The Dangers of Felling a Leaning Tree


( – When a leaning tree splits while being cut, it can create a:

  • Spar-Tree
  • Bole
  • Conifer
  • Barber chair

Answer: Barber chair. Here’s why…

Cutting down a tree, whether for landscaping or for firewood, is dangerous when a person doesn’t know what they are doing. A leaning tree, however, can be downright deadly. Before breaking out the chainsaw and going to town on a leaning tree, it’s a good idea to know what could go wrong once the teeth bite into its trunk.

Why Leaning Trees are Dangerous

A leaning tree is considered any tree whose center of gravity isn’t centered over the stump. Because the center of gravity is off, this puts tremendous tension on the trunk.

If not cut properly, the trunk can split, creating what’s known as a “barber chair.” When this happens, the cut side of the tree will spring up as the forward momentum of the falling tree shears it in half. Anything or anyone caught in its path is going to have a bad day.

The danger doesn’t end after the tree barber chairs, however. Once the tree has split vertically, the portion still in the air (atop the barber’s chair) can snap and roll off as well. The following video from WorkSafeBC explains how this exact event took the life of a silviculture worker:

Barber chairs aren’t the only threat that comes with attempting to fell a leaning tree, though they are incredibly dangerous. Before attempting to cut a leaning tree, or any other tree, for that matter, there are a few precautions that everyone should take:

    • Clear an escape route. Clear dead branches, brush, and debris around the tree to create an easy escape route, should anything go wrong.
    • Check for widowmakers. Dead limbs that could fall from the tree on an unsuspecting person are called widowmakers. These falling pieces of lumber are so deadly we have an entire article about them here.
    • Examine the surroundings. Are the target tree’s branches intertwined with those of other trees? Are there nearby buildings or power lines that could be damaged by the felled tree? Are there any obstructions that could prevent a quick escape? Is the tree dead or rotting?
    • Check the weather. A strong wind could alter the direction a tree falls when cut.

Cutting down a leaning tree is a dangerous proposition without the proper know-how. Thankfully, Terry Hale has provided an informative video explaining how it’s done here.

Being struck or crushed by a falling tree is a scary situation to be in, for sure. To see how to escape another terrifying scenario involving trees, check out our article on where to go from a wildfire.

~Here’s to Your Survival!

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