Ice storm tree down

Someplace just to show that reel collectors do have a life
Paul Roberts
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Re: Ice storm tree down

Post by Paul Roberts »

Thanks for the link.

Yes, a cord is a lot of wood. I’m not an experienced judge. Seeing that big beech into a measurable firewood stack helped. A cord out of one big (20” dbh) tree. Next up is a large ash (17” dbh) that has fallen victim to the ash borers. It’ll conveniently fall right in my back yard. I guesstimate it’ll yield between 1/2 and 3/4 cord?

And, yeah, a cord of firewood is a lot of work. Most efficient to let the professionals do it and purchase it from them. But the place here needs the attention. And I enjoy the work. It is satisfying. I joked with my wife that I can’t wait for winter. :)

Not sure how many years I’ll be able to do it. Trying to work smart and safely. My neighbor, who owns the tractor and splitter, is 75 and still at it. He’s been a triathlete so he’s earned some of that longevity. I gave him a hookeroon and after using it he commented that he didn’t know how he got along without one all these years.
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Re: Ice storm tree down

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Felled a dead Red Oak today that was beside my driveway where I park my truck. It appeared mostly sound, but had a fair amount of punky wood too, esp near the top. It was only a matter of time. I literally hear a tree fall weekly in this mature forest around my home. One came down not far behind the house just today, in fact.

Hazard trees —ones that should come down— often present challenges, risks. It’s not like you can pick and choose which ones you’d like to fell. You have what you’re presented with; Leans, twists, turns, dead limbs above, hanger risks, terrain, not to mention the reason you feel the need to fell it in the first place: buildings and power lines being primary. The dead limbs, way up there, wiggled when I pounded my fist on the trunk. I’d have to keep my eyes on them as I worked.

The tree had a leaning base, that had then corrected itself as it grew. This always makes judging where gravity would like to take it a bit tricky. There was no appreciable asymmetrical limb mass above to worry about. But, again, the upper end of the trunk and limbs up there were quite punky, making them in danger of breaking off while the tree is worked on.

The biggest concern was a telephone pedestal box about 10ft away, with the upper (growth corrected) lean pointing that way. The second concern was another maple nearly in line with the basal lean, with a large fork in it, perfect for hanging my target tree solidly.

I could choose the lower or the upper lean. Because the upper part of the tree had shed most of its branches, was quite punky (therefore somewhat reduced in weight), and was roughly symmetrical, I went with the bottom lean, where most of the mass was -what the BC Faller training videos call the “dominant lean”.

To avoid the forked maple I decided to add an asymmetric hinge to my cut to, hopefully, swivel the tree as it fell, away from the forked maple. I cleared two escape paths bc I wasn’t positive where it wanted to go. I took a deep breath, and started my cuts.

I made a shallow face cut, bc of the relatively narrow trunk (~12” dbh), so that I’d be able to employ a wedge. I made just enough back cut, to insert a wedge, taking it slow bc the tree had punky wood up and down its entirety. I didn’t want it to suddenly cave. With each strike of the 3lb hammer, the upper limbs quivered, so I made a strike or two then waited for them to settle before continuing. I alternately sawed a bit, and struck the wedge.

When the hinge was as thin as I dared, I went at the wedge, until, eventually, the trunk had swallowed the entire wedge. Bummer. What this signaled was that either the tree wanted to fall in another direction, or, it was well balanced on top of the stump and wedge. I wished I’d used two stacked wedges to give the trunk a bit more lift. So, I put my hands on the trunk and pushed, watching those limbs high above. In case gravity had other plans I didn’t want to get the tree rocking as it might go over the wrong way. Then, with enough pressure, I heard a crack. I pushed harder and got another. I pushed again and… the tree started to go. Once started, it came down just where I’d been aiming, rolling a bit with the asymmetrical swivel hinge, the trunk twisting off the stump to end up lying on the thick side of the hinge. The tree hit the gravel driveway hard enough to bounce up off the ground. That’s a mighty big baseball bat! Best to step away from a falling tree, even one that is falling away from you.

Phew! Felling trees is always risky business. Those are some serious forces you are responsible for unleashing, and not always entirely foreseeable. Some trees more than others. It takes some careful planning. And when the decisions are made, a deep breath and crossed fingers. Pretty satisfying when things go well. Mostly bc i didn’t do something stupid.

EDIT: Split for firewood and found it to be a red oak not sugar maple. Tree was young enough that the bark hadn’t started plating yet. Red oak smells like cinnamon when burned. Wonderful.

Assymetric hinge:

Perfect landing! Phew!
Last edited by Paul Roberts on Sun Aug 07, 2022 3:52 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Mike N
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Re: Ice storm tree down

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That’s an interesting post, Paul. Great hinge cut and smart use of the felling wedge, but you’re right, it’s a risky business even for the pros. Sugar maple is very hard; I made our dining room table out of sugar maple.

My biggest concern nowadays in felling trees seems to be the invasive, wild grapevines that tangle them all up around the tops and hang them up. It’s scary.

My neighbor had a large cherry fall in a wind storm last week and it reminded me of the tree that fell during the ice storm across my driveway that started this thread. The two trees were about an acre apart from one another. The small uprooted root balls of each of these big cherry trees are confusing to me and I’m going to ask a arborist why these mature root balls are so shallow. Here is the recent tree:



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Re: Ice storm tree down

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Wow. I think many people don't realize how capricious forests are. Also, I'm old enough now to have seen trees grow. And many die and come down. Many of the farms in the NE where I've lived periods of my life have rows of trees, usually maples or Norway Spruce, planted in front of homesteads, representing family members. The idea was a wish for the longevity that trees represent. I've seen those trees all my life, and just recently I've begun to see them dying off and being taken down. Interesting perspective. Apparently, 80 to 150yrs is the lifespan of most hardwoods in the NE US, compared to up to 1500 years for oaks in the UK.

And, yes, we have lots of grapevines here too, some quite large. Haven't had to deal with one of those in a tree yet.

I've always thought that shallow roots are mostly due to very wet soil. However, I suppose it can happen where there is poor mineral soil, or bedrock, close to the surface?

Post an image of your maple table, if you can.
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Mike N
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Re: Ice storm tree down

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Paul Roberts wrote: Mon Aug 01, 2022 2:10 pm
Post an image of your maple table, if you can.



I had a welder make the table legs to my design for under $200 and then painted them black with spray painted gold banding…
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The sideboard serving table is made from the same sugar maple tree. In the old days, these slabs would have been treated as scrap firewood. Each piece got 10 coats of pure tung oil from Canada. No polyurethane.



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Re: Ice storm tree down

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And what’s a sugar maple table without some actual sugar tap holes?



Sugar maple is known for its great spalting, which is a discoloration induced by a fungus while the tree is growing…
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Re: Ice storm tree down

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Beautiful! Love the character in that wood. The tap hole is very cool. Very nice!
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Re: Ice storm tree down

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In 4 months (April,May, June & July) the uncovered wood has really dry seasoned in the sun:

From this:



To this, which is much lighter after the water loss:

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Re: Ice storm tree down

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Incredible !!! Mine does the same thing .
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Re: Ice storm tree down

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Mike, i really love those maple tables! And i love the tung oil finish. Do you find it durable enough and resistant to water marks and stains? I guess i always go with Varethane on surfaces like that to yield a tougher finish, but maybe its a needless concern.
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Re: Ice storm tree down

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It’s been a relatively dry summer so far. At least compared to last summer.

I love how tung oil brings out the color, grain, and character, too. Curious how it holds up as well.
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Mike N
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Re: Ice storm tree down

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John and Paul:

I like Lee Valley products from Ontario and use their 100% pure tung oil. It takes a while for each coat to dry, but the finish is superior— no water marking or other problems over the past 5 or so years on several tables.



Here is the table raw and then with the first two (of ten) coats of tung oil, letting each coat dry for 72 hours then sanding lightly.




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Re: Ice storm tree down

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Once again a very informative and fascinating thread, I had never heard of Tung oil and had to google it. Now I know what it is. I used teak oil when we had our wooden kitchen worktops made, and now I know that the basis is tung oil and linseed oil. Many thanks.
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Re: Ice storm tree down

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Since I've been plugging away in the woods, (rather than on the water), I thought I'd add some felling stories to the thread. I find the challenges of —as well as the tools and techniques developed for— felling trees fascinating; In the understanding of, and safely dealing with, the tremendous tension and compression forces locked up in them.

This 11”dbh (diameter at breast height) Hemlock obscured the view to the woods. It had two leans: a basal lean and a corrective growth lean further up the trunk. I wasn’t sure which lean gravity would favor —what’s called the dominant lean. The basal lean leaned toward a cluster of 3 maples I didn’t want to hang up in. So that was out. The upper lean offered some open ground as a target area. Only issue was a stand of pretty Witch Hazel that I didn’t want the tree to crush, so I needed to keep my tree in the opening. And, the upper lean started about 5ft up the trunk, meaning I’d be cutting at nearly eye level. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself…

There was another issue that had to be taken care of before any plan could be attempted. Hemlocks have a lot of branches and several had grown out behind a large Pignut Hickory standing right next to the hemlock. The hemlock’s branches were so close —one even pressed against the hickory— they would likely impact the hemlocks fall before it could gain any momentum. Once it did gain momentum, other branches, hooking the hickory, could turn the falling hemlock in an undesired direction. Far enough that to play it safe I rolled the log splitter out of the way. I then set about clearing those offending limbs with a pole-saw.

I have a 16ft pole-saw but a couple of the offending limbs were just beyond my reach. I got a large cooler out of the garage to stand on to get one. Then a step ladder, and my wife to steady it, to get the other. Better safe than sorry.

On to the plan: To take advantage of the upper lean I had to cut about 5ft up the trunk. I used a Humboldt (reverse) face-cut simply bc it was easier to do at that height. I then made an asymmetrical back-cut, and applied a wedge, to be sure the tree would fall in my planned opening. I still didn’t fully trust my read of the dominant lean. The Humbolt cut —essentially a drop-off— is supposed to accelerate the fall which might also help in turning the trunk on the hinge as it fell. I popped in a wedge, made a few more cuts, popped the wedge again, and down she went, coming to rest with a resounding “Whump!” just beside the hazel bushes. The impact loosed a couple dead branches from the mature oak towering over the opening the hemlock landed next to; Another risk that fellers should be looking out for as they work.

The hemlock was easy limbing and bucking, despite all the branches conifers have. I first cleared the top and side limbs, before deciding which of the lower ones to clear next because they held the trunk off the ground and cutting the main supporting ones could allow the trunk to roll over. The entire tree was cut into slash as hemlock is considered poor firewood.

Upper Lean:

Humboldt face-cut:

Assymetrical Hinge:

Whump!


Here’s how multiple leans can develop in trees, revealed upon splitting a round of ash for firewood. The ash’s sapling wood, at about 10yrs of age, is preserved in the center of the tree’s trunk, showing a bend it had taken around some offending obstruction; Probably another tree that had fallen against it. If a sapling is bent over by an obstruction during its young years, the sapling’s reach for light will correct its growth, clearing the obstruction to grow upwards again.
Last edited by Paul Roberts on Mon Aug 08, 2022 9:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Mike N
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Re: Ice storm tree down

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Very professional felling cuts, Paul. And that last photo of the tree growth pattern is interesting.

I’ve always liked the soft boughs of the Eastern Hemlock (easy to mow under, unlike the prickly Blue Spruce) and planted a few dozen along one of my property lines 30 years ago. They’re approaching 60’ in height and typically reach 100’.

The hemlock is the state tree of Pennsylvania and is traditionally long-lived— one in Tionesta, PA, which I suspect is near you, was estimated to be over 500 years old. Alas, yet another non-native, invasive insect, the nasty wooly adelgid, is destroying hundreds of acres of hemlock. Cornell University is introducing a beetle from the Pacific Northwest that feeds on the wooly adelgid larvae, but the introduction process is a slow one.
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Re: Ice storm tree down

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Hemlocks sure are pretty, and great wintering habitat for grouse and other critters. We have a lot of hemlocks here, some quite large. Neat that you planted some and have that perspective on their growth.

I got to see the ravages of wooly adelgids in the hudson valley about 10 yrs ago or so. Very sad. Appears they aren't much of a problem here in W PA, at least yet.
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Re: Ice storm tree down

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Talking about the challenges trees have in surviving... Here's a small beech that was crushed at one point, causing the trunk to "barber chair" (a timbering term when a tree trunk splits when falling -potentially very dangerous if you happen to be doing the cutting). The tree then lived on and it appears one branch has plans to become a tree unto itself! :)
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