How to Cut a Tree

You may be planning to build furniture or a house, or you may want to get rid of that old tree that’s taking up space in your yard. Maybe, you just want to stock up on some firewood and save some money on that heating bill. If so, then tree cutting is one skill you can’t do without.

Make sure that you have all of the following:

  • A chainsaw. You can cut a tree using only an axe but it requires more time and effort. The swinging motion while using the axe affects the stability of the tree while cutting and might cause a premature fall. Therefore, a chainsaw is your only option.
  • A target marker. When cutting a tree, you have to determine where the tree is going to fall. That is why you need to have something to mark the target. You can mark it with anything visible from afar such as a stake, a cone or maybe a small flag. To ensure maximum visibility, you might want to paint it with a fluorescent color.
  • An extra can of gas. Just in case your chainsaw runs out of gas during cutting, it is best that you have a spare can of gas nearby. You just can’t leave that half-cut tree unattended while you’re out driving to the nearest gas station!

You will also need the following:

  • an axe and some rope (optional); and
  • safety equipment: hardhat, gloves, boots, goggles, and ear plugs or ear muffs (to protect your ears from the loud buzzing of the chainsaw).




Step 1 – Planning

Examine the area for hazards and obstacles (i.e. power lines) and make sure that the tree does not hit any of these. If the tree is riddled with vines, remove them first before you proceed with cutting. Measure the crown (the top part of the tree) and find the center of its lean (leaning direction) by measuring the tips of the branches on both sides.

After determining the center, align yourself to it. Move towards the desired direction where you want the tree to fall. Double check to make sure that this area is free of hazards. This will be your target area.

At the target area, examine the leaning direction of the tree. If the tree is leaning towards the right, place the target marker approximately 4 feet to your left. If it is leaning towards the left, place it on your right. This is to ensure that the tree won’t hit the marker on its way down.

Step 2 – Cutting

Now, move back towards the tree. Before chopping down the tree, you must establish a hinge. The hinge is made up of a face notch and a back cut. The notch is an angular cut that faces the direction of the target while the back cut is done on the opposite of the face notch. This is the final cut that makes the tree fall.

To establish a hinge, you must first cut a face notch. Make sure that the face notch is facing your target area before you start cutting.

Cut about ¼ of the tree’s diameter horizontally near the base of the tree. This is only the first part of the hinge, so don’t cut all the way through. Next, cut a 70 degree-angle of three inches above the horizontal cut, forming an angle.

Now that the notch is done, it’s time to do the back cut. The back cut is the last cut that you are going to do. Take extra care and do it slowly.

First, stick a tiny twig within the face notch. This will be your marker on where to do your back cut.

Now, move towards the back of the tree. Level your chainsaw to the twig and cut towards the face notch. Do not cut all the way yet. You might want to take a breather and plan your escape route. Determine the direction where you’re going to run to when the tree falls.

When the final cut is made, run away from the tree.




  • You can use a rope to determine where you want the tree to fall. Just tie a rope around the top of the tree and tie it to another tree situated towards the general direction desired.
  • You might want to save the last cut for an axe, since it is lighter and easier to run away with.