General Question

global_nomad's avatar

In which direction does a tree fall?

Asked by global_nomad (1906points) June 17th, 2011
13 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

If you were to actually take a hatchet or an ax and chop down a tree the old fashioned way, in which direction would it fall? Would the tree fall towards the hatchet marks because there is less wood on that side, or would it fall away from them because the force of the final blow would end up knocking it over? These are the questions whose answers I seek.

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crisw's avatar

You cut a notch in the tree. It falls in the direction of the notch.

Mamradpivo's avatar


incendiary_dan's avatar

If they’re straight up trees, then they tend to fall towards the cuts because of the angle. Otherwise, wherever gravity pulls them.

crisw's avatar

This document has a diagram.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Sorry, couldn’t resist. The one time I felled a tree, it fell inward towards the cut, I assume because of the loss of support on that side. A chain saw was used, I’m guessing the ax would have the same affect, unless specifically pushed in the opposite direction.

jrpowell's avatar

Normally a steel wedge is used that is pounded into what you remove with the axe/chainsaw to force it to fall away from you. At least that is how my dad taught me how to do it. But that was for smaller trees on the farm.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I have cut down my share of large trees. Beech, maple, and now ash.
I look at the way I want it to fall and the way it is leaning. Hopefully these coincide. If not, the I use cable and pulleys to assist.

Let’s assume the tree is perfectly straight and I want it to fall to the right. I cut a wedge shaped notch in the tree on the right side about ½ to ⅔ of the way through depending upon the type of tree.
Then I start cutting a downwards sloping slot on the left side of the tree starting about 6 inches above the deepest part of the notch I previously cut.
That forms a tab that gets thinner and thinner as I cut and eventually causes the tree to drop in the direction of the notch without having the trunk split up the middle potentially killing me or anyone helping. That type of tree is called widow maker for good reason.
This method also keep the tree from falling on the cut and capturing my saw leaving me stranded in the woods. That happens occasionally so I always have at least two saws with me if I am doing serious work.

I’ve got bunch of dead pine trees that need to come down if you want some practice. Come on over.

Oh, and I can’t tell you if the tree makes a sound or not when it falls in the forest. With my two saws running and the good hearing protection I always wear, I can’t hear a thing.

dannyc's avatar

When I lived in Montreal, my neighbour felled his spruce right on to his roof with serious damage. I remember his face contortion was quite remarkable. Since that day, I avoid the process and get a pro. The answers above explain the science, but cutting them down still a bit of an art.

zenvelo's avatar

Around where I live, they climb into the tree and cut branches that have been tied off so they can be lowered, and cut 6–8 foot sections of the trunk and lower them the same way.

downtide's avatar

If you cut a big notch on the side opposite to the way toy are chopping, then the tree will fall towards the bigger notch. Otherwise, it will fall towards you.

Coloma's avatar

As long as they don’t fall on my house, I don’t care which way they fall.

2 winters ago a HUGE, about 300 yr. old Oak tree that was straight as an arrow, completely upright, healthy, just uprooted and keeled over, missing my deck by literally inches!

Another huge one, maybe even bigger is at about a 40 degree angle hanging over a creek on a hill with rocky soil and that thing has weathered the worst of storms. Go figure!

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

You have to look at the tree to see which way it is leaning and/or heaviest. And then allow for the fact it will fall which ever direction it feels like.

SmartAZ's avatar

A tree falls in the direction of its weakness. There is enough doubt involved that people use several devices to be sure a tree falls where they want it. In most cases two ropes are enough, one on each side, but for safety it is nice to have a third rope in the middle. It is also common to use a wedge on the back side of the tree.

There are plenty of pictures of trees falling over and uprooting sidewalks and even lawns. LIKE THIS

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