How To Cut Down a Tree

You can fell a tree with a handsaw or a chainsaw.

It’s not generally practical to take care of it by hand so we will look today at how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw.

This is not really a job for beginners. Enlist some help if you are not experienced with a chainsaw.

Make sure you take care of securing permission or permits if necessary.

Fail to Plan, Plan To Fail

You should think of safety first and take steps to minimize the chance of an accident.

Pay close attention to the tree’s location. Think about the things surrounding it. When you have falling limbs, you need to watch out for potential hazards. Power lines, fences, sheds, houses… Consider what could get in the way and take precautions.

Pop out some road signs if you are working out on the highway.

Think about other trees, too. When you cut down a tree, it can have a knock-on effect on smaller, weaker trees.

If you think of the worst scenario and prepare for it, you have done all you can in advance.

Direction of Felling

Once you’ve paid due attention to the surrounding objects, it’s time to think about the best direction in which to cut down your tree.

Capitalize on a tree that is leaning in a particular direction. If nothing is going to obstruct you and there are no objects inside the fall zone, fell it in the directions it’s leaning.

Think about wind speed before felling. This can play an important role.

Look forwards as well…

There’s no sense in felling the tree so that it falls where it will be awkward to remove the cut section.


Once you have the planning stage down, it’s time for some further clearance of the area.

Get rid of any undergrowth around your tree before you get started. Remove all the fallen branches and limbs so you have a nice, clear working area.

Use your chainsaw to cut away any small branches. A pulling chain is ideal for this purpose. Cut from the top down. Make sure you never cut above shoulder level with a chainsaw. It’s just not safe.

How to cut down a tree

More Preparation: Cutting a Directional Notch

The first cut you make to ensure the tree falls in a certain manner is the directional notch.

Here is how to make that notch in a small or medium-sized tree…

  • Once you have determined the direction you want your tree to fall, pick a landmark to use as a guide. Line up using the sights on your chainsaw and get the angle you want for your directional notch
  • Make a 60-degree top cut in the tree trunk. Saw down to a depth equal to ¼ of the tree’s diameter
  • Meet the top cut with a horizontal undercut and there is your directional notch

How To Cut Down a Small or Medium Tree

With the directional notch in place, it’s time to check that the area is fully clear of all debris and fire up your chainsaw.

  • Move to the opposite side of the trunk from the position where you made your undercut. Make a horizontal felling cut just a few inches above the undercut
  • Stop cutting a good few inches before reaching the notch you made. Doing this creates a hinge so that the tree can fall properly in the direction you require
  • Grab a felling wedge and start levering the tree so it begins to fall
  • Move away quickly but carefully keeping your eye on the tree at all times. If you move away at a 90-degree angle, you can neatly avoid the falling tree and the trunk as it separates from the stump

How To Cut Down a Large Tree

Technique depends to a great extent on the diameter of the tree you want to fell.

If the diameter of the tree trunk is greater than the length of your chainsaw bar, you’re going to need to make a plunge cut.

Get yourself some felling wedges and a breaking bar along with your chainsaw and you’re ready to roll…

  • Line up the directional notch as above by sighting up with a landmark
  • This time, you’ll need to cut the notch from 2 sides. Make the top cut as above at a 60-degree angle. Move to the other side of the tree and finish off your directional notch
  • Clear the area as above allowing for double the length of the tree trunk as a safe zone
  • It’s time for a plunge cut now. Put the lower part of your chainsaw bar nose in the tree trunk. Make sure this is behind where you would like your hinge. Work carefully to avoid kickback
  • Once the tip is in the trunk, rotate your chainsaw so it runs parallel with the directional notch
  • Put some pressure on the bar
  • Start sawing away from the hinge to about the width of your bar. This stops you from accidentally sawing into the hinge when you turn your chainsaw round
  • Cautiously saw around the tree trunk. When you are through to the middle, pop in a felling wedge. This will help to stop the trunk’s weight from pinching the chainsaw
  • Note: Do not panic if your chainsaw bar gets stuck in the tree. Stop the engine immediately. Use a breaking bar and a wedge so that you can open up the trunk slightly to release your stuck chainsaw
  • Saw through until the bar is parallel with the directional notch
  • You might need to use some force and hammer your wedge into the tree. If you need more than one wedge, pop another in. Use your breaking bar if necessary
  • Watch and then retreat just like with a smaller tree

As you can see, the principal remains the same regardless of tree size. With just a few simple tweaks, cut down any tree regardless of size.


We hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse at how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw.

Feel free to reach out if you’ve got any questions or feedback. We’re always delighted to hear from our readers.

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5 thoughts on “How To Cut Down a Tree

  1. I’m having some of my fir trees cut down next week. Do you maybe happen to know what kind of furniture can be made from them? Like, what kind of furniture are they best for? I’m interested to hear the opinions of others about this thing.

  2. hi! why do some people cut the notch with the bottom side being sort of like a crosscut of the trunk at 90 degrees and others cut in a way so it kind of slopes down to the lower end of the trunk?

  3. I’m not a woodworker of any kind, but it’s an interesting thing to learn about, and your articles really help me with that. This really is a cool page; I can always find a lot of interesting woodworking-related content on here. What I usually do is I’d read an article and then I look up the thing it talks about on YouTube. Seriously, your page is like an index of woodworking terms. I love it! Btw, I noticed that you accept suggestions for what your articles should be on. Can you write one about the most common accidents that happen when you try to fell a tree and what can be done to avoid them? Safety is very important, and cutting down a tree is not the safest thing to do. Greetings!

  4. People, stay safe while you’re falling a tree and wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)!! Some PPEs are better than others, so make your choice wisely. It is well said in the article — think of the worst possible scenarios!! Also, it’s not only about cutting the tree down. How are you gonna cut off the tree branches and which tools do you need for that? How are you gonna reach the branches at the top of the tree? Will you need other people to help you with this task? Are you cutting crowded trees? …
    There’s literally a ton of things you should read before you try felling a tree.
    Remember that every tree is different. Some are larger, some are not as large, some are crooked, others are straighter… A lot of the things that you need to do when cutting your tree down will depend on the particular tree you want to cut down is. did a good job of reminding everyone that amateurs should SEEK ASSISTANCE!!

  5. Great way to briefly explain how to fell a tree and what we need to take care of before we do it. Now I know which things to pay attention to before I start practicing this. Thank you, your article was nice and pretty informative.


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