How to Safely Fell a Tree with a Chainsaw

Whether you have trees in your yard or just need the firewood, knowing how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw in the safest and most effective way possible is a great thing to learn.

What is Felling?

The process of taking down individual trees is known as felling, and the person cutting the tree down is the feller. If you’re doing this by hand, you can use a chainsaw, regular saw or axe.

Professional loggers are more likely to use machines called feller bunchers which have an attachment that cuts several trees at the same time, but this certainly isn’t necessary to take down only a few trees.

Wear Personal Protection Equipment

Before starting any operations involving chainsaws, you should ensure that you have adequate protection. This will include a good pair of chainsaw chapsstrong sturdy bootscut resisting gloves and some form of face, head and hearing protection.

Before You Start Felling

The most important thing to keep in mind before felling is that you want to plan ahead. You certainly don’t want to get hurt, and you don’t want the tree falling onto your house or garage. It takes planning to keep both of these things from happening. Check out our chainsaw safety tips here.

First, take a look at where the tree is located and what’s around it. Check for not only structures but also power lines, fences or anything else that could possibly be damaged.

If there is a road close by where the tree might fall, set up some warning signs just in case some debris ends up in the road. If you’ve never done this before, it helps to have someone with experience around, as they should be able to more closely predict any danger or things you’ll want to keep in mind before getting started.

Then, clear out the area around the base of the tree. Remove any undergrowth, fallen limbs or branches. It’s important that you can get to the tree from every angle without stepping over or tripping over anything. Make sure there are no obstacles within the distance of two times the height of the tree.

Check The Direction Of Fall

What direction do you want the tree to fall? If the tree is naturally leaning, it will be much easier for it to fall in that direction as long as there are no obstacles in the way.

Also, notice if it may hit another tree on the way down. You don’t want that other tree doing any damage either! The first series of cuts you make in the tree, or the notch, will determine in which direction it will fall.

Making Your Directional Notch

There are many different ways to make your directional notch into the tree trunk. The most popular one is called the open directional notch, and there are two different ways to do it.

In the first way, lean in with your left shoulder against the tree trunk. Make sure your legs are wide apart for stability or rest your left knee on the ground. Make sure you are balanced. Make sure the saw is kept at an angle.

Then, aim the end of the blade forward in the direction you want the tree to fall. Start the saw at full throttle at an angle to make the top of the notch.

For the bottom cut, make sure it is horizontal (not angled) and meets the top cut and you don’t cut too deeply. If the two cuts don’t meet exactly, you won’t have enough control over how and where the tree falls.

If you have a thicker tree, you may need to make two top cuts, depending on the length of your guide bar.

This method is the simplest way to fell a tree and works best if you have either flat terrain or if it slightly sloped. The notch opening should be about 60-80 degrees. This method creates the lowest stump height.

The second way to make a directional notch is quite similar, but the bottom cut is made first, and the angle of the top cut is less. Again, you may need to make an extra top and / or bottom cut if you have a thicker tree trunk. In this second method, the notch opening will be closer to 45-55 degrees, and the bottom cut determines the direction the tree will fall.

It’s important when making your cuts to always keep the direction in mind and keep yourself stable and balanced behind the saw. Keep the saw going at full throttle so it won’t buck back on you. Check the direction and angle as you saw to see if any adjustments are needed.

Cutting Down a Large Tree

If you have a very thick or large tree to fell, the diameter of the trunk will likely determine your cutting technique. If the diameter is bigger than the length of the chainsaw blade, you’ll probably want to use a plunge cut. To do this technique, you’ll need some felling wedges as well as a breaking bar to ensure the tree falls in the right direction and your saw doesn’t get stuck.

First, decide the exact direction the tree should fall. Use a landmark from your surroundings as a guide. Line up the sights on the chainsaw to line up that angle.

You’ll then need to cut a directional notch from two sides since the tree is wider than the bar of the saw. Make a cut (top cut) at about a 60-degree angle that’s about 20-25 percent of the trunk’s diameter. Move to the other side to complete the notch, lining up the cuts as closely as you can so the notch will be even.

Then, make your bottom horizontal cuts on both sides. Make sure the cuts are aligned and meet the top cuts. You should now have your initial notch made.

Then, start your plunge cut. Insert the chainsaw bar’s lower part into the trunk right behind where you want the hinge. Turn the saw so it’s parallel with your first directional notch.

Saw away from the hinge so it’s about the width of the bar of the saw. Saw carefully around the trunk in one continuous motion. Use a breaker bar or a felling wedge to work the trunk open so you can pull the blade out.

Next, use a hammer to get a felling wedge into place in your cut to get the tree to start to fall. You may need to use more than one, and you may need to use the breaker bar to work the cut loose.

Most importantly, keep your eyes open and back away. Move away from the direction it will fall in a ninety-degree angle, which will help you avoid the opposite side of the fell where the trunk will separate from the stump.

If you’re looking to remove a dead or rotten tree, it can be less predictable and therefore be more of a hazard. These types of trees can require a larger hinge to safely fall, as they may be rotten on the inside as well.


With a little know-how and an eye for safety, you can quickly learn how to fell a tree on your own with a chainsaw. Pay close attention to any obstacles in the area, and most importantly, make sure you do all you can to not injure yourself or others.

By following these tips, you can clear out that lot or have plenty of wood for the fireplace in no time.

Now you know how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw!!​