Monday, March 28, 2011

Clearing the Road

Clearing the Road
By Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

If a storm or natural process leaves debris for you to utilize your chainsaw skills on, what do you do? The treetop is in the road and you and your saw have to make movable pieces of it. Where you start may mean the difference between a little work and a lot of hard risky work. It could even mean injury or death to you or someone else with you.

So what do we do? How do we make a plan to complete this task the quickest and best that it can be done and safely...?

In most implementations of the storm cleanup process I see (and hear of), the operators simply grab a chainsaw, start it up and begin cutting the end of the tree that's over the road. Sound familiar? Is there another way?

A couple thoughts, I guess you could call them techniques; I've come to appreciate...

• Look over the situation at hand from several angles. Walk around and identify any hazards overhead and around the project. Are there saplings or limbs bent over creating spring poles in the work area.
• Identify any possibility of roll over or twisted side binds that you see. Could your feet and legs be quickly swept out from under you by side-to-side a movement?
• Is the trunk and now horizontal canopy going to come down with each cut or may that cut unleash up pressure that may come at you.
• What about backpressure from limbs imbedded and pushing back or the possibility of the tree sliding forward or down an embankment.
• Know the top four information steps before you make a cut. Repeat them over and over as you plan and execute each cut.
• Make sure your chainsaw is running up to the manufacturers specs and that your saw chain is sharp and cutting at it's best. Pushing and pulling are not techniques that are neither beneficial nor safe when cutting downed debris.

Does your plan begin at the crown in the road? Could it be that you could better accomplish the task to clear the road or area by starting at the butt of the tree? People ask me all the time what I mean with that statement. I will try to clarify...

• If I start at the end or crown of many trees it constitutes the need to cut high, sometimes higher than you should without a pole saw. Never cut above your shoulders with the saw and if you have to lift the saw a little high, make sure to turn the bar almost sideways to eliminate being right in line with the reactive kick-back forces and the cutting chain. Don't just cut with the spinning chain pointed right inline with your head and body. When you lift the saw very high or up and down often fatigue rises quickly. Fatigue and saw work do not mix well, like drinking, fatigue and driving.
• When you cut the limbs of the crown from the end, you generally have to cut and then stop and pull them out and down and maybe even out of the way.
• The limb ends, or top pieces, are usually smaller diameter and vibrate as the chain pulls them about. This increases chances of chain derailing and limbs throwing the saw about, usually at a level even with the upper body.
• More cuts on small limbs have to be made to start at the top.

The Alternative
• Begin at the butt end. It may be that you can start right at the stump. It often is better in your plan to move up the trunk to the edge of the road or first major crotch to begin the process. Try not to pass any limbs unless you are using them as support or scotches.
• When removing limbs up the trunk it's easier to maintain saw control at a lower level. You can work up the trunk removing limbs and having room to move and leaving some debris until you're out of the immediate area before swamper’s move it. Leaving the debris momentarily can even be used as roll protection or support. Moving should be practiced with the chain brake engaged and make sure to have a plan in mind and stabile footing before making the next cut.
• The neat part of de-limbing up the trunk direction is that you can severe the limb close to the trunk and in many cases the swamper can pull the limb right out of the road or back to the chipper without having to cut so many times. Limb direction can easily be changed too without having to do so much manhandling to get it off the road. Many trees you can remove and drag less that a dozen limbs to clear the road instead of fifty cuts on small pieces, making fifty trips to the roadside or chipper.

Just step back and look at your next tree cleanup project and you will see what I mean...

Please think about this too - Only one person with a saw on the tree until the tree is stabilized. You do not want one person cutting the trunk and another cutting limbs until these two sections are disconnected and stabile.

You don't want anything to roll over on another sawyer or someone pulling brush. Make sure to give enough distance between the sawyer and the swamper or brush tender.

Don't hold limbs waiting on them to be cut. Let the cuts be made, then come in when the Sawyer requests your help. Working too close together or trying to hurry the process and saw contact is inevitable.

Always wear Your Personal Protective Equipment when you operate a chain saw. Head, eye, ear, gloves, leg protection and boots are the best insurance you can have against personal injury, along with a complete cutting plan.

For more on this topic and many other chain saw safety thoughts and techniques visit

Tim Ard is president of Forest Applications Training, Inc. Contact Tim with any questions or for further explanations at We specialize in training operators of outdoor power equipment at city, county and state levels nationwide.

© Copyright 2011 Forest Applications Training, Inc.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lean or Not

Lean or Not...

By Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

One of the toughest information areas for me to learn regarding falling trees was to understand lean. I find today in my workshops this is true for most people.

I used to try to look up the trunk and move around the base of the tree trying to see where the tree wants to go. Lean is noticeable with trees using this technique, but what about those that are not so lean descriptive?

Soren Eriksson finally got it through my head, after a couple of the first years training together, that trees lean 360 degrees and if you expect the tree to do and go where you want it to, you must pick the place to put it and discern the lean to that spot.

Lean is actually determined in relationship to the position of the face notch and controlling hinge. Realizing there are two leans that you have to recon with in relation to the hinge position, you must put yourself in two positions to take lean information. You should take the side lean from or in line with your proposed lay/target location. The second, forward or back lean, is taken from a position perpendicular or simply 90 degrees to the target. This gives you the knowledge of where the crowns weight leans in relationship to the fulcrum or pivot point in the proposed fall, the hinge....

If the center weight line of the crown, standing in line with your target or lay, falls to the side of the center line of the tree base, it has side lean in that direction. If the center weight of the crown, standing in a position 90 degrees to the target, falls toward the target side of your hinge position, it leans forward. If the line falls behind the hinge position, the tree leans back.

Yes, the tree can be affected by things like wind, intertwined or pushing limbs, etc., but if not effected by those things, gravity will prevail and the tree will fall to your informed leaning position if the notch and hinge perform correctly.

The Technique

To determine leans effectively I have found it beneficial to point. When standing in the target/lay position, take your right index finger and point to the farthest limb stretching to the right side of the trees crown. Hold that position. Now, point with your left index finger to the farthest limb out the left side. Hold that position. Find a visual point between those two finger points in the middle of the tree crown. I simply bring my two fingers equally to the center of the two points and that's the top position of my plumb line. I then follow a plumb straight line to the base of the tree. Where that line falls in relation to the trunk and hinge is the measured lean. From the perpendicular position do the same for the forward or back lean reading.

This can become a very quick and accurate way of taking true leans with very little practice. People ask, what if this or that... Like if the trunk leans the opposite way of the limbs? Again, it is the most accurate way of calculating leans. You will be amazed at how balance heavy the limbs are. The trunk most often will be following the lead of the limb weight. Even if it doesn't, the limbs will usually rule the lean reading. If you can't determine a definite lean, treat it as back lean and you will never be surprisingly stuck in the tree...

Remember, lean is only a portion of the needed information before attempting to fell a tree. Review information on our website at and your chain saw operators instruction manual for other important things to consider before attempting a chainsaw task. Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when running a chainsaw and working in a forest, wooded area and or storm clean up. If you don’t feel comfortable or can formulate a complete plan- contact a professional. Saving time or money on one or even more trees is not worth serious injury or death.

Practice this lean information technique a few times. You will find, as I and many others have, that lean never lies. It's either lean or it's not...

Tim Ard is President of Forest Applications Training, Inc., a leading training company for all chain saw safety and applications. For more information about chain saw training browse or website or contact us at . Follow ForestApps on Twitter and Face Book as Forest Applications.

(C) Copyright 2011 Forest Applications Training, Inc.