Blogging about logging

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January 2, 2013 by suchandsuchfarm

***WARNING***WARNING***WARNING***WARNING***WARNING***WARNING***

USING A CHAINSAW AND/OR DROPPING A TREE OF ANY SIZE IS VERY DANGEROUS!!!! THE BIGGER THE TREE, THE BIGGER THE DANGER, AND THE MORE COMPLICATED IT CAN BE TO FALL IT. THIS POST IS ONLY MEANT TO EXPLAIN HOW WE CUT DOWN TREES AT OUR FARM. IT IS IN NO WAY MEANT TO TEACH OR ENCOURAGE ANYONE TO FALL A TREE. WE ARE ALL EITHER PROFESSIONAL LUMBERJACKS OR HAVE LOT OF EXPERIENCE FALLING TREES. IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING, DON’T DO IT…OR IT COULD BE THE LAST THING YOU EVER DO. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!

We’ve had a couple bad storms these past few weeks. Wind, rain, sleet, snow, you name it. As a result, we had a few huge oak trees fall in some of our wooded areas. So we called up our friend and professional logger, John Lambert to help us take care of the fallen trees and surrounding dead trees. We’ve put together some photos and videos demonstrating how to properly select a tree for cutting, dropping the tree and cutting the tree for firewood. Dave, Nemo and Zach are pretty good at falling trees but John is a professional logger and is very good at what he does. Logging is more of an art than a science or chore. Please don’t try this at home, leave it to the professionals.

When harvesting trees for firewood, we avoid cutting down live trees and try to only cut dead trees to make room for the surrounding saplings that will eventually keep us warm when we’re 70 years old. In this case, there was a huge live oak that blew over in a storm. When it fell, it took a bunch of other trees with it. There were also several standing dead trees nearby so we were able to take those down as well.

This is the dead oak that fell in the storm.

This is the dead oak that fell in the storm.

The oak completely stripped this tree as it fell.

The oak completely stripped this tree as it fell.

There are a few things to consider before chopping down a tree. Where do you want it to fall? What is surrounding the tree? Where is the weight centered? Is there a lean or bend in the tree? Is it going to hit anything on the way down? So on and so forth. Here’s a video of John explaining what to consider before falling a tree:

Now it’s time to cut the tree. To do this, John makes a total of three cuts. He’ll make a notch directing where he wants the tree to fall and a horizontal cut on the other side to make a hinge so the tree can fall. You’ll notice that he occasionally glances at the top of the tree while he’s cutting. This is because it can be difficult to tell that the tree you are cutting is unexpectedly starting to fall if you are continually staring at the base. For example, if you’re balancing a broomstick in the palm of your hand, where do you look? At the base of the broomstick or the top of it? It is very likely that if you are focused on your saw blade cutting through the bottom of the tree, you will not notice or hear the tree falling at you until it is too late. GLANCE AT THE TOP.

1. The first cut should come in flat and level (even if we’re on a hill) and go about halfway through the tree. We’re careful that we DO NOT cut too far into the tree. If we’re worried, it’s better to cut not enough, than too much.

2. The second cut comes down at about a 45 degree angle above the first cut and meets together just before the center of the tree, forming a notch. This notch shaped cut, if done properly, can help aim the direction that the tree falls. WE ARE ALWAYS CAREFUL that we do not make this notch cut so large or deep that the tree comes down. Only cutting out a notch that goes about halfway through the tree or less is a good policy but it is NOT foolproof. Sometimes dead trees are hollow or can have rotted sections that can give way once the notch is cut.

3. The third and final cut comes in flat and level again, but from the opposite side of the tree. It’s important to be sure that this last cut comes in directly behind the notch and NOT slightly to one side or another. Failing to do this can cause the tree to fall in an unintended direction. It is also VERY important that the cut should come a few inches ABOVE the point of the notch. This will form a hinge, allowing the tree to fall forward. If we were to make this final cut and come up under the notch instead above it the tree could conceivably fall back at us! As we are making this cut we gotta be ready for the tree to fall and to get ourselves and our saw away to a save distance.

If you didn’t listen and you DID try this at home, you’re an ass.  But you should know that if you go to remove the wedge shaped piece and the tree has “grabbed” it or it is pinched… STOP! DO NOT TRY TO KNOCK THE WEDGE LOOSE!. Your wedge may now be holding up the tree and you obviously don’t know what the hell you’re doing. You just almost dropped a tree on yourself. Pick up the phone, and call someone who is better at this than you are….Shit, man! Also, this seems self explanatory but if the tree starts to come down while your cutting and your saw gets stuck in it don’t try to pull it loose, JUST LEAVE THE FUCKING SAW! Run away dumbass. Hospital bills or funeral expenses are much more expensive then a new chainsaw.

Here's a diagram showing the three cuts.

Here’s a diagram showing the three cuts.

Here it is in action:

Next, we cut it into approximately 18in log sections to be used for firewood. We typically just chop the tree up and leave it where it lies. Later, when everything’s not covered in snow and ice we’ll roll back over there with a truck, the tractor and our box trailer and haul some of the wood back over by the house to be split and stacked. There’s no need to haul all the logs out right away. We have at least a year or two before the logs start to rot on the ground.

Here's Dave cutting up the tree in 18in pieces for firewood.

Here’s Dave cutting up the tree in 18in pieces for firewood.

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Here’s John demonstrating proper cutting techniques with the chainsaw, so as not to bind up your saw, and a demonstration of how to properly sharpen your blade:

We figure all the trees we chopped up will amount to about 7 cords or 21 rank of wood. For those that don’t know, a cord of wood is a stack of split wood that is 4ft tall x 4ft deep x 8ft long and there are three rank to a cord. It’s important to season wood before you burn it. Seasoning wood means letting it dry out so the moisture in the wood evaporates and you’re left with nice hard dry wood. Split and seasoned hard wood typically sells for anywhere between $75-$125 a cord, depending on the type of wood, whether or not it’s seasoned, if it’s delivered to your house or if you have to haul it yourself. So when it’s all said and done, harvesting the wood ourselves saved us about $1,000.

Our wood boiler will burn green wood (unseasoned wood) however, the moisture in the wood has to be burnt off. Therefore it is more efficient to let the wood dry out for a year or two before burning it. On average, we burn somewhere between 4-6 cords a winter. This one day in the forest got us enough heat to get us through next winter and then some.

Zach heading out for a day of logging

Zach heading out for a day of logging

Splitting wood by hand is hard work but it makes you ripped like Batman

Splitting wood by hand is hard work but it makes you ripped like Batman

Hydraulic wood splitter... MUCH easier than splitting by hand.

Hydraulic wood splitter… MUCH easier than splitting by hand.

In case you want more logging action, here’s John dropping a big ass oak tree!:

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