Monday, November 19, 2018

Keep an Eye on the Notch

Keep an Eye on the Notch….
by Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

In baseball they say to keep your eye on the ball. In shooting sports and hunting you keep an eye on the target. These are focus areas of importance to succeed in the endeavor. Well, in chainsawing, whether felling a tree or working up storm damage, the trick is keeping your eye focused on the Notch…

A couple definitions….
The Notch is a face cut on a tree trunk to directionally fell it or a relief cut made in a log or limb to control weight or movement when removing debris. It could be simply a bar width cut or kerf made as a relief cut or it could be a 140 degree pie opening. We usually try to open the Notch 45 to 70 degrees. The Notch allows the hinge wood to flex and control without breaking, pulling or splitting fiber. 

The hinge wood is a predetermined strip of fiber [not just cutting till something moves] left behind the Notch attaching the two sections of wood together, i.e., the tree to the stump or the limb to the trunk during movement. 

Now that some definitions are established, let’s discuss the issues of keeping an eye on the right place. In real-estate they say location, location. In sawing it’s position, position, position! If you don’t put yourself in the right position when approaching the tree or work it’s impossible to see what you want to cut, or maybe it’s really you cant see what you want to leave. 

Any time you are planning to control the tree, stem or limb, you must have a clear plan before you begin a cut. You should have a plan configured of Hazards/Obstacles, Leans, Escape, Hinge and your determined back cut and tools to use. The similar is true with cutting storm damage or debris, focusing on weight, pressure and binds by identifying Hazards, Side, Up or Down, Back or Forward  and select a technique to control it. 

To accomplish the task to plan-the hinge is your friend. So, whether simply cutting from the back or bore cutting to establish the hinge, your focus, your eye, must be aligned with the Notch to make sure you parallel it to maintain your planned hinge. Move your position to make sure you can Keep an Eye on the Notch!

Tim Ard is President and Instructor of Forest Applications Training, Inc. Visit our website at or email for more information.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Maybe It's Me...

Maybe It’s Me….
by Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever noticed that humans tend to gravitate toward stuff? We concentrate on technique and tools more than why they were invented? We form opinions as to how things and why things are better without knowing all the options…

In a recent workshop I was told. “I think this notch works better” by a participant. He was referring to what’s called the common notch. “It’s always worked good for me” he says. Now the tree he picked to cut was a fairly large oak leaning over a road. (We were taking these down to daylight the road so it would dry out. It was shaded and wet most of the time.) It had about 3ft of forward/head lean and had about 6ft of right side lean. The notch he placed was about 45 degrees open and didn’t have any by-pass or Dutchman at the apex of the notch. A well established common notch. He back cut the tree and left a reasonable amount of hinge/holding wood attaching the fall. He then retreated to his escape path. The tree moved forward about 3ft and then rolled over right and missed the target he had placed by about 10ft. When I asked the group what do you think happened to make it miss so far? Someone quickly said, “Well, I knew that tree would need to have a rope in it to go there.” Referring to the proposed landing target.

Was the issue a problem with tools or technique or a mechanical malfunction? I feel it was a planning misunderstanding that was caused by a mechanical limit. Yes, there was not a rope in the plan but that wasn’t the missing link. A mechanical limit was reached, the notch closed before weight could be redirected and the hinge/holding wood was compromised, broken and the tree took off into its weighted lean. You see the notch allows the hinge to work its control of the situation. So, it was an opinion that turned into a learning about planning to select a technique.

The issue began with a lack of planning to understand the leans of the tree. We grab the rope, tool or machine because that’s the way to do it. Where did that experience come from? From someone else? Probably it was not formed by your plan on that specific tree project.

My goal with training workshops is to standardize the planning process. Whether falling trees or cleaning up storm damage, there are simple plans that can work for any situation and any chainsaw operator. A plan can require special tools and special experience in many applications. However, the plan is the key and should be the key to continuing with a task or project. 

Having a knowledge of a planning process is as important as speaking the same language in a work team. A good example of the importance of standardizing the planning process… A past workshop participant shared with me that he only wants to work around operators who have completed one of our workshops. I asked what he meant by that statement. Let me paraphrase what he said in reply. 

Let’s say you and another person pulled up on a down tree across the road after a storm. You didn’t have any large equipment on site, just two chainsaws and hand tools. You had no idea of each other’s experience or training. The other operator begins cutting limbs and brush around the site to get to the main trunk of the tree. When he cleared to the tree he stops and stares at the situation. Shakes his head and wonders where to begin. He plans to just cut it. 

You look at the situation at the point he plans to cut and quickly formulate what your plan would be. 1. There are no over head or ground hazards. 2. It could have side movement/roll toward me. 3. The compression side is on top, it’s going to move down toward the ground as I relieve the fiber from the bottom. 4. There is a high potential for back pressure to stick my saw bar as I undercut. 5. I plan to use a notch on the top side of about 60 degrees to allow the hinge of about .5” to control the weight to the ground before I sever all the fiber to complete the cut. You continue to the next 10 cuts. 

The other operator makes his first cut. The tree trunk starts to go down closing the kerf and pinching his saw. He borrows your saw to cut out his saw. The tree rolls toward him but he frees his saw and is on to the next cut. No hurt, no foul I guess but, he proceeds to repeat  the same situation four more times. “Next time I will wait on the back hoe to get here”… he says.

Which operator would you want assisting your project? Is a planning process important?

The author Tim Ard is president and lead instructor of Forest Applications Training, Inc. For more information on chainsaw application plans and workshops visit our website at or email us at

® Copyright 2018 Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Bore-ing Back-cut…

The Bore-ing Back-cut…
by Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Once you have completed the first four areas of information on your felling plan it is time to choose a back cut to fall the tree. You may choose to simply start from the back of the tree and cut to your holding wood/hinge or you might bore-cut through the tree, set up your hinge then cut backwards to release the tree. Yes, there are several other configurations of cuts that could be made to conclude the process. You could cut the good side, then the bad side, from back to hinge or hinge to back. You could bore and circle the tree with the back cut. But, what is or are the advantage(s) of a bore-cut over the simple back cut?

When asked the question of the advantages of the bore-cut I usually explain that the only negative to the bore-cut, if it is one, is the understanding of the reactive forces, especially the one of kickback. Really, if you understand that reaction, there are no negatives, only positives. Knowing how to begin the cut with the lower portion of the bar tip and quickly burying the tip in the process, eliminates the issue when you think about it. So, let’s list some positives…

  1. It reduces the chances of the tree trunk barber-chairing in heavy forward lean.
  2. Allows for a planned hinge/holding wood dimension to be better achieved. 
  3. Makes it possible to cut larger trees with multiple position (side to side) cuts.
  4. Improves capabilities of using a shorter saw bar length on larger trees.
  5. In smaller back leaning trees it gives the ability to place wedges before setback.
  6. Controls the release of the tree when there may be widow makers or broken tops.
  7. Gives more escape time from trees with vine issues.
  8. Offers better footing and escape from trees in steep or slippery terrain.
  9. Reduces fiber pull on the stump by allowing more accurate hinge completion.
  10. It offers the ability to locate hollows and rot areas in the tree trunk.
  11. Enables better controlled release of the tree should there be traffic or people issues.
  12. Eliminates some issues with tops swaying or wind effecting the release of a tree.

There are probably more as I sit and think and there are also several advantages working with bore-cuts on horizontal storm damaged trees. The Bore-Cut is not so boring… but very useful and productive.

Check out other articles on and And if you are interested in finding out more of having Forest Applications Training, Inc. take part in your chainsaw training programs or presentations contact us at .

Copyright 2018 Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Saw Savvy...

Saw Savvy
By Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc. 

In workshops all across the country one thing seems to be similar.  Participants at some point in the workshop always say “My saw doesn’t start and run like yours”. 
Over the years I have operated many model saws and other two-cycle machines of several brands. I can honestly say in my findings that all of them, if understood and maintained properly, usually will outwork this operator. I’ve learned most issues arise from operator controls and maintenance or lack there of.  It’s not to say the operator causes every issue but most of the time a lack of attention and or understanding is a major contributor. 

I have a workshop available that covers some of these aspects in a unique tear down and inspection process.  I want to highlight a few of the very important areas with this writing. 

A two-cycle engine is simply an air pump. It needs air flow to mix with fuel, compression and spark to convert this mixture to usable energy. The air filter is important in maintaining this air flow. Fuel mixed properly, gasoline with lubrication, adjusted to the right amount of air is critical to efficient run, power and longevity. Engine compression creates power by manipulating the air and fuel flow. Compressing, squeezing and confining to make sure the power is harnessed and carried to the crankshaft and on to the crankshaft attachment. Ignition spark divides the intake from the exhaust. Exploding at the perfect time to turn fuel and air into burned gases. Efficient combustion is the by product of a well designed and tuned engine. If the operator doesn’t have a basic understanding of these principles it’s difficult to maintain and operate to the equipment’s potential. 

So in the Troubleshooting Workshop we look at how the air filter may restrict air flow. How proper fuel mix can make or break an engine. How lubrication is utilized and how the carburetor is adjusted and is susceptible to dirt, water and too much oil. What causes an engine to seize up.  What external attachments like bar and saw chain can effect.  How can starting procedures effect the run and life of the equipment. What is a fast idle position? 

The workshop can be accomplished at your location. Open to16 participants and requires 4hours of class time. It is all hands-on for the attendees, intertwined with lecture. A chainsaw operator with a little Saw Savvy from a Trouble Shooting Workshop will be an operator with less equipment issues, better safety awareness and improved productivity. 

The author is President and Lead Instructor for Forest Applications Training Inc. a company specializing in safety, education and applications of the ChainSaw. More information can be acquired at or email  We would appreciate the opportunity to present to you and your organization.

©️2018 Forest Applications Training Inc.