How To Cut Down A Tree Without A Chainsaw (A DIY Guide)


Cut off its branches. And if it has shorter vines, get rid of those too.

First, you have to assess the situation. If the tree is more than 3m away from any buildings, power lines, or road, you can proceed without a chainsaw. 

I have seen people falling trees with their hands and it is actually quite impressive how quickly they can do it. 

However, not all of us are that talented so the rest of us will need some basic tools that most hobbyist/DIY enthusiasts are likely to have easy access to – hammer, hacksaw, chisel, or axe.

How to cut down a tree without a chainsaw?


1). To start off you want to remove as much of the bark as possible using your hacksaw or chisel (a Stanley knife also works well but make sure it’s strong enough). 

You want to remove all of the bark around the tree down to the cambium layer which is just under the bark. 

I have seen people doing this with a hammer and chisel but since using them requires so much strength, it makes this stage extremely time-consuming.

2). Next you are going to want to cut through the trunk of the tree about 20 cm away from your initial cut so that you can now remove as much bark as possible from around that section as well as create a notch big enough for the saw blade to fit into. 

If you do not have a chainsaw then I would recommend making sure that there is at least 1 meter of uncut trunk left below the notch. Otherwise when it falls over it could potentially fall on someone or something else which could be very dangerous.

3). The final step is to cut through the notch to fall the tree. I would recommend cutting off about 5cm of wood so that your blade can cut to the ground. 

If not then this means that you will have at least 1m of the uncut trunk for stability when it falls over. It is also better to cut slightly lower than higher because if you hit any rocks or roots on your way down then this could potentially cause problems with the fall of your tree. 

Here are some instructions on how to cut down a tree with an axe:


1). Make sure there’s nothing around the area where you’ll be working. Don’t forget to also check around the roots of the tree.

2). Using your axe cut straight through the trunk, aiming for the center of the tree. Keep in mind that if you need to cut more than an inch into it, then there’s no way you can do this by yourself on such short notice.

3). Make sure that when you’re done cutting on one side, you’ve made a notch (or ” kerf )” on the other side so that the cambium layer is exposed. This makes it easier for your sawdust and wood chips to fall out. 

You can accomplish this with another axe strike which doesn’t even have to be too accurate because its purpose is just for removing unnecessary parts of the bark. After you’ve made the notch, you can start sawing.

4). To avoid backache you can always ask for help from a friend or neighbor to pull down the tree after both of you have sawed through it about halfway up. No need to thank us, we’re just trying to be helpful. 

When felling a tree or even limbing one, there are several things to keep in mind:

1). Safety– This can be said about pretty much everything but this is especially true when dealing with large trees and branches. Always keep an eye on the direction of the fall so as not to injure oneself or other people.   

Trees should ideally fall parallel to the ground and never perpendicular (straight up). Branches should also never fall towards another person. 

If a large branch falls parallel to the ground and is caught by a gust of wind it could turn into a missile and knock you down or worse.

2). Direction– This ties in with the safety aspect, but it mostly deals with which way a tree will fall when cut. A safe direction of fall should be chosen so that falling debris does not have to go far before hitting the ground. 

If only one side of a tree leans further from its base than the other, all branches on that leaning side may snap off quickly once enough weight has been removed from the other side if this leaning side is cut first. 

To avoid tipping over while widening a path through heavy brush or while limbing one needs to be aware of how close together trees are located. 

One may need to cut one tree significantly shorter than the other so that it doesn’t bump into other trees while falling.

3). Speed– This should be considered once you have chosen a safe direction of fall and are ready to begin felling or limbing. Once you make your vertical cut always keep an eye on the remaining top half of the tree in case this top portion decides to fall before you are ready for it. 

When starting your initial cut make sure not to go straight down but rather at an angle, at least 45 degrees away from where you want it to go. You can do this by establishing a line between both points (tree trunk and ground), then draw a line halfway towards the ground from each point creating two angles. 

The cut will be made along this line between the two angles. It may seem to go against common sense to start a cut further back from where you want it but this allows for more control over the tree’s fall and also helps prevent injury.

Continued If your previous cut was not good enough to guarantee a downward direction of fall, use a second cut parallel to your first one roughly 10-20 centimeters above it. 

This will create a hinge effect allowing for faster felling or limb removal while providing extra support on the opposite side.

You can tell by now that quite often speed is required in some cases when cutting trees even though it could potentially endanger the person doing so. 

But there are many times when time is not of the essence and a more controlled feeling or limbing can take place. In this case, one can make a “back cut” on the opposite side from where they want the tree to fall. 

This means starting a small incision about half an inch into the trunk then cutting straight towards it starting from far away, rather than directly at it. This back cut helps direct falling by creating a hinge effect which will help control how quickly and exactly in what direction the tree falls. 


Once you have made your initial cuts there are some other things you need to keep in mind:

1). Reducing kickback

2). Limbing/fellying – If this is your goal trees that lean in the direction of the cut have an advantage when being limbed. 

This is because when limbs are cut from a tree that leans opposite of where you want it to fall they will tend to end up closer to the trunk and therefore easier to manage.

3). The “spring effect” – This is another reason why speed comes into play especially when cutting close to the ground. 

If you see a small knot on the opposite side from where your incision was made it is possible this wood grain can hit for this wood grain to hit or bend towards the felled part of the tree if close enough which could cause legs or arms to be completely knocked out from under someone. 

Once this has been done there’s no going back so make sure not to get overzealous with multiple cuts too close to the ground. It is also suggested when cutting particularly large trees that one should remove their gloves. 

This helps you to get a better grip on the saw or axe, if this is done it’s important not to expose bare skin for too long in case of unintentional contact with the nearest tree.

5). Falling – Once you can tell which way most of your branches are going to go and where they will end up once on the ground you will want to make sure only designated ones fall. 

This is by making another series of vertical cuts starting about 45 degrees away from each branch you don’t want them touching. 

This allows for more control over the direction they are falling in because these perpendicular incisions redirect their momentum towards either side as well as speed up how quickly it falls. 

Keeping the branches near the top of your tree is also an advantage because they are lighter and easier to move away from where you want to stand or walk.

By now, if this hasn’t been made obvious enough, it should be pretty clear that cutting down a tree should not be taken too lightly. 

Even though I have mentioned these techniques as a sort of humorous checklist many times people can get injured simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

It’s important to remember everything about your surroundings before getting out there with an axe as well as what kind of area those around you will be in when/if something goes wrong.


When making cuts around both sides of 4-5 cm apart until it eventually collapses due to weight and gravity pulling it down towards the direction which has less resistance, usually downwards where no trunks are holding up the weight.