How Do You Control A Tree When Cutting It Down?

Safe and effective tree removal relies heavily on the ability to keep a tree under control during the cutting process. If you want to avoid injuries and property damage, knowing the basics of tree felling is crucial, whether you’re a professional arborist or a homeowner taking on the job themselves. In this article, we’ll go over the best practices for guiding the trajectory of a felled tree so that it lands safely and exactly where you want it to. To become a competent and professional tree cutter, you should learn these practises, whether you’re dealing with a hazardous tree in your backyard or working in a major forestry operation.

How Do You Control A Tree When Cutting It Down?

To keep a tree under control while felling it, you’ll need to apply a combination of careful planning, specialised cutting skills, and safety measures. Step-by-step instructions on how to steer a tree’s fall during felling are provided below, see here.

Assessment and Planning

  • Begin by assessing the tree’s size, lean, and potential hazards like nearby structures or power lines. Ensure you have the necessary tools, safety gear, and a clear escape route.

Choose a Direction:

  • Determine the direction you want the tree to fall. This should ideally be the natural lean of the tree if it’s safe, or the direction that poses the least risk to people and property.

Clear the Area

  • Remove any obstacles, debris, or vegetation from the area around the tree. This will provide a clear workspace and prevent tripping hazards.

Create a Felling Notch

  • On the side of the tree facing your desired falling direction, make a felling notch or cut. This consists of two cuts:
  • Horizontal Cut (Hinge Cut): This should be made roughly one-third of the way through the tree, slightly above waist height. This cut determines the direction of the fall.
  • Wedge Cut: Just below the horizontal cut, create a wedge-shaped cut, leaving a small piece of uncut wood (the “hinge”) to guide the tree’s fall.

Back Cut

  • On the opposite side of the tree, slightly above the bottom of the felling notch, make a horizontal cut parallel to the ground. This cut should be slightly above or at the same level as the bottom of the felling notch.

Leave a Holding Wood

  • Leave a small section of uncut wood between the back cut and the felling notch. This “holding wood” will prevent the tree from falling prematurely.

Retreat Safely

  • After making the back cut, retreat to your predetermined escape route. Ensure that all bystanders are at a safe distance.

Tree Falling:

  • As the tree starts to lean and fall in the desired direction, the hingewood will guide its path. If done correctly, the tree should fall along the intended path.

Retreat Safely Again

  • Move quickly along your escape route to a safe distance as the tree falls.

Post-Felling Inspection

  • After the tree has fallen, inspect the stump to ensure that it is cut at a level angle, which indicates a properly executed felling process.

Tips To Remember

  • Always wear appropriate safety gear, including a hard hat, eye protection, hearing protection, gloves, and chainsaw chaps.
  • Consider seeking assistance from a professional arborist if you’re unsure about your abilities or if the tree presents significant risks.
  • Adhere to local regulations and obtain any necessary permits before cutting down trees, especially in urban or protected areas.
  • Prioritize safety above all else, and never take unnecessary risks when dealing with trees.

If you’re new to tree felling, you may want to consider getting some instruction or help from specialists on how to keep a tree under control while you cut it down.

What Are The Different Ways To Cut Down A Tree?

Depending on the tree’s size, location, and the tools at your disposal, there are a variety of approaches to cutting it down. Several common techniques for felling trees are described here.

Axe or Hatchet

  • This method is suitable for small trees with a diameter of 6 inches or less.
  • Make a series of angled cuts on one side of the tree, creating a notch.
  • Make a horizontal cut on the opposite side slightly above the lowest angled cut.
  • As the tree leans, continue cutting from the opposite side until it falls.


  • Chainsaws are the most common tool for cutting down trees.
  • Follow the steps outlined in the previous response for controlling the tree’s direction using a chainsaw.

Felling Wedges

  • When using a chainsaw, you can also use plastic or metal felling wedges to control the direction of the fall.
  • Insert the wedges into the back cut to influence the tree’s lean.

Tree Felling Lever

  • A felling lever, also known as a pry bar or cant hook, is a tool used to assist in pushing or pulling the tree to control its fall.
  • Insert the lever into the notch or under the tree’s trunk and use it to guide the tree’s fall.

Rope and Winch

  • For larger trees or trees in tight spaces, you can use ropes and a winch to control the tree’s fall.
  • Securely anchor a rope to the tree and use a winch or a vehicle to apply controlled force to guide the tree’s fall.

Tree Jack

  • A tree jack is a mechanical device designed to lift and control the direction of a tree’s fall.
  • Place the tree jack on the side of the tree where you want it to fall and slowly raise it to influence the tree’s lean.

Professional Tree Removal Services

  • For large, dangerous, or complex tree removals, it’s often best to hire a professional tree removal service.
  • Arborists have the expertise, equipment, and experience to safely fell trees and remove them.

Directional Felling Techniques

  • Depending on the tree’s lean and surrounding conditions, skilled tree cutters may employ advanced techniques like directional felling, which involves making precise cuts to control the tree’s fall even in challenging situations.

Hiring a Helicopter

  • In some extreme cases, especially in remote or sensitive areas, helicopters may be used to lift and transport large trees safely.

When felling trees, safety must always come first. A professional tree removal service can ensure the job is done securely and swiftly, especially if you are unskilled or dealing with a large tree. Also, before cutting down trees, especially in urban or protected regions, it is important to learn about and comply with local legislation.


It takes more than knowing how to use the correct tools to become an expert in the art of controlling a tree while cutting it down; instead, it requires a mix of expertise, safety, and careful planning. It does not matter if you are a seasoned arborist or a homeowner taking on the duty for the first time; it is necessary to grasp the principles and practises involved to secure the safety of those around you as well as the property that they own. 

You can confidently and properly fell trees in a controlled manner by following the right processes, such as creating notches and back cuts, analysing the tree’s lean, and constantly prioritising safety. In this way, you can ensure that you are acting responsibly. If you are ever unsure of your capabilities or how to handle difficult circumstances, do not be afraid to seek the advice of a professional. You can contribute to the health of your environment by removing trees in a way that is both safe and effective if you have the appropriate knowledge and take the appropriate approach.

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