Recommend resources for cutting trees (for wood stove) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 07-27-2010, 11:33 AM - Thread Starter
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DH has done some online research, and has decided he would like to use a crosscut saw instead of a chainsaw. The reasons are not aesthetic or to be roughing it or anything - it's about safety. It seems that chainsaws are dangerous in many ways, they kick back, they can be dropped, chains can fly off. And the injuries are extensive and even fatal.

Plus, I guess it can be more dangerous in terms of managing the tree, too. They are so noisy you can't hear the cracks in the tree that tell you something's happening. Or you can get too confident and cut too quick and have a tree falling on you before you know it.

Obviously a crosscut saw hardly guarantees safety but I agree with DH that it seems like a sensible choice. Obviously they are more work, but a skilled cutter can actually cut in about the same time as a chainsaw. But speed is not our concern, cutting a tree will take the time that it takes, and the priority is doing it right and safely.

Any book recommendations on forest management and crosscut saw cutting? I'm not having much luck searching Google and Amazon and my library catalog.

We'd be interested in these topics:
- Literally "how to" cut a tree, especially with a crosscut saw
- Safety tips
- How to choose the trees to cut. This will be for firewood and we want to responsibly steward the forest land. We don't want to just say "oh, there's a big tree, let's cut it." Trees in their prime should be left. How do we figure out what trees are on their way out? I understand freshly fallen trees are game for firewood, are there any other "castoffs" that we can take advantage of? What about animals living in the tree? etc.
- Not that I think this requires much info, but maybe a bit about cutting/splitting wood and storing for fuel. We do have the Encyclopedia of Country Living and I think Carla covers this ok, but more info couldn't hurt.

Also, DH doesn't see how this can be anything but a one man job. I cannot help him because I cannot see well enough to run (and especially, in the correct direction) when the tree starts to fall. I can cut and split a fallen tree with him, but the actual chopping down will have to be him. (Not to mention, somebody has to watch DD during all this - and, uh, make sure she's not an orphan). Apparently there are one-man crosscut saws out there. Safety is obviously a huge concern. We assume the biggest reason safety-wise to having two men do the job is so one can help the other (or get help) if he gets hurt. DH and I were thinking of doing a check-in system, by walkie talkie or phone, maybe every 10 minutes while he's doing it. And of course he shows me the tree before he begins, so I know where he is. I just wrote that out to see if anyone more experienced than we are might have some comments (you're crazy/sounds reasonable) on that.

Oh, one last thought - DH would be wearing goggles, hardhat, steel-toed boots, whatever while doing this. He doesn't have any need to be macho and pretend he's invicible. He'll take all the sensible precautions. Which apparently few men do - the contractors and tree surgeons we've watched cut trees NEVER had hats or goggles.

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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#2 of 9 Old 07-30-2010, 03:15 PM
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I might be able to help a little. My dh has cut many trees, and he more or less taught himself. He does use a chainsaw and there have been a few close calls, especially in the beginning. I think you all are very smart for thinking it through. And I think a walkie-talkie or other communication system is an absolute necessity if he's out of earshot of the house.

Re: safely cutting a tree. There is a system you use where you cut a small angled notch at the base of the tree on one side, and then you cut from the other side. The notch is supposed to ensure that the tree will fall in the right direction.

When my dh was teaching himself how to do it, he would also tie one or two ropes from the tree to a stake in the ground where he wanted it to fall, plus do the notch. He still does this if he's cutting too close to a structure of any kind, just to be sure.

Re: how to choose what trees to cut, I can't say for sure how we do it, we don't put a terrible amount of thought into it. But if a tree has a bunch of vines growing up it and looks like it's half-dead, we'll take that one out. Maybe we see one growing too close to another, we'll take it out. It mostly depends - for us - on what we need from the tree. We don't heat with wood (yet), so we're cutting our trees here and there for other locust for fence posts, cedar for siding, etc.

My success (or lack of) Googling stuff like this is always knowing the right search terms. You should look up "managing your woodlot" and you're going to get a ton of good resources.

Sorry I can't help more with the crosscut saw specifically.

alivia, mama to sunshine dd (2003), snuggly dd (2009), & bonus baby (due 06/2010), homesteader, homeschooler, writer, lifelong learner
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#3 of 9 Old 07-30-2010, 09:07 PM
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Check around, there very well maybe chainsaw/basic forestry classes... I honestly can't imagine cutting firewood with a cross cut (or any other handsaw). Cutting firewood is enough work w/ a chainsaw...

As for how to choose a tree, just start walking through your woods and really looking at your trees. Do you know how to identify them? (even just the basics: oak, hickory, walnut, maple, cherry, elm, pine, etc?) If not, I'd start there - go pickup a basic booklet and start learning to identify trees so you can thin in a consistant fashion. THen learn to recognize whats a good lookin tree vs one thats all spindly/crappy looking. Cut the crappy looking ones down, leave the nice big ones. Thin out where theres 2 or 3 tightly growing together - thin out the worst looking one(s) and leave the best.

But, the above poster is right - once you'v selected a tree to cut, stand back, and look at it - almost all trees will be leaning one way or another. Its best to cut a notch whichever way you want it to fall/its leaning towards, and then cut it through. Doing so encourages the tree to fall that way and not just any other. But of course, there are no garuntees and occasionally you will have a tree fall the 'wrong' way. The important thing, is to be paying attention.

Finally, as far as storage/stacking goes, you'll need either a splitting machine or else a maul (to split by hand - lots of work, but what my dad did for years and years - even using a splitter is still a good bit of work though!). Then you'll want to be stacking it up under cover - nothing fancy, just a basic roof overtop, and stacking mixing different sizes in. Woods measured in quards - off the top of my head, I *think* a cord of wood is 4x4x8' and we go through ~5-8 cords of wood a year (burning two stoves more-or-less constantly).

Anyhow, good luck. My dad's been cutting firewood (w/ a chainsaw) for the past 30 yrs now and has never gotten hurt. But he's always been as careful as he can be - he wears hardhat, full length chaps, work boots, ear muffs, etc. My Dh has been doing much of the cutting/splitting/stacking the last couple yrs now and is getting pretty good at it.

Hope that all helps! Good luck!!
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#4 of 9 Old 07-31-2010, 11:25 AM
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There are classes available, but it may take some looking. I think chainsaws can be as safe as any other saw if used correctly. I think a forestry class would probably be a good idea as well, just so you can identify things you see in the woods.

There are lots of fallen trees you can just cut up if you don't want to fall them yourself. Besides, the fallen trees will probably be drier and will be easier to use for firewood. I think a crosscut saw would be fine for cutting the tree down, but for the actual cutting of the tree, it would be easier to use a chainsaw.

Safety gear is important of course. Check your local forest website or office, they should have lots of info for you. And at least here, there are restrictions on when you can use a chainsaw because of the fire hazard. Oh and most places require a permit to go harvest the trees anyways, which you can get at a forest office.
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#5 of 9 Old 08-03-2010, 04:19 AM
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I will try to answer some of your questions about crosscut saws but can answer other questions about cutting as well if you have more. Hopefully this will be coherent as it is late and I am not used to posting as my wife normally does that.

I have used crosscuts for over 10 years now; off and on for my own wood supply and for period reenactment.

The best overall reference for choosing, using and maintaining a crosscut saw that I have ever found is the Crosscut Saw Manual published by the US Forest Service you can find it through the crosscut saw company at Crosscut saw company is also one of the best sources online for good quality saws, handles and sharpening equipment.

While it is true that a sharpened saw being used by an experienced sawyer can cut as fast as a chainsaw it is extremely hard work and you can't maintain that pace of cutting for a long time. Felling smaller trees (under 2 feet) can easily be a one man job but it will take longer and go slower without the second person.

You are right about having it be safer for one person to fell the tree but using a single man saw would be very difficult and make it harder to control the fall of the tree and to deal with the saw binding (being pinched by the two halves) as the tree is cut. I would suggest that you consider an axe for felling the trees and using the saw for bucking (cutting up the trees to a length that can be split) on the ground. If you get a two person saw and use it for bucking the logs you can have both of you do the hardest work together while he can still use an axe or single person saw for felling the trees.

Random thoughts
-Crosscut saws are often called misery whips because they are so hard to use.
-The saws earned this name because of saws that people used that weren’t properly sharpened or maintained. Sharpening the saw regularly will not only make your work easier but make it safer as a dull saw will cut you worse when it catches you and a stuck saw can be dangerous when you try to pull it free.

Crosscut saws by the nature of the speed you use them and how they are used are much safer than chainsaws, however the chance for danger still exists. (I once cut my hand to the tendon when I slipped while sharpening)

As for safety tips here are just a few off the top of my head.
-A moving crosscut saw can cut you just as bad as a chainsaw sometimes and worse because of the length of the teeth

-Always keep your saw covered when not using it or carrying it (old fire hose split along one side works really well for this)

-use a sturdy vise or set of vises to mount the saw securely when sharpening (sharpening accidents can be the worse with crosscut saws because you are pointing right at the teeth and pushing

-sacrifice the saw to save yourself (if the saw gets stuck during felling because the tree is coming down early don't try and pull it out just get clear and worry about fixing the saw later if you have to.

-Never place your hand under the blade side of the saw while sawing or close to the spot you are cutting on the tree, the saw can catch your hand and take all of the momentum of the saw.

Hopefully that helped some, Let me know if you have any more specific questions I would be glad to answer them.
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#6 of 9 Old 08-03-2010, 09:47 PM
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Thanks laohaire for that! I'll have my hubby and dad and brother read it before everyone starts cutting this season.

We have 3 grown men with chainsaws and a powered splitter and it is still tremendous work to keep our homes stocked for the season in a fairly moderate climate. While I think it's sooooo very smart of you to be conservative with things (esp for an inexperienced lumbering job of cutting down trees, we only work with deliveries of gigantic cut stuff from a local tree service) to begin with, I'd be worried you would run out of firewood if you really are planning to do it all by hand. That just has a... wow factor for me!

Having said that, if you do end up going a chainsaw route at all I strongly urge you to make sure your babe is clear of the chainsaw and all areas at all times. Never leave her/him even to make a snack for a sec. My 4yo was cut on the lip last year because my husband (who was in charge of kid patrol while I made lunch) turned his back for a split second and my son ran towards the saw (who knows why, kwim? he is sooo fast) at the same time my brother drew the semi-idle chainsaw behind him to move a piece of wood. Full amateur moment on everyone's behalf. It happens. Safety is paramount. My son's heavy jacket was ripped up right over his heart and his lip bears a scar to date. We call his jacket "the lucky jacket" because I have no doubt it saved his face if not his life.

Anyway, just wanted to add that... as if you didn't need enough reasons to be careful! But kids (and chainsaws sometimes, heck ANY kind of saw!) can be so unpredictable.

Good luck and happy foresting!

Erin sharing life with a burly husband and two rad boys 7/06 & 5/09 : : Zone 9-ish
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#7 of 9 Old 08-04-2010, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Erinz View Post
we only work with deliveries of gigantic cut stuff from a local tree service) to begin with, I'd be worried you would run out of firewood if you really are planning to do it all by hand.
This is our situations as well. DH uses a chainsaw, a sledge, and a maul. This takes him about 8 hours a week to keep a constant supply of wood. It doesn't seem like a lot of time, but it's a struggle for him to keep up. He's already away from us for over 10 hours a day and cutting wood only adds to that. I don't allow our kids to be out with him while he is cutting wood. If your DH doesn't work a full-time job outside the homestead and you don't have young kids, then these probably aren't issues for you.

Good luck

mama to   broc1.gif DS 6/06 and banana.gif DS 4/08
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#8 of 9 Old 08-04-2010, 11:44 AM
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Does your DH do internet forums?

We heat with wood and I find to be a wonderful resource, for wood management, using wood stove, and discussion equipment.
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#9 of 9 Old 11-22-2010, 07:18 PM
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There's a great book called ,"How to Fell a Tree" I don't have it right next to me and can't remember the author. My hubby does tree work and loves this book. Simple, really informative with pictures, great resource for safety of yourself and others. There's a lot of good info in there. HTH.

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