How to Cut a Tree Branch with a Chainsaw

cutting tree

Have a branch on one of your trees that needs cutting? Branches may need to be removed for several reasons—trimming, pruning, or getting rid of damage and rot.

But if you don’t have much experience with trees, you may not know quite how to remove that branch. And you don’t want to accidentally hurt your tree more than you have to.

So you have two options. One, you can call a professional arborist to come and help. This is always a good option, especially if you’re not confident with power tools or if you have a situation that’s more complicated than usual. Two, you can care for your tree yourself with your own power tools.

As long as you understand and follow safety measures for operating a chainsaw, it’s quick and less physically strenuous than using a handsaw. But power tools can be dangerous, so make sure you know how to safely handle the chainsaw before operation, wear protective gear, and keep the area under the tree clear to prevent accidents.

How to Cut a Tree Branch with a Chainsaw

It’s not as simple as just slicing once through your problem branch.

But it’s not too complicated to know how to cut a tree branch with a chainsaw once you understand how trees heal from damage.  Branches have a bump of bark near their bases at the trunk, which gives way to the smoother bark of the branch itself. This bump is known as the branch collar. This is where scar tissue forms from to heal over any wounds the tree receives. You’ll want to want to focus your cuts to let this process happen as efficiently as possible.

Work with the knowledge of trees’ healing process, and your tree will have the best chance of healing properly and quickly.

The best way to remove a branch from your tree is to use a three-step cutting technique.

  1. Notch cut. Make a partial cut going a quarter of the way through the branch on its underside. Make this cut two or three feet from the trunk. This is an important cut, as it takes some of the pressure and weight off the collar, and the bark won’t split when you make another cut.
  2. Relief cut. Make a second cut on the limb a little farther from the trunk than your notch cut. Cut all the way through the branch, which will remove its weight and will allow you to make your third and last cut to finish the job.

Notch and relief cuts are crucial steps. If you were to try and simply make a single cut, you would risk your branch splitting and causing significant damage to the tree trunk. A wounded tree is more susceptible to rot and insect infestation. You don’t want to end up with more damage than you started with.

  1. Final cut. This is the cut that will allow you to help your tree heal properly, so make it count. Cut right where the branch collar is. As mentioned previously, this is the bump of bark near the base of the branch. Follow the line of the collar closely, while making sure not to cut into it. Since scar tissue forms from the branch collar, damaging or removing it means your tree won’t heal properly.

While you want to be careful not to cut into the collar, don’t overcompensate and leave your branch too long either. Even though the collar would still be intact in this case, if there is still a lot of branch left, the tree will be slow to heal.

When to Call a Professional

While it’s important to know how to cut a tree branch with a chainsaw properly, it is equally important to know when to step back and let a professional do the work for you.

Some branches make for easy work for homeowners. But in some cases, it may be unsafe for you to try to cut branches yourself. Here are some situations when it would be best to call a professional, like Mr. Tree, to help you out.

  • If the branch isn’t easily reachable. Remember that you’re holding a dangerous power tool. If you have to stretch to cut the branch, it’s not safe. Similarly, don’t try to use a chainsaw to cut anything above your shoulders. Lifting a power tool so high, especially when you’re on a ladder, is not a good idea.
  • If you’re dealing with large limbs. You may feel like you can handle trimming small limbs on your trees, but large limbs are a different story. For one, cutting off large branches can be dangerous to your tree. Unlike smaller branches, larger ones can be integral to the structure of your tree, and removing them can be harmful to your tree, even if done correctly. If you think one of the main branches on your tree needs to be removed, contact a professional arborist for an assessment.

On top of danger to your tree, removing big branches can also be hazardous to you and your property. With all branches, you need to consider where everything will fall once it’s been cut. Large limbs can cause a lot of damage to your home or to you if they fall in the wrong spot.

  • If your trees are near power lines. Don’t even think about doing it yourself in this case. For the safety of you and your neighborhood, this is definitely one situation in which you need a professional.
  • If you lack proper equipment. Don’t have a chainsaw and safety glasses? Or has your saw been sitting in the corner of your garage with a dull blade for the last decade? A sharp chainsaw run at full speed will cut easily through a branch and is the best tool for the job.
  • Any time. Don’t risk getting out your chainsaw if you don’t feel confident. Let us help.

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