The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 23, 2005


Tree Talk - Basic tools of the trade for working on trees

Fall is a traditional time for tree work; the weather is pleasant, the trees are dormant, winter storms are approaching and people start thinking about firewood. Whether you are contemplating "Do It Yourself" or contracting professionals, understanding the tools of the trade can help. Below is a summary of professional tools and technique.

Using ropes

A lot of tree work starts with rope. Small throw lines with weights are used to position larger rope for either rigging or climbing. Sometimes rigging is as easy as hand pulling to encourage a tree to fall in the desired direction when a notch cut is not sufficient. This is probably the most common homeowner job and with care it can be done safely. For more tug, trucks or other vehicles are used but this gets more dangerous, as snapped lines are lethal. When the fall direction is not in line with the vehicle, the rope can be redirected with a block pulley attached to a convenient tree. Rigging within the tree is done with pulleys and friction blocks that allow for controlled lowering of branches. Professional rigging lines or "bull rope" is generally 5/8 to 3/4 inch diameter, rated at over 10,000 pounds. Lengths average 150 feet.

Climbing the tree

Climbing is done with a saddle and a variety of knots and hardware that allow the worker to ascend a rope and travel throughout the tree. The line is 1/2 inch diameter and rated at 6,000 pounds plus. While not for the average homeowner, it is interesting that tree climbing and rock climbing have hybridized into recreational tree climbing.

An alternative to rope is gaffs or "spikes." These can be strapped to each foot and used with a "buckstrap" to ascend a tree. These are quick and secure but because of the consequent bark damage are used only on removals.

When the tree is off the driveway or otherwise accessible, a bucket truck can be very efficient. Height and reach vary around 70 feet. As with any tree work, hard frozen ground is ideal for access. Cranes can also be invaluable. Their long reach and weight capacity can allow for large trees to be lifted right up and over houses. Cranes and bucket trucks are often essential when a tree cannot be trusted for climbing.

Orchard ladders (10 to 16 feet) have three legs for excellent stability and work great for pruning ornamentals. Although professionals rarely use extension ladders they can be used safely if the tree is sound and the ladder is well secured.

Chainsaws: Homeowner models with sharp chains work great for small jobs but at some point the vibration, limited power and short bar length can be limiting. Lightweight climbing, or "bucketsaws" are excellent when aloft but ironically seem to be more dangerous on the ground because of the ability and temptation to use them one-handed. They're cute but don't buy one. Professionals under-appreciate electric chainsaws, but they can be quite useful. There is no fuel/oil mixing, they always start, they're quiet and because they start and stop so easily they are especially useful for firewood. It should also be noted that a lot of work is done with simple handsaws.

Chippers: Tree guys typically haul around large machines in the 10—14 inch diameter range. Homeowners however can rent 6-inch diameter machines with hydraulic feed rollers that will munch though amazingly large trees and huge piles of brush. At $135/day these are a deal.

Stumpgrinders: These self propelled units are a perfect DIY project. They are easy to rent and operate. Many tree companies rent the same machines.

Safety equipment should include helmets (homeowners too!), hearing and eye protection, gloves and protective clothing.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito