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Thread: Chainsaw Woes

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Southern York Co. PA.
    Posts
    258

    Chainsaw Woes

    This afternoon was a pretty frustrating time for me. I have this tree which has completly bent over my driveway. It has bent all the way to being parallel with the ground. With all this rain it almost touches the ground. So, it's been like this for several months. It's still alive and keeps growing. I decided it's about time to cut it down. It's not too big around so I figured this would be a great first tree to cut down.

    So I get my chainsaw out of the shed and noticed some rust where the bar goes in. I guess the shed is a poor place to keep a chainsaw. Anyway, being the novice chainsaw user that I am, I never did the recommended maintenance last spring - which was the last time I used it. So, I get out my gas/oil mixture. Yes, it has been sitting in there since last spring. I fill her up and attempt to start it - surprise, I couldn't get it to start. I emptied the gas (since I had left gas in there from last spring) and filled it up again. Finally, the engine started cranking - but it wouldn't stay on. After trying for about 10 minutes, I finally got it to stay on while spinning the chain.

    So, I proceed to the tree. After cutting my way through some thick prickly brush, I made it to the base of the tree. I really have no idea how to properly cut down a tree, but I figured this small one wouldn't give me any problems. I had watched a friend cut down a standing tree, so I guess that made me an expert . Like a dummy, I begin the cut on the inside of the bend. I had actually thought out this process ahead of time, but I guess my thoughts were based on novice ideas. So, my bar and chain started to stall halfway in. And then it stopped. It was pinched in the kerf. After about an hour of tugging, cutting with a handsaw, and drilling, the chain was just as stuck as it was when I started. As you can imagine, I was boiling. It was the chain that was stuck - the bar was moving. So I ended up unscrewing the bar from the saw and slipped the bar off the chain. That part was no problem. The chain is still out there stuck in the tree.

    After all that, I decided to do some of the needed maintenance on the saw. I discovered how poorly the Stihl manual is in explaining the procedures. It tells you what and when to do it, but not how. Some things I couldn't find any mention at all in the manual. Still, I managed to clean a lot of gunk from it.

    Tomorrow, I will buy a new chain and attempt this again. If anyone wants to offer any advise, point out the wrong things I did, or just laugh at my stupidity, feel free.

    Stefan

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lewiston, Idaho
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    23,751
    Stefan....you didn't say what the diameter of the tree is. If it isn't too big you might be better off cutting it manually. You have obviously found out the error of your initial process. You should have cut at the outside of the bend. Thus as the tree gives (gravity takes over) it would open or widen the kerf not tighten and bind. The odds are that your chain will be okay. For small trees I have a bow saw made for cutting tree limbs I use. For real trees....I have a pro-model McCulloch chainsaw I've had for nearly 30 years. It still runs well. I'd try cutting it manually from the outside of the bend...thus you can control the cut and get to your chain without out damaging it. P.S. don't be too hard on yourself...we've all done something similar! Good Luck! Be careful however you do it!
    Ken

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Portsmouth, VA
    Posts
    1,219
    Stefan, first and foremost (not to lecture) - take care of your tools. Just like a lawnmower over the winter or a car in storage, you should not leave the old gas in there - it varnishes over and creates havoc. As for cutting the tree, never cut on the side a tree is leaning. The tree will continue to follow it's naturally tendancy and lean MORE in that direction closing the kerf. There are many ideas out there for felling a tree, here's what I learned while living in Maine:

    Start with a cut horizontal to the ground at the height (and on the side) you want to drop the tree (don't cut too close to the ground - dirt and chainsaw blades don't mix). This is the front cut and is the direction the tree will fall. Cut about 2/3 the distance in. Make the second cut below the first angling up at about 25 degrees until it meets the first. A third and final cut is now needed. This is a back cut and begins opposite the first at the level where the first two intersect. As you cut in, stress will be releaved and the tree will fall in the direction of the first two cuts.

    For leaning trees, you make the front cut on the side opposite the lean and the tree will fall into the direction of the lean. In this case, when the bottom cut reaches the top, the tree will heal over on it's own. If it doesn't, continue the top cut until it does.

    OK...got that. Now that I typed it I thought about something I should have started with...If you are not comfortable with this, you shouldn't do it. Felling a tree could result in all kinds of unpredictable things happening, including the tree falling in the direction you don't want it to (DAMHIKT). So please be careful. Even "small" trees can hurt and big ones can be deadly. Once they start falling there's no way to stop them.

    Be well,

    Doc

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Southern York Co. PA.
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    258
    I would say the tree is 6-8 inches in diameter. I probably could do it manually if I had the right equipment, but that would require buying the proper equipment. I figure as long as I do it right, the chainsaw ought to work.

    Yes, I do need to learn about taking care of my tools.

    Stefan

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Kutztown PA
    Posts
    1,255
    Hi Stefan

    This tree is large enough to KILL you if something goes wrong. I do not want to scare you into just leaving it alone, but there are certain procedures that are very wise to follow. Cutting a tree with the kind of tension on it you describe can cause the trunk to fly up and hit you in the face once that tension is released. You will not see it coming, and you may never know what hit you. Even if it moves slowly, a trunk of that size packs a lot more punch that Joe Forman ever did.

    You need to start up at the crown, cutting off branches and such, and working your way down the trunk. This process relieves stress and allows the tree to move incrementally, and gives you time to get out of the way. Speaking of that, ALWAYS make sure you have a clear path for a quick retreat. If you have wiggled your way into the brush to get at it, and have no where to go, you are in a very dangerous situation if the tree should move in such a way as to smack you, or even just roll over and trap you. It would be the height of ignominy to be lying in your driveway in sight of the house and help and not be able to get there.

    As you whittle the branches and trunk away from the top, you can decide as you go which way the tree is going to move with the next cut. Is it situated so that it will rise up from tension or will gravity cause it to fall? Is the trunk resting on a pivot point (rise in the ground, a branch, whatever) that will cause it to move in an unexpected direction? These questions need to be asked for every cut, and every previous cut has to be evaluated as to how it changed the balance. Make your cuts so that the movement of the log will open the cut up and give the bar and chain room to move. BTW, you are not the only one to leave a chain, bar, or even a whole saw stuck in the log! There is more than one reason why I have two saws!

    It is hard to communicate all the possibilities, but a little bit of care and you can cut the thing to pieces without too much danger. I have worked with friends to cut trees up to 48" in diameter, with 12' root balls on them. Just to give you an example, there is a story on my website about cutting up such a large tree. The balance was fine enough that we were cutting logs off one of the limbs that were less than 2' long, and with each cut the monster trunk moved just a little bit. When the tree roatated to where we wanted it, we attacked from a different direction. We have had to use trucks and tractors to move (or hold) them to make the cuts. Trees are big and heavy, and even a small branch under tension can break bones. Think each cut through carefully and don't do anything that makes you uneasy.

    If you want to talk about it some more, I think you still have my phone number.

    Bill

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Lafayette, IN
    Posts
    3,682
    Here's some more, Stefan:

    http://weborder.husqvarna.com/order_...1140241-95.pdf

    You'll need Adobe to read that.

    Page 23 is what you're interested in, I think. Bill's got some good tips for you as well. And he's very right about logs "moving and shaking." Those tension situations are an easy way to get yourself VERY hurt. Be careful.

    Oh, yeah, you and Bill definitely aren't the only ones to get a saw stuck somewhere....
    Jason

    "Don't get stuck on stupid." --Lt. Gen. Russel Honore


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Southern York Co. PA.
    Posts
    258
    You guys have me worried now - but I guess that's a good thing. I definitely should think this through more carefully. So, should I get out a big step ladder to reach parts of the tree - in order to use Bill's method? I seem to remember reading somewhere that I shouldn't operate a chainsaw on a ladder.

    Stefan

  8. #8
    Stefan,

    How high do you have to go? Extension Ladder? Step Ladder? Foot Stool? If it's an extension ladder....don't do it! You can slip and BADLY cut yourself with a slipped off running chainsaw.!!! If it's that high, rent a powered lift and cut from a safe platform. Wear hearing and eye protection as a minimum. You can do this....you just have to be careful and think through every aspect before you start the saw. Been there and Done That!!!!
    Thanks & Happy Wood Chips,
    Dennis -
    Get the Benefits of Being an SMC Contributor..!
    ....DEBT is nothing more than yesterday's spending taken from tomorrow's income.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Southern York Co. PA.
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    I have a 12 foot step ladder. I am sure I won't have to go all the way up. Maybe 3/4 of the way at most.

    Stefan

  10. #10
    It not a good idea to operate a Chain Saw from any sort of ladder. In fact, it is also a no-no to use the saw at a height any higher than shoulder-high. Cutting "overhead" with a Chain Saw is just asking for trouble. In a town near me, about 15 years ago, a fellow was KILLED using a chain saw on a cut just slightly higher than his shoulders. He was pruning his back yard Fruit Trees. The chain broke, and it threw the chain back at him. It cut his neck so severely, the MD's ruled that he was probably dead when he hit the ground. Chain Saws are no toys, they will hurt ya BAD. I made my living for quite a few years with a Chain Saw, and I always treated them with the respect they deserve.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Kutztown PA
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    1,255
    Stefan, can you post a picture of the tree, perhaps we could offer some ideas. I am a bit confused now. I thought it was bent over lying on the ground but still rooted. As Kevin has already said, don't stand on a ladder and saw or reach over your head. I have an acquaintance who was sawing over his head, and the log shoved the saw down into his shoulder, making a very nasty cut. He is fortunate to have even survived.

    Bill

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Southern York Co. PA.
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    258
    I will post a pic later. No, the tree is not lying on the ground. It is at least 8 feet above the driveway.

    Sounds to me like the safer of the 2 ways is to cut it at the base and stand in the direction away from where the tree could spring back. I really don't like the idea of the saw above my head.

    Stefan

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    N Illinois
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    Careful!!!

    A Tree like that is in what I call "tension". As you cut, you release the tension but in this case it and the weight went the wrong way (Predictable as you look at the tree). ALWAYS cut on the outside side of the intended fall and you can in advance put in a small notch BEFORE you make your slightly slanted cut. We could help you more w a picture. Be Careful. Thats a Lot of weight!!
    Jerry

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Westphalia, Michigan
    Posts
    425

    Careful!

    Stefan, Bill is correct about the danger of felling trees that lean. There are however some percautions you can take to minimize the dangers of getting whacked by whats known as a 'barber chair' split.

    What happens when you begin to cut (usually the back cut) into a tree under tension, is that as you release the tension in the trunk you can create a stress riser that can overcome the physical properties of the wood resulting in a split that races upward until it hinges or fractures off. In laymans terms it splits with frightening speed and often flies out at the sawyer causing severe injuries or death.

    What you can do to minimize your risk is to strap or chain the trunk above your cuts. Use a stought strap like a heavy ratcheting tie down strap, or use a 3/8 or heavier chain. I would wrap either around the tree several times and make sure they are secure. Put the strap up high enough so that you are cutting below or out of the line it would take should it come undone or fail. This is the standard way professionals handle leaning trees when felling.

    The other advice about having clear egress routes (2 @ 45 degrees to felling direction) is very important. Considering the small diameter of the tree it is problematic to perform the best cut for this type of tree. This cut involves a notch and then plunge cutting to establish a hinge BUT leaving a strap at the back opposite the notch. This strap keeps the tree in position until you cut it last. The amount of lean determines the amount of strap somewhat. You also need to be very careful on the plunge cut. Also when you cut the strap wood the felling goes right quick.

    If the tree is nearly in the horizontal already, I would simply make a cut on the top side near the base and keep myself leaned away from the tree. Be mindful of the possible direction of roll when the trunk is cut free. You could make a small notch on the bottom side to allow the tree to make it to ground.

    I have worked in the woods felling and bucking for my logging Co. owning brothers-in-law. I also know 2 people who were killed both cutting trees under tension. One was a barber chair and the other was a storm felled tree. Both men violated several saftey rules that ANY SAWYER who works in the woods professionaly would know. Also note that there have been several sawyer related deaths as the result of the hurricanes in the soulth. BE safe.

  15. #15
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    Dec 2003
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    Southern York Co. PA.
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    Here it is
    Attached Images Attached Images

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