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How to Cut Down a Tree

If you want to cut down a tree without seriously injuring yourself or someone else, here's a way to do it safely.


  • : Use caution when cutting down a tree. Wear gloves and safety goggles, and warn bystanders to stand out of the way. If the tree is very old, very large, or dead, call a professional.
  • Step 1: Observe the obstacles Put on your gloves and safety goggles. Observe any obstacles in the area around the tree and remove as many as possible, including lower branches, vines, or surrounding vegetation.
  • Step 2: Choose the landing spot Find a spot on the ground where you'd like the tree to land, and make sure the ground is clear of obstacles and the tree's fall path through the air is clear of obstructions. Place a target stick on your spot.
  • TIP: Create a target stick by tying brightly colored tape to a large stick that can be stuck into the ground.
  • Step 3: Establish the side-to-side lean Determine the side-to-side lean by establishing the halfway point between the longest limbs on either side.
  • TIP: Adjust your target stick according to the lean you established. For example, if the tree has a 3-foot lean to the right, move the stick 3 feet to the left.
  • Step 4: Establish the front-to-back lean Establish the front-to-back lean by repeating step three from a point directly perpendicular to the line of sight from the target stick.
  • TIP: For a back lean, tie a rope to a spot as far up the tree as you can and pull on the rope as the cutting is taking place.
  • Step 5: Cut a face notch Cut a 70-degree notch into the tree with a length of 80 percent of the trunk's diameter. Cut a downward slice first, and then make an upward cut to complete the notch.
  • Step 6: Make a back cut Make the back cut toward the corner of the face notch. Cut downward at an angle to the corner of the notch, leaving an inch to make a hinge for the tree to tilt on.
  • Step 7: Get out of the way Move away at a 45-degree angle from the tree. Moving directly behind it is dangerous because the tree can kick backward as it falls.
  • FACT: Did you know? Forests take up from 26 to 30 percent of the earth's surface.

You Will Need

  • Gloves and safety goggles
  • A tree
  • A target stick
  • A chain saw or handsaw
  • Brightly colored tape (optional)
  • Rope (optional)

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