When it comes to forestry tools and felling tools in particular, we always hear about the usual suspects: felling wedges, chaps, and chainsaws (of course), but one of the most important tools to have in your arsenal is also the most neglected. That would be the felling lever. Felling levers have three main components : A wedge, a cant hook, and a handle. With these components, felling levers are great, multi-functional tools that help solve a variety of problems encountered in the woods. Namely, they can aid in helping to push a tree down, help roll out a hung-up tree, and help move logs on the ground. In this article, we will discuss felling levers, their uses, how they compare to other tools, and the different varieties available.
Felling Trees With a Lever.
Felling stubborn trees is the most valuable use of a felling lever and what differentiates it from any other forestry tool. To use the felling lever, insert the wedge of the lever into the back cut and then push down or lift (depending on how you set it in) to push the tree toward the direction of felling. This is particularly useful in tight stands with dense crowns. Providing a bit of leverage helps to overcome those crowns and fell the tree without further hiccups.
Felling Levers vs. Wedges
Felling Levers have much the same function as felling wedges–they help move stubborn trees that need a bit more motivation. What’s the difference? A felling lever has two main advantages.
- A felling lever can be deployed much more quickly. For a felling wedge, you have to get it out, sometimes make additional cuts on the tree to clean up the opening, and hit the wedge with the back of an axe until the tree falls, and when the wedge is all the way in, it has no more ability to aid. With a lever, you simply insert the wedge and lift or pull. Moreover, if you begin to run out of room, you can just reset the lever by pushing the wedge in further to the now-expanded back cut. The increased efficiency may be inconsequential if you are only felling a few trees, but when the operation is larger, such as when felling your own firewood or conducting a timber harvest, the time savings matter.
- A felling lever offers a quick acceleration boost at the beginning of the fall (particularly when felling younger timber), which dramatically increases the trees velocity, helping it to overcome branches of other trees. Thus, using the felling lever initially helps prevent the possibility of a tree getting hung-up on the way down. Once again, this represents dramatic time savings.
Rolling Out Hung-Up Trees
When a felling lever fails to prevent a tree from getting hung up, it can still provide assistance in fixing the situation. The attached cant hook allows the feller to hook onto the side of the stem and use the lever to roll the log, dislodging it from the branches of the other tree.
Hung-up trees represent of the largest time sinks in tree felling, as a single hang-up can cost you over an hour of time trying to get it down. Moreover, it is one of the most frustrating experiences of the entire process. Whenever there is frustration, there is the capacity for bad decision making, and felling trees is dangerous enough. When bad decisions are added to the mix, the outcome can be fatal. It is crucial that you equip yourself with the best and most effective tools for the job so you can deal with problems properly and safely, and felling levers help with that.
However, safely rolling out trees requires special care and considerations. Moreover, rolling trees out often does not do the trick, and more advanced strategies must be used. If you want to learn more about how to get hung-up trees down to the ground safely, we have an article on the subject here.
Moving Logs on the Ground
When trees are on the ground and ready to be limbed, felling levers and their attached cant hook still come in handy. They can be used to move logs around on the ground. This comes in handy when limbing a tree in particular. When limbing, I usually cut the top branches and the branches on the side, leaving the bottom branches to prop up the entire stem, making it easier for my back. After all the top and side branches are cut off, I kick the stem over and cut the bottom branches. Unfortunately, those branches are often embedded into the ground, making it difficult to move the stem. Thats where the felling lever comes in handy. I use the cant hook to lever the tree and push it to the side, where I can then finish the job.
Of course, this is not the only time you may need to move around logs on the ground. It can also work to help get your saw un pinched when bucking or positioning logs to more easily be moved with an arch or skidding cable. No matter the case, the felling lever comes to the rescue.
The Two Types of Felling Levers
Felling levers generally come in two varieties. Those with short handles used for smaller trees, and those with longer handles, which can provide more leverage for larger trees and tighter crowns. I tend to recommend the longer handled variety for its vastly increased leverage, but they are more expensive, and sometimes it can be difficult to find room for the handle when trying to set it. Ideally, its good to have both in your inventory, but if you can only have one, its probably best to have the longer handled variety. During my last timber harvest (pictured in this article), I only had the short handled variety on hand, and I regretted that selection MANY times.
An Essential Tool
Any tool that can save you from hardship out in the woods is worth its weight in gold, and the felling lever certain qualifies. Next time you have a felling project, be sure to pick one up. You will be glad you did.