Saturday, July 28, 2018

The downing...

The downing...  Last year the honey locust in our back yard was looking pretty bad, sick with something.  We were quite sad about that, as that tree was a favorite.  This spring it was clearly dead – we waited and hoped that some leaves would pop out, but there wasn't a one.  Less than 50' away is an identical honey locust, planted at the same time (around 15 years ago), and it is doing just fine.  We really don't know what killed the one in the back yard, though we suspect girdling by lawnmower.

Anyway, we finally decided it was time for this thing to come down, so on Thursday I set up my tractor with a 1" nylon rope to put some constant tension on it, so that it would come down away from the house.  The photo at right (click to embiggen) shows this setup.  The nylon rope is fairly “stretchy”, which is great in this application.  I could easily position the tractor to put something like 500 pounds of “pull” on the rope – plenty to ensure that when I sawed the tree off low on the trunk, it would fall at least roughly toward the tractor.  By the time the tree fell enough to release the tension on the rope, it would be headed down in the direction I wanted it to go.  This is far better than trying the same thing with something that didn't stretch at all, such as a chain.  That sort of connection would release the tension as soon as the tree moved even one inch – and then I wouldn't know what direction it was coming down at all.

When cutting down a tree that's been tensioned like this, there are still some ways for things to go horribly wrong.  The one that worries me the most (and which I've experienced once, unfortunately) is that the trunk snaps and kicks back in a random direction.  This snapping can throw the trunk straight at you while you're sawing.  Possibly even worse, it can throw the chain saw.  So whenever I do this, I am very careful and I cut very slowly so that I can watch the progress.  I also cut at an angle from the side away from the tensioning downward to the opposite side.  This angled cut makes it less likely that the trunk will kick very far backward.  Generally there will be at least a few seconds warning before the remaining trunk starts to give way, and that's enough time to get yourself and your saw out of the way.  I make sure I have good footing, a clear escape path, and that I'm well off to the side (as the most likely kickback direction is 180° from the direction the tree is tensioned.   That's what I did this time, and all went well as you can see from the post-downing photo at left.  I got myself and my saw out of the way in good time, and the tree fell almost exactly where I intended.  The rest of the job was just cutting up and hauling away, which my brother Scott and I did the next day...

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