How to Clear and Process a Fallen Tree

From extreme weather to old age or disease, trees can fall suddenly for many reasons. Unfortunately, clearing them is no small task, especially in dense areas or if the tree has taken others down with it. 

But, having the right tools and equipment can make the process a whole lot easier. The STIHL chainsaw range, for example, makes light of even the most sizable tasks—helping you clear and process fallen trees quickly and safely. If you’ve got a fallen tree on your hands, this article will talk you through the whole clearing process, using a 150 year old Radiata Pine as an example. 

1. Assess the Fall Site
The first step is to evaluate the situation, which may get complicated if you have a mess of different trees obscuring the extent of the damage. If that’s the case, you may need to clear the first section of the affected area to see how the tree has fallen—and whether any of the neighbouring trees have been damaged in the process.

Once you’ve gathered your thoughts and assessed the damage, it’s good practice to safeguard any neighbouring trees, especially if the fallen tree has the potential to spread disease.

2. Assess the Timber Quality
After stabilising the fall site, the next step is to assess the quality of the fallen tree’s timber. This will help you understand what the timber can be used for, which should then dictate how it needs to be processed—for example, can it be used for building material, or would it best be suited for gardening mulch?

3. Clear the Tree
Once you’ve assessed the timber quality, you should then take the appropriate steps to make sure the entire ‘fall site’ is safe. If the tree is in a public space, rope the area off to make it inaccessible to the public. Then, clear the bulk of the material from the site to ensure clear access and sufficient space around the fallen tree.

With your end-product goal identified (i.e. knowing what you’ll use the timber for), you can then plan how to break the tree down as efficiently and safely as possible—devising which cuts needed to be made (and where), and by which chainsaws. It’s a good idea to match each task with the appropriate tools, for example, understanding when you need to bring out the most powerful and high-performance chainsaws, or if it’s better to use a midweight chainsaw. Remember, each have their purpose.

4. Rip the Log
With a clear plan in place, you can start to rip the log—a process where you’re cutting against the grain to pull through the harder cuts. For this you’ll want the most powerful chainsaws possible, which will help you break down the largest sections of the tree into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Two ideal chainsaws for this are the STIHL MS 661 and the STIHL MS 881. Here’s why:

The MS 881 pairs maximum performance with incredible fuel efficiency. STIHL’s 2-MIX engine outputs a mammoth 6.4kW in engine power, making the MS881 the world’s most powerful series-produced chainsaw—and hence why it’s the first choice for tree-felling professionals when it comes to processing larger trees.

It’s not just power you need for harvesting large trees, but also manoeuvrability. Every gram of weight counts, which is why the STIHL MS 661 C-M makes the job a whole lot easier—even for the professionals.

Weighing just 7.4 kg, yet still outputting 5.4 kW, with a 1.4kg/KW power to weight ratio, the MS 661 uses STIHL’s innovative M-Tronic electronic engine management to control the engine’s ignition timing and fuel supply, ensuring the best possible engine performance at all times—without the need for manual adjustments.

5. Blocking Up the Log
Once you’ve ripped the log, it’s time to block it up into smaller pieces. A midweight chainsaw is the ideal tool for this, offering the perfect blend of power and weight.

To avoid the saw being pinched by compression forces with the log, it’s good practice to make a series of small cuts into the log, before finalising the cut from the opposite side. This technique not only prevents the chainsaw from jamming within the timber, but it also prevents the chain from dulling. You can also use tools and wedges to prevent further jamming, and separate large sections when cutting.

For midweight cutting, we recommend either of the following class-leading chainsaws: the STIHL MS 500i and the MS 400 C-M. Both of these models are used prominently by tree, forestry, and arboriculture professionals. Here’s why:

The MS 500i is the Formula 1 of chainsaws. Not only is it the world’s first electronic fuel injected chainsaw, but it also provides unprecedented torque, rapid acceleration of the saw chain, and the best power to weight ratio in its class.

The light weight MS 400 C-M is a game changer—being the first chainsaw to use a magnesium piston. It offers versatility, performance, and reliability, with a 14% weight reduction. The magnesium piston ensures exceptional performance, speed, and handling, with great manoeuvrability to reduce operator fatigue.

6. Clear the Collateral Damage
During the clearing process, you may need to undertake additional tree surgeries to safeguard any neighbouring trees damaged by the pine as it fell. For example, this aerial work may include cleaning up the natural fractures from where the breaks occurred, removing any affected limbs, and removing broken hanging limbs.

To get this job done quickly and safely, the lightweight yet powerful MSA 161 T aerial battery chainsaw is the perfect choice.

The MSA 161 T is a battery chainsaw that’s changed the game for climbing and aerial work.
Using an extremely energy efficient, compact STIHL electric motor, the MSA 161 T is designed for everyday use, combining exceptional power, cutting performance, and user comfort.

7. Create a Sustainable Recycling Loop
We always recommend pursuing best-practice sustainability when clearing felled trees. Once your tree has been blocked down to manageable sized pieces, you can use it for a whole host of uses. For example, you could use a chipper to process smaller material for mulch, which is great for garden beds and planter boxes—or the timber may be suitable for larger gardening projects, like building raised beds.

With high-performance power and manoeuvrability delivered right across the STIHL professional range, our chainsaws are engineered to make light of the hardest tasks. You should be able to clear trees and safeguard all neighbouring trees from disease in just a day or two!

For more information on all of our STIHL chainsaws, visit our dedicated product page.