Another Wood Cutting Mis Adventure

Generally a tree has a definite direction it can be dropped easily.  You can see where there is a big branch or the tree leans in a certain direction.  After 26 years of cutting I have gotten pretty good and working with the way a tree will drop naturally I can usually drop a tree within a 160 degree range.  This enables you to drop a tree and avoid having it get hung up on other trees and lets you drop it where it is easiest to get to the logs.  I have several things I do to try and be safe while dropping tree.  After I make the initial wedge, I start the cut from the opposite side 5-6 inches above the first cut.  This keeps the tree from kicking back across the stump if the hinge breaks as it is falling.  I also make sure I have a clear path away from the tree so as soon as it start to drop I can get away from the area in case any branches get knocked loose up in the trees and come down.  I pick a tree close by that I can get around so it will protect me in case the tree I am cutting does something unexpected.  Over the years I have had trees rotate on the stump and I have had trees that have been hit by lightening split and come apart.  When the tree starts to drop I get out of there.  In 26 years I have cracked ribs and green sticked a couple of bones but the only injury that got medical attention was our son had a chain saw kick back on him and he got 15 stitches.

This spring I have been cutting down Ash trees that are dead because of the emerald ash borer.  The thing about Ash is it grows so straight and tall in the woods.  It makes great firewood because it burns well, splits easy and is easy to cut because it grows so straight.  It is sometimes hard to judge which way an Ash tree would naturally fall because it is so straight up.  Early this spring I made my V cut and cut from the opposite side.  The tree just stood there.  I had a 15 inch tree that was resting on a hinge of wood about 3/4 of an inch thick and 15 inches wide.  I ended up taking a wedge, putting it in my second cut and hitting it I got the tree to drop.  A couple of loads later I was cutting a tree and a wind came through the woods.  It was enough that it settled the tree back on my chain saw as I was making my second cut.  My chain saw was now stuck in the tree.  Since my second chain saw is not running I had to take a hand cross cut saw and cut through the hinge by cutting in the original V cut.  This is dangerous because when the tree starts to go the opposite way from normal the hinge of wood usually snaps and the truck can come off the stump in any direction.  With the second cut being at an angle the tree will come off to one side and if  you are there you are toast.  The saw was stuck in the tree and would not come loose until the tree was on the way down so standing there and pulling the saw out is not an option.  The tree did come off to one side and came down on my chain saw.  The parts to get it fixed only cost $15 but I lost several days of cutting.  After this I started putting a wedge in the second cut as soon as I could to make sure my saw did not get caught.  Several weeks ago I had made both cuts on a tree and had been pounding the wedge in when I realized that I had ended up making the second cut much further into the tree than normal and it had not started to fall.  I took the chain saw out of the tree and gave the wedge another hit.  The hinge of wood that had been formed suddenly split and the tree slipped off the stump.  I remember saying “OH NO”.  There I am with a 14 inch diameter tree that is 50+ feet tall standing straight up in the air a couple of feet from me and I have no idea which way it will fall.  My reaction – I took off.  It is amazing how fast you can move when you are scared.  I ducked around my safety tree and was running through the woods as fast as I could go.  When I heard the tree start to fall I glanced back and it was falling where I had originally intended.  I said a prayer of thanks.  That was the first time I have had that happen in 26 years.  From now on I will make sure I leave an adequate hinge.

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