How to fell a hung up tree

Holding on by a thread... The birch tree was leaning against a neighboring tree in this precarious position.

Holding on by a thread… This birch tree was leaning against a neighboring tree in this precarious position.

During one of the bad wind storms last  year, I noticed an entire birch tree partially broke at the base of the trunk.  The tree continued to live, but it was hung up on another birch tree and couldn’t fall completely to the ground.  Even though the tree was still living per se, it was a continuous hazard and could fall during the next windstorm or breeze depending on the strength of the tree it was leaning against.

I decided it was time to take it down completely, but I didn’t want to risk cutting the tree down that it was hung up on.  Too dangerous.  Amazingly enough, I was going to unhang the tree without using a chainsaw, axe or any cutting tool.  Instead I was going to use two log chains and a newly purchased tool, a 2 ton come-a-long.  This is also dangerous to do, and I took my time studying the situation before I attached the chains and started pulling.

Being pulled in different directions... This birch tree is being pulled by gravity, the 2nd chain on the right, and the come-a-long and 1st chain pulling the support tree on the left.

Being pulled in different directions… This birch tree is being pulled down by gravity, the 2nd chain on the right, and the come-a-long and 1st chain pulling the support tree on the left.

The first chain I hooked up was to pull the fallen tree away from the support tree it was hung up on.  I attached the chain to the fallen tree and a sturdy tree nearby.  I then used the come-a-long to ratchet the tree away from the support tree using the chain connection I set up.  However, this did not work, and so I had to add another step.  I then used my second chain to support the fell tree to the nearby tree just ratcheted,  and I unratcheted the come-a-long and first chain.   I then took the first chain and come-a-long and hooked it to the main support tree and hooked it up to a sturdy tree nearby and pulled the support tree in the opposite direction, knowing the falling tree was still secured and pulled in the opposite direction with the second chain.

Ready for the next job... I have two log chains 1, 3/8" x 14 ft. and the other 5/16" x 20 ft. Above is the already stressed come-a-long.

Ready for the next job… I have two log chains 1, 3/8″ x 14 ft. and the other 5/16″ x 20 ft. Above is the already stressed come-a-long.

As I ratcheted the support tree, I could hear popping noises from the branches up above and a few branches began to fall to the ground.  I was aware this was a strong possibility, so I was wearing my hard hat I use for felling trees.  I also brought a thick old towel to throw over the come-a-long just in case the cable was stretched beyond its 2 ton limit.  The towel could add needed time to my escape from a possibly snapping cable if the come-a-long broke.  However, the towel was not needed this time.  Shortly after tightening the support tree, the falling tree finally gave way and fell to the ground.

Safely down... The tree is safely down without the need of cutting. Thanks to the chains and come-a-long.

Safely down… The tree is safely down without the need of cutting. Thanks to the chains and come-a-long.

Once the tree was safely down, I began bucking it into small rounds to be split and stacked in the woodshed.   The felled tree was showing signs of deterioration and probably would not have survived another winter.  It was better to collect the firewood now to prevent an accident from the next storm.  Also, I don’t like seeing potential firewood going to waste.

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