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Felling Trees

Logging Lessons

Tags: logging
Series: Logging Lessons

This week, we’ll learn about felling trees with the popular crosscut saw.

The Potlatch Lumber Company, along with many lumber companies, relied on the two-person crosscut saw to fell trees. Modern chainsaws (motorized saws) were developed in the 1920s (although it has been debated that a ”chainsaw-like tool” was invented around 1830 by a German orthopedist, Bernhard Heine).1

According to the U.S. Forest Service, ”it takes three cuts to fell a tree. Two cuts form the undercut (or face cut) and the third forms the back cut. The correct relationship of these cuts results in safe and effective tree felling.” What does the undercut do? “The undercut serves two purposes. First, it allows the tree to fall in a given direction by removing the tree’s support in the direction of the face. Second, it enables control because the tree slips off - rather than jumps off - the stump.”2

Pre Chain Saw Days
Pre Chain Saw Days
Old Ponderosa Pine
Old Ponderosa Pine

“The third cut needed to fall a tree is the back cut. The relationship of this cut to the undercut is important for proper tree positioning and the sawyers’ safety.”2

There were many dangers associated with felling a tree beyond the tree falling on you - there could be other overhead hazards such as limbs of other trees that get caught in the path of the falling tree.2

The first photo (above) is from 1915. The second photo (below) is from 1906 and shows two men standing at the base of an old pinus ponderosa pine tree.


Photos courtesy of the Potlatch Historical Society Collection

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