do it right. Once you’re done with the guide, you’ll have a much better idea about the involved risks, appropriate behavior, and the overall complexity of such an endeavor.

Safety First!

Before you decide to tackle a cutting project, make sure you have all the necessary safety equipment. We cannot emphasize enough how important safety is during these projects. Apart from wearing the mandatory equipment, you also have to stay focused and concentrate on the thing you’re doing instead of letting your thoughts wander all over the place.

The most frequent mistake people oversee is – music. While it sounds pretty irrelevant, listening to music while cutting a tree is a bad idea in general. Not only does it affect your overall focus, but it also prevents you from hearing what’s going on around you or how the environment changes during the process. Most people will say it’s not a big deal, but you can rest assured that it does pose a threat to your safety, and therefore, you should simply refrain from listening to music while cutting a tree.

Additional equipment such as protective gloves, helmet, goggles, and thick/layered clothes are mandatory. Each of these components has a safety purpose, and you should utilize all of them in order to reduce the risks to a bare minimum. Remember, safety equipment is one of the most important things you should think about, regardless of your experience and expertise.

Preparation Steps

Felling Wedges

It’s strongly recommended that you buy a pair of felling wedges. Now, you can easily make them by processing other pieces of wood, but due to their cheapness and availability, you would probably save a lot of time and effort by simply investing in a pair. In other words, it’s usually not worth hassling around with constructing a pair when you can buy one for a fairly small amount of money.

The wedges, whether made of plastic or wood, are designed to prevent your saw from getting pinched during operation.

Zone Estimation

This step can be done in several different ways. Professionals usually rely on math, but one can make a rough estimation without using any complex equations. Needless to say, the more accurate results you get, the better. On the other hand, by using an old trick, you can predict the fall zone quite accurately.

The ax handle trick is pretty simple and easy to comprehend. In order to perform the calculations, one should hold the ax handle at arm’s length, close one eye, and back away from the three until the handle covers the whole tree from the base to the top. Your current position at that moment should be the point where the trunk is supposed to fall. However, bear in mind that this is just a rough estimate and you should add few extra feet or take a few steps back in order to allow for errors in estimation.

Clear the Zone

Even if you’re certain about the fall zone, some things can go wrong during the operation. Therefore, make sure you cut away the branches and brushes around the trunk. Also, clear the escape routes around the tree which are about 45 degrees away from one another. This step is very important because the last thing you want is to trip and fall while moving away from a falling tree.

Needless to say, there should be no people around the falling perimeter, regardless of the stage you’re currently in.

Study the Tree Before Cutting It

There are some warning signs you should be aware of before making the cut. For example, if the tree is heavily loaded with branches on one side in particular, it will start falling towards the heavier side, no matter what you do to prevent it.

Rotten or hollow branches are a serious safety hazard because they are bound to fall off as soon as the tree starts moving. In case you find yourself under it, there is a high chance that you’ll get hit. Now, despite wearing safety equipment, getting hit by anything isn’t recommended nor is it safe by any means.

Make sure you check that there are no power lines, buildings, or anything that could be damaged by the fall. Even if it’s a small object, you should redirect the fall because the included force can send debris and fragments flying at an incredible velocity which is usually fatal for the ones standing around – hence the “no other people allowed” rule.

Cutting the Notch

Before making the notch, make sure you’ve planned the possibilities out. You should cut the notch on the “fall” side of the tree. Once you find the best position, mark it with chalk or simply make a small cut only a few millimeters deep to create a reference point for later use. Also, make sure you choose a comfortable height to prevent fatigue and unusual positions.

Cut the top side of the notch first followed by a cut on the bottom. More often than not, you won’t make a perfect cut and consequently won’t get the wedge out with the first try. There’s no need to worry though, all you have to do is extend the cut from either side until the wedge gets loosened and falls out.

Cutting the Notch

Using Wedges

If you’re dealing with a tree that’s more than 20 inches in diameter, it’s recommended that you use additional wedges. Once you make the falling cut, insert a wedge while leaving the machine running with an active brake. Hit the wedge with a hammer a few times so that it doesn’t pinch the saw against the wood. As we mentioned previously, these things are great as they prevent pinching and other related issues.

The Felling Cut

Once the wedges are in place, it’s time to finish the felling cut and bring the tree down. Make sure you make a line that connects both ends of the notch and is parallel to the apex of the notch. Once the tree starts falling, pull the saw out, and walk away using one of the safety routes. Remember not to run because that increases the risk of tripping over a fallen branch and potentially jeopardizing your safety.

Final Touches

If you did everything correctly, there should be a tree lying in front of you at this stage. Start by cutting off the branches. Once you’re finished with that, cut the tree into 15-16-inch pieces with your saw. Remember not to cut all the way through while the tree is on the ground but instead cut ¾ of it and then roll it over to complete the cuts. This prevents kickback and other potential dangers such as accidentally hitting a rock beneath the fallen trunk and shattering the chainsaw.

It’s recommended that you don’t do this process without a partner. An additional person can be of great help both for labor and safety. Furthermore, if something unexpected happens, you’ll always have someone who can call for help or try to help you on the spot. Having a partner drastically reduces the overall risks and makes the whole process much safer and controlled.


As you can tell, bringing a massive tree down isn’t an easy task by any means. However, if you have the proper equipment, knowledge, and motivation – there shouldn’t be any major issues along the way. On the other hand, injuries are a frequent occurrence in this particular industry, and everyone should be aware of their surroundings at all times.

Most injuries happen due to the negligence of the user, but there are some that simply cannot be controlled nor foreseen. That’s why it’s crucial for you to wear safety equipment at all times as one cannot predict when something bad is going to happen. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when the consequences are potentially fatal.

Always use quality equipment, because the lack of quality usually significantly increases the risk factor.