tree being felled in Brighton, Sussex

Photo: William & Mary Law Library

Tree felling is a highly skilled technique for causing a tree to fall in a specific direction and in a controlled manner. This is achieved using a series of carefully positioned cuts at the base of the trunk.

Trees are usually felled for speed. It is far quicker to fell a tree than to dismantle it in small sections from a rope and harness or from a mobile elevated work platform. However, trees can only be safely felled if there is adequate space to do so. Although it can be a relatively quick method of getting a tree on the ground, tree felling is a very dangerous and skilled operation requiring a lot of training and careful planning to execute safely.

Tree felling cuts

In order to ensure that the tree falls in the desired location, a number of carefully positioned cuts are made at the base of the tree. The Sink Cut, or “Gob”, is a wedge shaped notch made with a horizontal cut and an angled cut that come together at a point. The sink should not be cut deeper than 1/4 to 1/3 of the diameter of the tree trunk. It is made on the side of the tree that faces the direction that you wish to drop the tree and its function is to determine the direction of fall and the point of severance. The wider the sink cut, the longer the tree will fall before it breaks free of the stump and hits the ground.

Once the sink has been cut into the tree to be felled and the operator is happy that it doesn’t require any further fine tuning, the back cut can be made. The back cut is made on the opposite side of the tree to the sink cut and slightly higher up than the horizontal cut of the sink. The idea is to cut towards the sink cut but to leave enough holding wood (known as the “Hinge“) to ensure a controlled fall.


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