Wednesday, September 05, 2007


There's been a bunch of trees dying in our part of the city, mostly oaks and maples. According to the city forester it's probably the weird weather. The ground has been saturated more of the year, and you get outbreaks of root-rot. The maple in our backyard didn't put out many leaves or seeds last year. This year there was no new growth. Late this Spring we finally admitted that it was dead. The maple was growing in exactly the wrong direction and was threatening one neighbor's garage roof, two fences, and another neighbor's garden.

So it had to come down.

The tree surgeons would have charged $300-400 to bring it down. I figured that it couldn't be that hard to learn how to use a chainsaw. I got some good advice from Brandt, Bobbe and Mushtaq - thanks guys - and rented a chainsaw from Home Depot for $30. This was the first full size tree I've felled since Boy Sprouts. The current project was a little over 20 feet tall and about 16-18 inches at the base depending on which way you measured.

It worked like a charm. Nobody hurt, nothing crushed. Everything fell the right way. Even gaged the depths of the cut well enough so that it was stable while I was near it but just took moderate pull to get things falling. We limbed it as high as we could, topped it at a bit over ten feet and brought the rest down at ground level. Cut a wedge out in the direction of fall. Make a back cut at 45 degrees. Use gentle tension with a rope to get it to fall, but not so much that the trunk kicks back.

It looks like there was almost no rot, so I'm going to get the wood under shelter, dry it slowly and use every bit that can be used. The big pieces will be cut into panels, cabinet doors and a couple newel posts. Limbs are going to become picture frames, balustrades and pen blanks. The chunks are slated to be practice bowl blanks. When we're feeling industrious we'll dig out some of the stuff below ground and see if there's any interesting burl. Ten pounds of paraffin should be enough to paint the ends to reduce checking. It'll be interesting to see how much of the wood becomes abstract art as I learn how to use the lathe.

So what did we learn today, class?

  1. You can do a lot with a sawzall. It takes a lot of time and effort. A chainsaw is much better.
  2. The rental Makita chainsaws at Home Depot are a pain in the butt. They flood, and they're hard to get started the first time. But they do the job and have good anti-kickback features.
  3. Brandt wasn't shitting me. The vibration as you make deep cuts through hard heartwood can make your hands and forearms seize up.
  4. Climbing a ladder with a running chainsaw is scary even if the blade isn't moving.
  5. Ropes are good. So are safety lines. So are gloves, steel-capped boots, face shields and hearing protection.
  6. Dogs don't like the sound of a running chainsaw.
  7. The guy in Army of Darkness would have had a wrist and arm like a tree trunk to wave one of those things around one-handed.
  8. Cutting down trees is fun.


Dan Gambiera said...

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Anonymous said...

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