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How to Properly Chop Down a Tree

No, you don't need a beard and a flannel shirt. Just a reliable axe and some good, old-fashioned muscle.

If you want a rush of testosterone-spiked adrenaline, felling a tree with nothing more than a sturdy axe and some muscle is a damn good way to do it. Using a chainsaw or hiring a pro is easier, sure, but there's something to be said for a little old school axe swinging.

1. Choose the right gear

First, you need the right tools. A hatchet or boy's axe like in the above image might be alright for a very small tree, but take on anything sizable and you're going to be swinging away for hours. Better to reach for a full-sized felling axe with a 36" length and a head that's around 3 lbs. And to be safe, grab some safety goggles and gloves as well, unless you don't mind blisters and eye injuries.

2. Know you escape plan

Figure out which way you want your tree to fall — and then plan which way you'll scamper in order not to be there when the thing comes down. Make sure that it's got a clear path so that it won't crash onto your car, or nestle into a nearby tree and get stuck.

3. Start swinging

Chop in wedges instead of straight on.
Chop in wedges instead of straight on.
Don't just hack away in a straight line and expect the thing to come down after a few swings. You won't manage much besides getting your axe lodged into the tree. Instead, chop at a 45 degree angle , creating a wedge in the trunk.

Start with the side you plan for the tree to fall towards, and cut a wedge through one third of the tree. Once that's done, switch to the other side of the tree and do the same thing, chopping halfway through. That'll leave a bit of the tree intact, keeping it attached to the base as it falls until the last moment. Otherwise, the bottom of the now dislodged tree could kick up and hit you in the face as it falls.

4. Let it fall

Once you're far enough through, gravity will take over. That's your cue to get the hell out of the way and watch it fall from a safe distance.

Now you've some work to do cleaning up. Hope you know how to chop your own wood.

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