Getting firewood is a vital part of homesteading if you heat with wood. If you are heating with a wood burner or fireplace then you will need to cut your wood up smaller than if you were heating with an outdoor wood burner.
Either way it goes, you will need to obtain your wood by cutting down your tree, cutting it up into chunks, and splitting it. Then you will need to store and rick the wood in a dry shed.
The wood will need to be seasoned for it to burn better. Green wood will burn but it leaves a lot of creosote and it is harder to get it to burn than the seasoned wood. Wood becomes seasoned by being cut up and being allowed time to dry. This generally takes about one full season to do.
Now, to get started you need to be sure that you have the proper safety equipment before beginning to cut anything with a chainsaw. Felling a tree can be very dangerous, especially if you are new to it.
Using a chainsaw is also dangerous. You will need an assortment of personal protective equipment including a hard hat, safety glasses, protective pants or chaps, and boots. You can also wear gloves and ear protection.
The hard hat offers protection to the user’s head incase of an accident that is caused by the saw or branches. When cutting a tree there are several things that can happen where a hard hat is needed.
The hard hat provides protection from any falling branches and anything that flips and flies around while cutting. If a hard hat has to much sun damage or becomes dry you should replace it. A hard hat can come equipped with ear protectors and a face shield for further protection.
These are two separate hard hats that can be worn for safety.
Using safety glasses or a visor will protect the eyes from any damage. When you are running a saw things tend to fly around and saw dust can easily get into your eyes. If you get a piece in your eye you will know it and it can potentially scratch your eye.
You can wear any type of glasses as long as your eyes are protected.
Chaps Or Trousers
Chaps or trousers are used to protect the operator from being cut by the chainsaw. The covering of them are slippery and tough so that the inner layer is not damaged. The inner layer is made of ballistic nylon or kevlar laid in layers.
When the saw hits the chaps it will cut through the outer layer and the inner layer is pulled out and wraps around the sprocket, locking it up and stopping the chain. This safety measure greatly protects the legs and limiting the amount of damaging and cut to the leg.
A pair of chaps, not the kind used by cowboys for riding, but the kind for stopping a chainsaw from cutting through are considered type A protective coverings. Chaps only protect the front of the legs and can be worn over your clothes.
Notice how the chaps are not completely around the legs and they snap in the back .
Trousers are considered type C protective coverings. Trousers are worn just as that, there is no need for undergarments. Full trousers can be very hot as they are highly insulated. The trousers should be worn slightly baggy incase of their being an accident so that there is room for the material to have enough give to stop the saw
The damaged trousers or chaps must be trashed, as they are no longer safe by having done their job. The saw will have to be field-stripped to remove the fibers to allow it to run again.
A chain can easily cut through your boots. It is best to wear steel toed boots for protection. You can also purchase special boots that have a covering around the sides to prevent the chain from getting through.
Wearing gloves preventing slips of the hand when operating, it also protects from splinters and cuts from the chain.
Using ear muffs or ear plugs can help to protect the ears from the loud noises causing little to no damage to the hearing of the user.
The Tree Surroundings
You are going to need to check the surrounding of the tree you are going to cut down, to be sure there are no power lines, houses or buildings close to it. Also, you will need to check the lay of the land, and the direction the tree seems to be leaning or growing.
Does it look like it is “top heavy” and may fall in one direction over another? Is there another tree that may be in the way and get the tree hung up to where it doesn’t fall? Another variable to consider is the wind, how hard is it blowing or what direction is it blowing? It is dangerous to try and cut trees on really windy days.
You also need to get away from the tree quickly as it is falling so that it isn’t able to hit you. You need to be sure that you have a clear escape route. You need to be sure of this because even a hard hat can’t save you if the tree hits you.
Getting the saw ready to use is as critical as knowing how to use it. You need to be sure that the chain is sharp and the tension of the bar and chain is good. You can tighten the tension with a saw wrench. Once you are comfortable with getting the saw ready it will take you know time to complete.
This is a chainsaw with the saw wrench, file,and jugs of bar and chain oil:
There are teeth on the chain that need sharpened. The sharpener is spiraled and you pull the file through to sharpen Try to keep count and sharpen each tooth the same amount. There is a line on each tooth that will show you which direction you are to sharpen. The teeth run in two separate directions and all of them will need sharpened.
Check, and fill if needed, the gas and bar oil before you start the saw. Saws use a mixed gas, you mix with gasoline and 2-cycle engine oil. Follow the directions on the 2-cycle oil container with proper mixing instructions for the oil to gas ratio. Be sure to put the oil in the gas jug first and then add the gas. Shake the jug to mix the two together.
The bar oil is needed to lubricate the bar and chain. Without the lubrication the bar and chain will not work properly. There is a reservoir on the saw that you fill with the bar oil. There are different brands of bar oil that you can purchase, any brand is fine.
This is a chainsaw with a new chain in its box and a new jug of bar and chain oil for getting the saw ready.
Starting The Saw
Be sure the chain brake is set, this is the handle-type piece in the front and it will need to be in the forward position. Turn on the choke and be sure the start switch is on. If your saw has a primer bulb then press that a few times before attempting to start the saw as it gets the gas flowing.
Cutting The Tree
After you have evaluated the direction and area around the tree and are ready to start cutting you will need to cut a notch. The notch will need to be cut on the side of the tree that is the direction you want the tree to fall.
The notch will need to be cut at a 70 degree angle with the top side being thinner cut downward and the bottom of the notch will be the deepest part cut. Be sure that the cut doesn’t go more than ⅓ of the way through the tree.
After the tree has been notched cut a bore cut into the side of the tree slightly behind the notch, this will make the hinge. Cut straight through toward the back of the tree.
Pull the saw out of the tree after you have sawed ¾ of the way through. Now cut from the back of the tree toward the front. Be sure not to cut into the backside of the notch. The tree will start to fall as you are cutting from the back.The hinge is left on the stump and you can see it on the tree.
This is the stump showing the hinge and you can see the other part on the tree:
After you hear the tree start to crack and it starts to fall turn off the saw and head in the safe direction that you planned out before you started cutting. Be sure to not turn your back completely away from the tree so that you can see that it is going where intended.
Now that the tree is down, you have to top it. Topping it means you cut off all of the branches and limbs. You have the option to discard the limbs by leaving them lay in the woods for nature to take its course and allow them to compost back into the soil or clean them up for a controlled brush fire. In true homesteading fashion, we don’t like waste. You can use the larger
branches for firewood, they just won’t need split as much.
This is the felled tree. It landed exactly as planned:
After the tree has been topped you can start cutting it into chunks the length that you need. The length needed will be based on the type of burner you are using.
Most fireplaces require shorter lengths than a wood stove or an outside wood burner. Be sure not to run your saw into the ground when you are cutting up the wood because this can make the chain dull.
Here he is cutting the tree into firewood chunks:
Some people will cut down and sale trees for firewood. My family logs and they will cut down the
smaller trees, or pole wood, for firewood and sale by the semi-load. In this situation the wood
doesn’t get cut up to be moved. It is loaded by a loader and hauled to the buyers house.
If you are uneasy about felling a certain tree then it is best to not tackle that particular tree. Do a different tree that you are more comfortable with and call a tree service to take care of the tree that is more stressful.
Running a chainsaw is a dangerous job and you need to know how to operate the saw safely before you start tackling the task of cutting down a tree.
Sarah Rodriguez is a homesteading wife and mother of five living in Appalachia. She grew up in a homesteading and logging family.
She and her husband Arnie work their 10-acre homestead together alongside their growing family. Sarah honed her self-reliance skills through 4-H and FFA at an early age and is now teaching her children to live off the land, raise livestock, and the importance of both sustainability and frugality.