Be a Better Man in 30 Days | Day 13: Know How To Chop Down or Fell A Tree

If you’re going to do one thing in our 30 Days of Upgrades Initiative, I encourage you to try and make it this. Perhaps for no other reason than it being man versus nature (literally), in its simplest form.


If you’re going to do one thing in our 30 Days of Upgrades Initiative, I encourage you to try and make it this. Perhaps for no other reason than it being man versus nature (literally), in its simplest form. This year, you’ll be faced with numerous challenges, but donning a pair of woodcutter’s gloves, picking up a Gränsfors Bruks or Husqvarna and taking on a tree might be your single greatest. I might be so bold as to suggest that it be compulsory for all men to chop down a tree every once in a while, as a checkpoint of sorts. If only for relishing in the visceral satisfaction of watching your own might take down one of nature’s own skyscrapers.

And this is how you do it.

Chop Down The Right Tree

For godssake, don’t chop down just any tree, and especially not a sapling. Make sure it’s an appropriate tree that needs to be felled. Don’t chop down a neighbor’s tree (unless your neighbor, or woman, needs help) and don’t ever chop down a tree on public or protected land. More than 10,000 trees are cut down every day and they’re a natural resource. If you haven’t noticed global warming lately, we need them (and their photosynthesis) on our side. Make sure there is a purpose to your chopped tree. Dying tree? OK. Tree for firewood? OK. Tree on a road? OK.

Warm Up And Gear Up

Ever wanted to know what the fastest way to ruin your back is? Well, taking on an Oak without any sort of warm up is one of them. You’re not a lumberjack (no matter how grizzly your beard).

  1. Safety Goggles – Because you’d rather look stupid than be blind.
  2. Axe Gloves – Blisters suck.
  3. Axe & Chainsaw of Appropriate Size – You wouldn’t walk into a firefight with a peashooter. Here’s a guide to choosing the right axe size.
  4. Friend – In the woods, no one can hear you scream.

    Which Way?

    Determine which way you want your tree to fall. Towards your house? Not good. Towards another tree with large branches? Not good. The last thing you want is to deal with a tree that’s in your den or stuck 20 feet in the air on another one. Ensure a clear path for the tree and your escape before the first chop or cut is made.

    Chop at 45º and Saw at 60º Angles


    Chopping With An Axe: If you’re using an axe, then start with a 45 degree angle chop (to create a notch) on the side that you plan for the tree to call. Continue to chop in 45 degree angle chops, with each chop opposite each other. Continue this until you’re about a third of the way through the tree. Follow up with a second cut a couple or inches higher on the opposite side. The second cut should a little more than half way through. You’ll be left with an offset (about 15% of the trunk) on the tree, which will serve as a quasi hinge as the tree falls. The hinge will prevent the base of the tree from kicking into the air as it falls.

    Sawing: When using a chainsaw, make a parallel cut to even ground first about a third of the way into the trunk, then cut a 60 degree notch in the direction you plan for the tree to fall. Remove this notch. On the opposite side of the tree, and several inches higher, make an even cut directly through the tree until you have an offset (about 10% of the trunk left). Again, this will serve as a hinge to prevent the tree from kicking into the air.

    If it’s a small tree or bush, Dusty has a good video and article on using a Black & Decker 18v cordless chainsaw.

    Exit, Stage Opposite

    You know the direction you planned earlier for the tree to fall? Well, make a B-line for the opposite direction once your final chops or saw cuts begin to cause the tree to fall.

    Marvel In Your Work

    Once you’ve made it a safe distance, stand back and look at your work. Optional: Let loose a guttural growl – in Wolverine fashion. Consider, if only for a moment, your entry into the sport of Woodchop.

    Clean Up Your Mess

    Respect your fellow man and the Earth. Clean up your mess and make sure you’re actually putting the chopped wood to good use. Take a moment to sharpen your axe before you sheath it. If you’re not going to be using your saw for a while then consider basic maintenance like checking the chain tension, checking the chain oil levels, tightness of fasteners, and checking the chain brake.

    Let’s continue the conversation. Have you ever chopped down a tree? Any other tips or recommendations for your fellow man when it comes to taking down a mighty behemoth? Let us know in the comments below.

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