Cutting the butt off blowdowns

Cutting the butts off blown-down trees can be hazardous. Here are some safety tips. June 27, 2000

Anyone have any safety advice on cutting the butt off a blown-down tree?

Where should you stand? Should the stump slam down? What might the tree do?

I am experienced with a saw and know what to look for as far as twists, etc., but this seems pretty dangerous. The trees in question are 160-foot sitka spruce, about 42 inches at the butt.

Forum Responses
I've cut a lot of blowdowns.

If you have a skidder or tractor with a blade, use the blade to hold the stump from falling back into the hole. Put the blade against the root side of the stump, and cut the butt log off. Look for small trees or brush growing beside the uprooted tree on the root ball. If there are any, they should be cut off first, so that when the stump drops back into the hole, they won't fly up as the stump rights itself.

Most of the time the stump will want to drop back into the hole. Sometimes it may want to roll towards the tree. Be careful not to get your saw pinched between the log and the stump. It is usually best to cut the stump off first, then cut the limbs. The limbs will help to hold the log up off the ground, and will help keep the tree from rolling as you cut it.

Just take your time, and watch the tree for movement as you cut. Once the stump is off, it's just like cutting a tree that was cut down.

Brian is absolutely right; the stump will want to spring back up.

I've seen guys catapulted off, and the landing was not pretty. Good thing the saw didn't follow too close! I would stand on the ground, or, as a last resort, some steady platform if you can't reach the log from the ground.

This is all very tricky and very dangerous; there is no abosolutely safe way to do it. If the tree is still sticking up, or leaning in another tree, it is even more risky.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor C:
I cut a lot of logs off the stump that have been pushed over with a dozer. The most important thing to do to prevent getting hurt or damaging your saw is to make sure you have a good, sharp saw that cuts straight and you know how to operate it. You will need another good saw to get you out in case the pinch occurs, some long tapered wood wedges and a few larger blocks of wood. A splitting maul is also handy.

Whether the stump wants to right itself or continue its fall is the next question. Larger trees, 24 inches up, will typically - if the root wad is still in the pot hole edge - try to right themselves. This is hard to control. Start with your saw at the butt cut of the log. Cut about 3 inches deep at the top and then match up on the bottom. Here is where you just have to get a feel for what you're doing. Ideally, you need to place those blocks of wood I mentioned earlier under the trunk, starting about 3 feet from your butt cut, extending up the trunk until you run out of room, every 3 or so feet. Then slowly saw about 1 to 2 inches on the top of the trunk, alternating to the bottom and so forth until you see or feel the gap on the bottom or top start to close. At this point, stop immediately and use your wood wedges on the closing side. You may need to hammer these in to prevent pinching. Now proceed slowly and with caution. If the stump tries to right itself, continue cutting on the top of the cut, keeping in mind the trunk will rise until completely severed. This is dangerous because the trunk could fall on you. Find an escape path before you make that final cut. If the stump is pitching down, wedge on top. This is the safer situation, however, more prone to pinch your saw. As you saw on the underside of the cut, the whole thing should pitch downward. Make sure you have those blocks of wood placed under the trunk. These blocks need to at least be 1.5 times the diameter of the trunk. Remember - a good, sharp saw that will cut strait and do not get in a hurry. Take your time and don't crowd the saw.