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Author Topic: Felling Trees Without a Saw?  (Read 2419 times)

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Offline Philbert

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Felling Trees Without a Saw?
« on: October 20, 2014, 11:00:16 PM »
This should be a simple question: does anyone know how trees were felled before crosscut saws were available, using only an axe?

I assume that there were some specific methods used by skilled loggers. I assume that some trees we cut today might have been passed by.

It struck me that all of the directional felling techniques I have seen involve a sawn back cut (crosscut or chainsaw), along with the use of wedges or ropes.  Wedges don't fit neatly into a chopped cut, and (I assume again) that ropes comparable to what we use today were not widely available.

Any insights into the historical processes would be appreciated.

Thanks.

Philbert

Offline Southside

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Re: Felling Trees Without a Saw?
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2014, 12:03:14 AM »
Beavers do a great job without any wedges, saws, or axes, of course they don't care about insurance, split logs, landowner issues, etc, then again I have never seen a beaver barber-chair a tree it was felling so maybe they are onto something!!
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Offline mad murdock

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Re: Felling Trees Without a Saw?
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2014, 12:55:13 AM »
When felling with just an axe, you notch just the same, but maybe a bit deeper- almost to the pith, then you follow with a back cut chopping well above the notch, this puts the tree off balance in the direction of the notch, steering a bit by controlling how much you cut out of the back as you would with a saw, but a lot less effect as it is a much slower process.
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Offline John Mc

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Re: Felling Trees Without a Saw?
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2014, 08:36:58 AM »
When felling with just an axe, you notch just the same, but maybe a bit deeper- almost to the pith, then you follow with a back cut chopping well above the notch, this puts the tree off balance in the direction of the notch

...assuming the tree is balanced straight up and down to begin with. It doesn't take much lean or lopsided crown to put the center of balance outside the trunk of the tree. Then it doesn't matter how deep you chop. Since conifers tend to grow against gravity, they're more likely to be balanced. Deciduous trees tend to grow towards the light, so it doesn't take much for them to be off-balance to start with.

It's an interesting question, Philbert.  It does seem as though your options for directional felling would be more limited when using only an axe (but then, I've never dropped a tree with an axe, so who am I to say). Perhaps in the days of the axe, they were doing more clear-cutting, which might give you some options as far as letting the tree go closer to the direction it "wants" to fall?
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Offline Joe Hillmann

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Re: Felling Trees Without a Saw?
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2014, 11:13:36 AM »
The 4th foxfire book gives some information on cutting trees with axes.  It is written as memories not a text book on how to do it.

One woods that were prone to splitting once the tree got too large they couldn't chop it fast enough to prevent it from ripping large splinters out of the heart of the tree when it fell and that could ruin the entire tree cause the splinters would go all the way up to the first large limb.  On larger trees it could take all day to cut the tree down and another day to buck each log out of it.

Offline gimpy

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Re: Felling Trees Without a Saw?
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2014, 02:41:50 PM »
Then there's always pushing them over with a dozer or FEL, if that is an option.
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Online Ianab

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Re: Felling Trees Without a Saw?
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2014, 03:01:18 PM »
Doing a little reading, and saws have been around for a while, like since copper age. Now I imagine that cutting down a tree with a copper saw might be a slow process, and need plenty of sharpening, but it would have gotten the job done eventually.

The Polynesian people reached NZ (1000+ miles of open ocean) in wooden boats built with stone tools. Reasonable to assume they could fell trees, make ropes and sails etc, without access to ANY metals.
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Offline Philbert

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Re: Felling Trees Without a Saw?
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2015, 08:36:18 PM »
Following up on my original question, I did find some additional information, including in this USFS PDF document on axes

"Using Axes": http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfpubs/pdf99232823/pdf99232823Pdpi72pt06.pdf

Looks like you give up a lot of directional control when you can't use wedges.

Philbert

Offline coxy

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Re: Felling Trees Without a Saw?
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2015, 07:18:07 AM »
back in those days who gave a crap about trashing the woods  :D :D

Offline longtime lurker

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Re: Felling Trees Without a Saw?
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2015, 06:51:06 PM »
The idea of a saw has been around since men first started working metal at a guess, and possibly before that. Copper saws were used to hew the blocks for the pyramids, which means they surely would have used them to fell trees.

Provided the tree is balanced or leaning inside around 90 degrees of where you want it to go axe felling should not be any different to saw felling. Take out a good front, then steer the tree by the reduction of your holding wood as you come from the back. The main thing is to have your front deeper, maybe to the pith but certainly around 40%. A stepped front can make it kick sideways during falling if required, and from there its just about reducing whats left from the back in such a fashion that when it does go your holding wood steers it (by varying the thickness of your holding wood). IMHO there is far too much dependance on wedges today for directional felling, and not enough on good sawing technique, and this is just an extension of good sawing technique.

For a tree that has to go against the direction of the lean:
Go up on springboards, take the head off the tree, attach a line to the top and then set a block and tackle to steady the head where you wanted it. Take out a "good" front, take out enough at the back that its teetering on the point of ready to go anywhere, then start to haul on your head rope and it will surely come.
Multiple head ropes will give directional steering of great accuracy, and a balanced head rope plan should allow you to almost lower a tree to the ground rather then fall it.

Hard work though, and arguably more dangerous then using a chainsaw. At least you can listen to the tree when using an axe or crosscut.


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Offline CX3

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Re: Felling Trees Without a Saw?
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2015, 10:50:40 PM »
My way of thinking would be that the real axe loggers would cut the other trees hindering the fall of said tree.  Once the other trees were cleared, they would have cut the leaner and fell it wherever it landed.  I dont think they were too concerned with improving stands of timber.
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Offline Lorenzo

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Re: Felling Trees Without a Saw?
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2015, 07:01:59 PM »
Following up on my original question, I did find some additional information, including in this USFS PDF document on axes

"Using Axes": http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfpubs/pdf99232823/pdf99232823Pdpi72pt06.pdf

Looks like you give up a lot of directional control when you can't use wedges.

Philbert


Nice reading Philbert,  Thanks


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