Size Up the Tree
Start by studying the tree. Don't cut it down if you see:
- Dead branches that are broken but attached, or that are actually broken off and supported by other branches. You're bound to knock a branch loose and have it fall on you.
- It is obviously leaning in one direction or heavily loaded with branches on one side. It will fall in the direction of the lean or load despite your best efforts.
- There are buildings, fences, power lines or other things you care about in the felling zone. If so, skip the felling and call a pro.
Anatomy of a Proper Notch
Plan the Notch
You're going to be cutting a notch on the “fall” side of the trunk. Sight along the handle and adjust the saw until it's pointing toward your fall direction. The spot where the bar touches the bark will be the center of the notch. Before cutting, lay out the notch by marking with chalk or by scoring the bark with the chain saw. Make the notch at a comfortable working height. (You can always shorten the stump later.)