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

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