Felling a Small Tree

Felling a Small Tree

Use this method for trees which have a diameter of less than the effective cutting length of a guide bar of 18" or less, and which are not heavily leaning.


  • Clear all obstacles from around the tree first so that you can move easily and escape if you need to and establish a safe place to stand while it falls.
  • Remove all the lower branches from the tree
  • Remove the buttresses from the tree to give the true diameter ensuring that you remove them to just above ground level.  A buttress may be left at the back of the tree to provide extra leverage when using a wedge or felling lever.
  • Plan an escape route behind the tree, but not directly behind (slightly to the left or right)
  • If possible, try to fell in the direction the tree is naturally leaning


  • The first cut is the sink cut (front of tree) which controls the direction of the fall.  It's done in two parts using the bottom of the guide bar.  The cuts should not be more than one quarter of the tree's diameter.
  • Cut downwards at an angle of 45 degrees (60 degrees if downhill) ensuring the guide bar is at 90 degrees to the intended direction of the fall.  This cut may be less than 45 degrees if felling over raised obstructions so that the hinge may break earlier.
  • The second part of the sink cut is horizontal and must meet the 45 (or 60) degree cut exactly.
  • Start the felling cut (back of tree) by aligning the guide bar slightly above the bottom of the sink cut, ensuring that you are standing to the side of the tree when making this cut.  Stop cutting when there is a parallel strip of uncut timber not less than 1/10th of the diameter of the tree.  This is the "hinge".  The tree should now start to fall, so move quickly out of the way to your safe place.
  • If the tree does not fall, do not cut further into the hinge.  Use a felling lever or wedge.  To use a felling lever, stand firmly with both hands on the lever, knees bent and back straight, lift upwards using your leg muscles.  To use a wedge, insert the wedge into the felling cut opposite to the felling direction and drive it in using a sledge hammer.


Plants that might grow too large for the site, are not entirely hardy, or become unsightly with age should be used wisely and kept to a minimum in the landscape plan.

FWPHAR2208 Port Macquarie

29 May, 2022

Thanks Merlin for sharing information. Cutting tree need specialization and tools operation knowledge. Otherwise it could be dangerous.


9 June, 2015

I have to agree with Pete on this one. There are so many variables to take into consideration when felling a tree.
A chainsaw safety class would be a start, but in no way does that make you a competent sawyer.
Cut some easy firewood before you go stomping off into the woods with your new saw. Ya gotta start somewhere

kevin kennedy

30 March, 2013

this is a good page if you need to pass a writen exsam but please do not print this and then try to fell one you need to go on a course and even then if you pass you still will need someone with experience with you

pete morris

8 December, 2009

My husband did a course, you can read about it here

He has put lots of information about chainsaws!

We have moved our blog btw, due to the sudden and inappropriate adverts that were placed on our site!


Tracy Pepler

24 January, 2008

At Woodlands.co.uk we always recommend people go on a proper chainsaw course. We have a blog on this subject coming soon.


10 January, 2008

This is one of the first felling cuts I learnt when training to be a tree surgeon. There were many things to learn about the chain saw and maintenance then crosscutting lying timber before graduating to felling. Larger diameter trees require different cutting techniques. It is easy to make a tree job difficult if you have not learnt the correct techniques. There is nothing incorrect with the post but on its own it would not make you a safe chain saw user.

nick davies

9 January, 2008

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