8 Different Methods For Cutting Down Trees With A Chainsaw

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There are many different ways to cut down a tree with a chainsaw, some of which are for specific situations.

For example, if a tree is on a lean, you may need to drop it differently from how you would a straight tree.

We are not professional loggers, arborists, or tree workers, so we’ve included a pro-made video with eight different ways to cut down a tree with a chainsaw.

We have started felling small trees on our wooded property, but we’re still learning from much more experienced folk. Get training from experienced tree fellers before you start dropping trees.

How To Cut Down A Tree

tips for cutting down trees

For this drop, we used the most common and easiest method of cutting down a tree.

The steps are:

  1. Ensure you have the right safety gear (chaps, ear protection, etc.)
  2. Ensure your chain is sharp and your saw is ready to go
  3. Create a notch in the tree on the side you want it to fall
  4. Cut from the opposite side towards the notch
  5. Step back well out of the way while the tree drops

For this tree, our mate Alf was using his Husqvarna 395 XP, which was more than powerful enough for this decent-sized pine.

You need to know how deep to cut the notch, where to start the back cut, how deep to make the back cut, and when to step back.

Check out this video from Stihl for some great tips and advice.

Many people think that your face cut needs to be quite large – even more than halfway through the tree – but this isn’t so and can be dangerous.

In felling the tree in the video above, the man uses his Stihl chainsaw to make a bore cut after making a face cut in order to have greater control over this tree.

Here are the steps he uses:

  1. Identify the hazards – things like power lines, dead branches, vines
  2. Assess the tree – consider lean and branch structure,
  3. Clear the work zone – remove debris and underbrush
  4. Make a face cut on the tree – a 70° angle, a third of the way into the trunk
  5. Set up a hinge – in this case, using a bore cut
  6. Start behind the face cut about an inch – cut out most of the back of the tree
  7. Insert wedges at the start of the bore cut – two will do
  8. Finish cutting out the back of the tree – get out of the way and watch it drop

You don’t want to start by felling large trees like this one—it’s best to start small and work your way up to larger trees.

Also, if possible, work alongside other experienced chainsaw users and those who have fallen many trees before. The best way to learn how to cut down trees is from those who have done it a lot.

If you are dropping bigger trees regularly, consider getting one of the best logging chainsaws to make the job easier and safer.

How To Fell A Tree With A Chainsaw

This video titled WORLD’S BEST TREE FELLING TUTORIAL is a fantastic lesson on how to cut down trees with chainsaws (new channel from the presenter here: Guilty of Treeson YouTube).

The team demonstrates eight different ways to fall a tree with a chainsaw.

They are leaving high stumps for them to be pulled out by an excavator. Usually, they would leave them much lower so they aren’t as visible and could be removed with a good stump grinder.

1. The Humboldt

The Humboldt is the first cut demonstrated and makes it more likely that the butt of the tree will hit the ground first instead of branches or the top of the tree.


  1. Create a notch a little over a third of the way deep
  2. Back cut parallel to the notch
  3. Slightly insert your wedge into the cut
  4. Make sure your back cut is even on both sides
  5. Plan your best position for finishing the cut

During this cut, you can also see how to use felling sites and hear the importance of a full-wrap handle in these situations.

Also, you’ll get an explanation of holding wood or hinge wood that helps to direct the tree to fall in the right location and control the momentum.

10% of the trunk should be hingewood in this cut (and many others).

2. Gapped Face

The gapped face cut is said to be what old-time loggers would do for big trees.

This cut helps the compression spread out over a larger area of wood fiber and gives the most directional control.

The downside is that the tree hits the ground harder, driving branches further into the ground and potentially damaging the trunk.


  1. Cut into the tree horizontally a third
  2. Bring up your angled cut, but don’t meet your first cut
  3. Knock out the wedge, leaving a step
  4. Clean out the cut if needed
  5. Take off a further slice from below the notch

This is a technique you have to watch to make sense of!

3. Conventional Face Cut

The conventional face cut is like the method we shared in the introduction.

It goes by the names notch, face cut, and undercut – along with others – and it’s usually the easiest way to take down a tree.

This method is good for getting a stump very low to the ground and ready for stump grinding.


  1. Make a horizontal cut a third of the way into the trunk
  2. Make your diagonal cut from above to meet the horizontal cut
  3. Remove the notch
  4. Make your back cut to meet your horizontal cut
  5. Leave 10% of the stump for a hinge
  6. Tap in a wedge if needed
  7. Get out of the way

You’ll also hear about the dangers of a ‘Dutchman’ cut, where your horizontal cut goes deeper than your diagonal cut. This cut can affect the direction of your drop.

Also, remember that it’s better to make your cut too short than too long or deep – you can always extend the cut, but you can’t put wood back in!

4. The Bore Cut

The bore cut or plunge cut has pros and cons as well.

It prevents a tree from barber chairing – one of the main causes of chainsaw death and injury – this is when the tree falls before being cut through.

The downside is that you have less control over the tree because you are cutting backward and out of the tree rather than towards the hinge, which helps you tweak direction and that final moment of fall.


  1. Cut a notch into the trunk in the direction you want the tree to fall
  2. Plunge your chainsaw into the trunk while ensuring you leave a 10% hinge
  3. You can bore into the wood from further back than 10% and then bring it closer
  4. Once sufficient hinge is in place, saw backward out of the tree

The tree will drop quickly once that tension has been relieved from the back strap.

5. The Sizwill

How do you cut down a tree that’s on a lean?

The Sizwill is one way to do so, but it is a more advanced cut.

It’s difficult to explain in writing, and it is best to watch the video rather than trying to read the steps.

The tree it is demonstrated on is leaning and has a lot of branch weight on one side, plus it’s close to a house.

While it can be best to use a rope in situations like this, the tree in the video isn’t leaning so badly to warrant that, so the team can demonstrate the cut.

What type of chainsaw do you think Jed is running?

Could be a Husqvarna 372 XP, but let me know in the comments below if you can make it out better than me.

6. Pulling With A Rope

For trees that are leaning more significantly, it’s best to use a rope and tractor/excavator.

You can see how to cut down a tree using a rope in the video, including the tools you should use to get a rope up in a tree (a throwball).

You want to ensure the rope is tied around the tree trunk rather than a branch.

Keep in mind:

  • The rope should not be too tense
  • You want to hold it in place without pulling too much
  • A conventional face cut is likely the best cut for pulling a tree over
  • Make sure the person pulling the tree is further away than the height of the tree

To measure the height of trees, consider getting a forestry laser.

7. Open-Faced Notch

In the 7th tree in this video, you can see what a bad face cut notch looks like and then see it pushed over by a dozer.

The open-face cut closes slowly and gives more control, but it drops heavily to the ground and usually breaks the tree trunk multiple times.

Features of a bad cut:

  • It has a narrow opening
  • It’s a short notch
  • You won’t have any directional control

An open-face cut is also a good option for trees that are on a lean.

If you like the look of the chainsaw helmets the Guilty of Treeson team are using, check out the Pfanner Protos Helmet here.

8. Backcut First

The final cut example is when you perform the back cut first.

It’s a more dangerous and erratic cut that should only be completed by highly experienced tree workers. It is OK to use on leaning trees as well.


  1. Shave off the bark with an ax (where you’ll be making the back cut)
  2. Make the back cut 
  3. Insert wedges
  4. Cut out your wedge
  5. Smash wedges till she drops

As with all of these chainsaw tree-felling examples, you’ve got to watch the video to understand the method. Then, only if you’re highly experienced should you attempt it—if at all.

Felling A Tree With An Ax

So that’s how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw – easy, right?


No, it’s one of the most dangerous things you can do, and it shouldn’t be attempted without proper chainsaw training, equipment, and experience.

The other alternative is to fell a tree with a good felling ax.

Check out the video above for some great tips and tricks, considering that this is mostly only a good way to cut down a small tree.

Cutting down a tree with an ax follows a similar pattern to using a chainsaw.

Before you start:

  • Consider any lean 
  • Identify a landing area
  • Avoid areas where the tree might get caught up

You should also wear safety gear such as glasses and a helmet to keep yourself safe.


  1. Determine where you will the first cut
  2. 12 inches high is a good spot to cut when swinging with an ax
  3. Take a wedge out of the side in the direction you want the tree to fall
  4. Cut halfway into the tree horizontally and make a 90-degree cut to meet that cut
  5. Next, make your back cut to meet the horizontal cut of your wedge
  6. Make a smaller wedge on the opposite side of your first wedge and slightly higher up
  7. Once you see the tree start to go, get out of the way and watch

When using a chainsaw to cut down a tree, start by working alongside a reputable person with extensive experience. Cutting down a tree is not worth injury or death.

The best ax for you will depend on your height and strength – for some, even a double-bit ax or one of Gränsfors Bruks Axes will be suitable.

Tree Cutting

best way to fall a tree

Tree cutting is an art and not something anyone can jump straight into. You must go out and watch others do it in real life and learn from them firsthand.

We prefer a chainsaw to cut a tree where possible – axes are a lot of work, but they’re alright in a bind.

Chainsaws were invented to make life easier, and they certainly do that when it comes to tree felling.

Let us know if you have any questions, advice, or experience to share in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you! 


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