July 19, 2011

Courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock
A healthy respect for chainsaws, including the damage they can do, is a good thing.

As I have written before, I have a weakness for chainsaws, a respect for the work they can do and even more respect for the damage they can cause when misused. I always do my best to prepare the way for safe felling. The other day, I was reminded that the best of preparations can go for naught.

I was helping my brother and nephew lay out a new fence line angling up a wooded hillside alongside an old cow path. Because of the uneven nature of the slope, there were spots where the ground fell away beneath the bottom wire. Knowing calves would quickly discover the gap, I decided to cut a 40- to 50-foot cedar, strip the branches and place a section of trunk as a barrier.

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The job seemed simple enough. I trimmed away lower branches and made the prerequisite cuts, taking out a large wedge across the face of the tree. I then made a high cut from the other side, angling down to a point just above the wedge.

I expected it to fall straight ahead. It didn’t!

I cut completely through to the wedge. The trunk slipped about 2 inches vertically. No forward movement could be observed at all. It seemed to be defying the laws of gravity and the rules of physics.

Only then did I notice a spot about 15 feet up. What had appeared to be two cedar branches extending past an ash in fact extended into and through the ash. The ash had grown around the stout cedar branches. A few minutes later, I had sawn through the ash and the two trees fell to the ground.

Gravity still rules, but when using a chainsaw in dense woods, always expect the unexpected.

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