News - Tip of the Month



1. Don't hesitate to walk away from any tree that seems beyond

your ability. Even professional loggers walk away from some trees.


2. Swamping. Take the time to plan and pre-cut (swamp out) where a tree is going to fall (e.g. saplings cut, bolts laid out to support the stem etc.) It will improve your planning of the process and make limbing, and dealing with the fallen tree much safer.


3. Escape routes. Take the time to prepare them and then Use them. 86% all felling accidents occur within 12 feet of the stump. And don't back away while a tree is falling, watching your handiwork as you go. You'll end up lying on your back watching the show.


4. Keep ear muffs OPEN when driving wedges. And pause after each swing to see (and listen for) what's happening. Reefing on a wedge without observing the results of your actions is like making a felling cut heads-down waiting for something to happen.


5. Wedging shims or Cookies: Anticipate your need for them before you start felling cuts. Don't cut these from the top of a notch after you've made your back cuts. This changes the entire internal shape of the hinge and can easily result in a barber chair.


6. Dead wood: (something a lot of landowners will be dealing with in Timber Stand Improvement, TSI)

a) Always work at a convenient height with dead trees. Nothing is sacrificed by doing so, and it's much safer to be standing comfortably than kneeling and trying to make your cuts at ground level, and you can get away faster.

b) Dead and dying trees can be very unpredictable. A dead birch, for example, is just as happy to fall at right angles to your beautifully cut notch and hinge as it is in the intended direction. If there is any doubt about lean, always protect yourself with wedges in the back cut and supporting the hinge to increase the odds that the tree will not fall 90 or 180 degrees from your intended direction.

c) When driving wedges in a dead tree, be sure to wear a special radio beacon, so your body can be more easily located, this is meant to be a joke!  Driving wedges into dead wood often shakes loose dead limbs and tops. TAP wedges gently into dead wood, and look up and listen for falling branches after every tap.


7. Don't ever turn your back on a hung-up tree, or any tree you've begun to fell. Strange and dangerous things happen to trees that are “hung up,” and they often come crashing down without any warning.


8. Make a practice of critically evaluating the results after each tree. Did the tree fall exactly on target as you had intended? (And don’t try to convince yourself otherwise if it didn’t.)

If not, did you make an error of judgment or an error of execution. That is, did you execute your cutting plan exactly as you intended but the tree did not fall as intended? That would indicate an error in judgment: the plan was not good.

Alternatively, did you just not execute your plan well. Sometimes, of course, both the plan and execution may be faulty. Both planning and execution take time to develop, and constantly evaluating your results will help you improve both. And remember that your escape plan is as important as your felling plan.




1. A tree on the ground is often far more dangerous than a standing tree. It may be storing a great deal of the potential energy that the standing tree contained, in the form of loaded limbs or the stem still above ground. That energy can kill you coming from the side or below as quickly as it can coming from above.


2. Approaches to safe limbing. Starting at the butt is often not advisable, especially when it is in the air or under tension. There is no hard and fast rule that you have to work your way up the tree from the butt end. With some species, hemlock or big hardwoods, for example, it makes much more sense to start at the top. Remove as much potential energy as possible before you get anywhere near the butt or anything else that is in the air or under a load.  


3. Spring Poles and Limbs under Stress. Numerous accidents are caused when limbs and poles under stress are released quickly. Take the time to look for potential stress in limbs and poles, and always use controlled-release techniques.


4. Hinge bucking. Controlled-release techniques can be used to slowly release stress in both limbs and stems, rather than have the parts separate quickly.


5. Gravity. When you cut something off that is at chest height (about 5 feet), it will fall to the ground in .55 seconds. Half a second is not enough time for you to: a) react, and b) get out of the way. When something comes down, something else very often goes up. Think about what you are standing on before you let anything fall to the ground.

Imagine one end of bent limb coming up like a shot under one of your feet. Or between them.




1. If a saw is never too small, it is always too big. Don’t lug around any more weight than absolutely necessary. Your back and legs will thank you. A 16” bar is perfectly adequate to fell a 30” tree using proper techniques.



2. Sharpening – Good sharpening is essential to safe chainsaw work and to using the techniques taught in GOL, especially bore cutting. There is a close analogy to woodworking. Would you attempt fine woodworking with a dull chisel?


3. Chain Tension. Check every time before beginning work and throughout the day. Chain cannot cut properly if the tension is not correct.


4. Bar Groove. Chain cannot cut properly if it wobbling sideways in the groove.


5. Fresh fuel. Every manufacturer’s tech rep will tell you the same thing about freshness of fuel: Never use a fuel-oil mixture that is more than a month old. The modern saws absolutely depend on the chemistry of a fresh mixture. The days of putting a saw away in the fall, full of fuel, and then picking it up again in the spring and just running it, are gone. For most landowners, a gallon of mix at a time is adequate. That's a lot of fuel unless one is working on a pile of firewood logs. The performance of saws is noticeably better, and therefore safer, with fresh fuel. If a saw is smoking and won't idle properly, try fresh fuel (and a new fuel filter) before messing with tuning.


6. Safety Features. Establish a routine for checking the saw’s important safety features every day. An inertia chain brake is easy to test, and your life may depend on its working properly.



1. Take your time. You're not a professional logger and you don't have

to bull and jam like one.

2. Listen to loggers' war stories. They can save your life. (John Adler's examples - oak branch falling while wedges being driven, and a basswood brushed back by a falling stem rebounding to fall right over the stump.) You can soak up a huge amount of second-hand experience by listening to stories of accidents.


3. Personal safety begins with personal comfort:

a) Nutrition b) Hydration  c) Clothing - warmth, wicking of sweat, freedom of movement, comfort, snag-free material.  d) Rest


4. State of Mind. If you’re angry, frustrated, distracted, gaga in love, in any state of mind other than full attention to what you are doing, you are inviting big trouble.


5. Wear protective gear. It sometimes feels as if you're dressing up for a costume party before you go in the woods, but DO IT! Almost every logger has a Kevlar incident to relate (or a number-of-stitches incident.)


6. Chainsaw Protective Footwear - Wear it. The average foot injury costs $60,000 and many can alter your mobility for life.


7. Caulks (spikes). Slips and falls accident statistics bear out the importance of having good traction on all surfaces. Use caulked boots.



1. Try to enjoy what you are doing. You are most likely not doing this to make a living, and if you're not enjoying at least some part of the process you're likely to get angry and frustrated — and therefore dangerous — when things go wrong.


2. Know when to quit. Fatigue is a deadly enemy. Call it quits before you get tired.


3. Don't get overconfident. A chainsaw can change your life in 2/10 of a second. So can a tree, either standing or on the ground. Wheelchairs are expensive, as are special access ramps for your home.


4. Don't assume that you'll be able to cut as well your instructor does immediately. It takes time and a lot of practice to become proficient in bore cutting and controlled-release techniques. Don't be surprised if it takes four or five years to get consistently good at them.


5. Practice constantly. To slow myself down and make sure I follow all steps of the Cutting Plan every time I fell a tree, I pretend I'm doing a demonstration and explaining what I'm doing to an audience. It's disturbing how many times I catch myself ready to start cutting without a complete cutting and escape plan. I also use this imaginary audience routine when limbing. It forces a more thoughtful process. A professional logger who works in the woods every day can make correct procedures ingrained and automatic in a short period of time; a landowner who only works in the woods occasionally cannot.


6. Count "accidents" during each day. An “accident” is any unplanned event, and it's a rare day that doesn't produce at least a couple, unless you're really good at lying to yourself: "I really meant for that branch to hit my face mask."

Any hung-up tree is an accident — clearly not an intentional act — and the same for anything that hits your helmet or facemask when you weren't expecting it. Those may seem like tough standards, but the 300-29-1 formula is based on actual statistics, not theory. The numbers are waiting to get you.


7. Don't assume that everything you see a "professional logger" do is correct or safe. There are a lot of folks out there hacking away with little training and lousy equipment. That doesn't mean they don't know a lot more than you — they very likely do — but they may not have had the safety and felling training you will have. After this course, you will be appalled at some of the equipment and techniques you see some professional loggers use. The GOL system is by no means the only way to do things, but it is a system that can give you a consistent and safe approach to felling, limbing and survival.


Oregon Cutting Systems, chainsaw chain, guide bars, and sprockets
Northeast Woodland Training, Inc. •  PO Box 1246, Middletown Springs VT  05757 • 802-235-2338
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