What It Takes to Perform Tree Service Work

December 6, 2017   /   byPuget Sound Life  / Categories :  Puget Sound General

Thought this article might be interesting about what all is involved in preparing for a tree service job.

I have been running a tree service company for 10 years in Bellingham WA.

The first duty being asked about is the rope and saddle. I use the Buckingham Economy Saddle. On the right side of the saddle I have a Petzl Macrograbber for flipline adjusting. It is secured to the Buckingham saddle with a 5/8ths galvanized shackle.

Also on the right side of the Buckingham saddle I have a three foot lanyard with an autolocking steel clip hard spliced into the end to secure the chainsaw.

On the left side of the Buckingham saddle, I clip a lowering rope and a repelling rope onto the lightweight ring toward the back of the saddle. I use a locking Petzl William Carabiner Tri-Act Gate for the repelling rope.

I am constantly on the look-out for frayed or damaged spots on the repelling rope. I prefer a thicker repelling rope. The ½ Arbor-Plex works well.

The lowering rope I use is determined by the application. Most of the work I do is close quarters and requires lowering of branches and rounds. The lowering ropes vary in length from 150′ to 300′.

On the left side of the Buckingham there is a small clip. I carry a Fanno 22″ Hand saw. This is used for pruning small branches as I ascend and also as a catch device on situations where I need that extra reach to grab the flipline whipped around the tree.

Other devices on the Buckingham include:

Standard figure 8 for repelling and potential maneuvers while in the tree.

I like to carry a 10′ rope flipline with a Prusik hitch. This allows for extra stabilizing before making cuts. It also allows for quick attachment as I ascend through branches, keeping me tied in at all times.

On the left side small ring I have attached a small line that has a wedge secured on it.

The next duty asked to describe on the application is the lift truck operation.

I have owned a 1963 55′ Ford High Ranger for four years. First I check all fluids. Brake, oil, transmission, and radiator. As well as the hydraulic tank reservoir. Then I start the engine and do a visual inspection of the engine. I do a visual inspection on the tires and check all the lights for proper working order.

Then I engage the main hydraulic level in the cab and begin to inspect for any broken or damaged hydraulic lines. I lower the outriggers to insure smooth operation. I operate the boom from a manual position on the deck, and then climb into the bucket to test the working order of the bucket hydraulic controls.

I follow all guidelines outlined in the American National Standards manual for Arboricultural Operation/ ANSI Z133.1 Section Aerial Devices. Briefly explained:

I am aware of:

Load capacities of the boom, I set wheel chocks if the wheels are on the ground after lowering the outriggers, I constantly scan in the direction I am travelling, I set up for proper traffic clearances, I maintain proper distance for electrical lines, lift branches off lines with pull ropes before cutting, insure area below before releasing branches to the ground, and constantly monitor for any potential danger.

I operated at this level with the High Ranger for two years. 90% of the tree removals that I do I have to climb. I decided that for me and my business the cost of maintaining the truck was not necessary. I use the bucket truck on my personal property but do not currently use it for my tree service.

Operation of brush chippers:

I have thousands of hours of brush chipping experience. The key to efficient chipping is proper staging of the branches. Cedars are the most difficult. On branches that have multiple smaller branches coming off of the main branch I trim them off. It’s easier not to fight the branches when stacking and then feeding into the chipper.

The staging of the branches depends on the job site. Most of the time the branches are placed curb-side and fed into the chipper while standing toward the curb-side of the infeed hopper.

I use a Husqvarna Pro Forest Helmet System, and always where full length chainsaw safety chaps and a pair of gloves. I keep a smaller saw, an echo cs-370, next to me under the tray to work with any difficult feeding branches.

I own a 1985 Woodchuck W/C-12. It utilizes a single drum with four single edge cutter knives. I have three sets of knives and keep two sets sharp while the third is in use. I replace them as needed and have them professional sharpened. I personally switch out the cutter knives. The woodchuck is driven by a six cylinder Ford 360 engine. It runs on regular gasoline.

Before towing and operating the chipper I inspect all fluids, check all belts for excess ware, tires, towing lights, I inspect the chute for debris, and make sure there is no small pieces of wood that could cause the drum to bind as I engage the drum belt. The chipper safety chains are crossed under the tongue of the chipper and secured to the towing vehicle.

The Woodchuck is from a different era. It’s very effective but demands respect. Safety techniques used on the Woodchuck 12 compared to other modern chippers is different.

Since I would be employed using modern chippers I will describe my experience in using a typical modern chippers that I occasionally rent. The most common brush chipper that I rent is the Vermeer 600XL. The process of inspection and maintenance is the same as the Woodchuck, so I will focus on operation.

I think this is very similar if not the same model that I see at the green yard at Woburn and Lakeway. This is a very safe machine to use. It has a gear feeding system that pulls the branch into the drum and cutting knives at a rate of speed not to chock the machine. The safety bar on the top of the infeed hopper allows you to stop the feed gear, and almost instantly put the gears into reverse to help with difficult branches. You can adjust the feed gears speed and at full speed this little chipper can eat a lot of material fast and safe.

There are two types of chipper feeding. One is where the branches are stacked at a reach so that the operator can turn around in place, grab the branch and place the butt end into the feeder. If staged properly the operator should be able to stay fairly planted while grabbing and feeding this type of staged material. He should be working curb-side when doing street work. Full safety gear as described above is required by anyone near the operation of the brush chipper.

The second type of chipping is when the debris has to be carried to the chipper as the machine is running. Because the feed gear system in modern chippers is slower, it is my opinion to have a dedicated ground crew person responsible to feed the chipper. This frees the crew to return quickly and retrieve the next branch, while the brush chipper operator can deal with difficult branches. By switching positions throughout the day, the crew can be placed in less strenuous activities.

Understanding how to clear a clogged chute is important. It’s easy and depending on the exact brush chipper the city uses will be learned quickly.

As the chip truck fills the brush chipper chute can be adjusted easily to fill the chip truck evenly.

The next duty asked about is spur climbing.

Large tops are often pulled over with a rope to insure safety away from dwellings. Look close and you can see the rope on the 100′ white fir.

Before I leave my shop it’s important to inspect the spurs. I make sure all the nuts and bolts are tight on the spurs and that straps are not starting to tear. I feel the tips to see if they need sharpened. I have an extra set of straps incase one breaks while in the tree.

The most important aspect of spur climbing is to never be un-tied from the tree. This requires a second flip-line, and a sometimes the use of the repelling rope. Dismantling the tree and removal of branches is easier if you can get your repelling rope high above all the work. Once tension is placed on the repelling line, I can move out onto smaller branches. I use a second flipline, around 10′ with a self locking clip and a prusik knot to make fine adjustments to secure my position before cutting.

When climbing slippery trees, birches and alders, poplars, trees with smooth bark, I like to leave a branch stub about every 20 feet. I have had booth spurs kick out and gone into a free slide. By going limp the flipline catches and stops you but I like the feeling of those extra stops. It’s only happened once over 10′ in seven years.

If I am limbing a tree prior to falling it, I like to keep my main flipline secured around the tree as I descend with the repelling rope. I can get down quick enough by keeping the flipline loose and I like that extra safety precaution against a rope failure.

One aspect of spur climbing is traversing between trees while aloft. This saves a tremendous amount of time and energy. I use a couple different methods to get over to the other tree. It really depends on branch structure how I do it.

One way is to go up on the tree that I am on, set and tie into my repelling line, go back down the tree enough to where I can pull myself to the other tree and have proper angles to complete the maneuver. I find a two foot piece of wood and secure to my lowering rope. I look for an open but tight crotch to throw the piece of wood through. Once the anchor wood is secured, I lower down a few more feet to help hold the anchor in place. Then I pull hand over hand into the adjacent tree. If possible I like to leave my flipline on the tree I am vacating, until I am planted in the new tree.

Another method is to plant the repelling line high, go down, and pull myself over using the branches of the other tree. This works good too.

The final technique I will discuss in spur climbing is going up small tops. On poplars you might have to go 30′ up a six inch branch. There is always a caution that the tree may break out from under you. To allow for this possibility I like to secure my repelling rope 20′ below where I plan on cutting the top. This would be a jolt if the tree broke out above that tie-in but I may be 150′ high, and 20′ doesn’t sound so bad.

Rigging systems and tools: Port-a-wrap III, pulleys, a 5/8ths and 3/4inch CMI Stainless Steel Arborist Blocks, Eye-slings, shackles.

With the above tools I can lower anything on a tree. Depending on the length of the rope in comparison to the tree I may make a timber hitch, but preferably a cow hitch to secure the block to the tree. The lowering rope is wrapped around the piece to come off and tie an overhand knot as close to the cut as possible, you should have enough rope to go up approx. two feet and do the same. Clip the end on. Once the piece to be lowered is tied on the ground crew will tighten the lowering rope. The lowering rope is wrapped around the Port-a -wrap at least four times. The ground crew is away from the base of the tree holding the lowering rope tight. When the piece is cut the pressure of the weight will cause the lowering rope to have some release allowing the wood to be less shocking to the rope. The ground crew will then slowly release tension and allow the wood to come gently to the ground.

Felling, limbing and bucking is the duty asked about next. People have written books on these subjects. I have the experience to safely get trees to the ground, but I am not above learning better techniques. One of my main study books is G.F. Beraneks The Fundamentals of General Tree Work. Although I have had the book for seven years I still re-read sections to see if I can pick something up that would improve safety and or speed on operation.

Felling trees is all about physics. Where ever the weight is over equilibrium the tree is going to fall. A lot of felling applications are very difficult to read. Branch weight to one side, wind at the top verses at ground level, topology, all will have influence on the direction of the fall. Because I work mainly in residential environments I prefer to pull most trees. By climbing near the top and creating as close to a 45 degree angle as you can get with your pull rope, and then pulling the tree with a come-a-long, the % of error is reduced to an acceptable level. As I am climbing to set the pull rope, I will lower any heavy branches that may cause conflict in the intended direction of the fall. A little extra time but much safer and accurate.

Even when pulling the tree over with bull rope, as soon as the back cut is deep enough I will place my first wedge and hammer it in with a small sledge hammer. This helps to get the tree moving in the desired direction, prevents set back if the rope becomes slack, and helps to keep the chain for binding.

The are many techniques for felling trees. The basic is a face cut, no more than a third way through the tree. When cutting for money I use a humbolt cut, but they take a little more time to do and are not necessary for fire wood applications, so I’ll use a conventional face cut on most. As your finishing the depth of the face cut you want to check the gun. There is a small raised mark on chainsaws that allow you to aim the face cut to the desired fall line. With that mark lined up and a straight back cut the tree will grab hold of the hinge wood and cause the tree to follow the desired fall line. There are so many factors involved, and each tree is different.

Proper limbing techniques are important to know for both safety reasons and from keeping the saw from getting pinched. You can lead the branch in the direction you desire by following the same procedure as felling a tree. If you need the branch to drop parallel to the ground you place a cut under the branch and then at full speed place the saw above that cut and go hard. The branch will snap and float down. One way to get the branch to land at the base of the tree is to cut from the top and let the branch break swing down but still be attached. Then make removing cut to send it right next to the tree.

When limbing on the ground you want to be aware of the branch and if there is any tension that would cause it to pop and sling back when you cut it off. I like to start at the top before cutting the main pieces to the ground. I’ll go about 10, good size for the chipper and start cutting the limbs off from there. Working my way every 10′ till all the branches are off the top.

Bucking large wood is easy if you use a wedge. A peavey or cant hook is used to turn larger logs over. I cut down as far as possible before rolling. Work on the upside of the log. When dropping the last 20′ I like to put small long branches in front of the stump coming off. This keeps it off the ground and makes cutting the larger diameter trunks easier. I do the same as I drop major branches onto the ground if possible. Use the dogs to dig into the tree. It’s safer than having the chain operation by your feet and cuts into the wood faster.

I subscribe to Arborage, it’s a monthly magazine about the tree industry. It talks about the latest equipment and some tree care issues. I use my Western Garden book if there is a particular fruit tree that I need better understanding of how to prune. I do still look over The Fundamentals of General Tree Work. Now with the advent of YouTube, I invest time looking at other peoples techniques to see what I may learn.

Learning for me never stops.

Tim Bento

Source by Tim D Bento


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