Category Archives for "Tree Knowledge"

Here I share about the nuts and bolts of tree care and removal.

Rigging Ropes


Rigging rope is essential in the tree service world, because without simple tasks would be very difficult if not impossible. It needs to be purchased from a reputable company. Any rope from your local hardware store will not work. Make sure you use a rope that has been rated for use in tree work.

SWL (Safe Working Limit), has been designated to allow safe usage of a rope without fear of it breaking.  Typically the SWL of a rope will be 10% of the Minimum Breaking strength or MBS.

WLL (Working Load Limit), is another way to describe the limit allowed for using a rope. Typically the WLL rating of a rope will be 10% of the Minimum Breaking strength or MBS.

Rigging Ropes

Rope Sizes

The most common rope in the tree industry is the half inch rope. Rope can commonly be purchased from as small as 3/16 to 1″ in diameter. I am sure you could get a specialty rope bigger but that is the most common range. Typically rigging ropes will be purchased in diameters of  1/2, 9/16, 5/8, 3/4.

Rope Materials

Twisted rope

3 strand, is commonly used when natural crotch rigging.  This rope is the most effective rope when using a rope puller like this one here.

12 strand rope, is similar to 3 strand however it typically has a higher maximum breaking strength. It can also be used in a rope puller but not always as effective.

Braided Rope

Double Braid, is great when rigging as it has a higher maximum breaking strength than most strand rope. Some double braid rope can be used with natural crotch rigging but it is advised to use a device to help reduce wear and tear.

Positive Rigging

Positive rigging uses a tie in point above the desired cut. This is the preferred method because it is easier to eliminate slack which is your enemy. Leaving slack in the rigging line can cause things to break if shock loaded too hard.

Negative Rigging

Negative rigging uses a tie in point below the desired cut. Often this is used when rigging chunks off of the main trunk to finish a job in a tight situation.

Rigging Points

Natural Crotch rigging is when you put your rope through a crotch or over a limb without any aerial friction devices, rigging blocks, or pulleys.

False Crotch Rigging is when you use an aerial friction device, rigging block, or pulley

Crane Rigging, is used when options are limited that put property and personal safety at risk. Tree companies will use cranes on dead trees, gigantic trees over the house, and blown over trees.

Rigging Attachment Points

Tip Tie, is when you tie onto the end of a branch or tree. This is used to prevent the tips of the tree from damaging property when it is cut. In certain cases climbers will tip tie a branch and cut a notch facing up on the butt end. Then the rope will be pulled upright towards the tree. The benefit of this allows the branch or tree to be lowered in an a controlled manner. Small branches could be pulled upright with just a rigging block and someone on the ground. Large branches may use specialty devices like the GRCS (Great Rigging Control System), Hobs Lowering device, or another form of mechanical advantage.

Butt Tie, is one of the most common forms of rigging. This occurs when you tie the butt end of the branch or tree. This allows the end to fall first to then be lowered by the butt end of the branch. The advantage to this method is speed, because the climber does not have to attach a rope further out on the limb. One must be careful when using a butt tie, as the tip may brush up against something as it falls.

Spider Legs, are not as common but come in handy when more control is necessary. Spider leg rigging is when 2 or more “legs” are attached to the same rigging ropes. This is used to balance the branch in order to keep the branch as level as possible while rigging it down.


Tree wraps, is the method of using a tree to add friction into the rigging line. The advantage to this method is it’s free, however the friction it produces is less predictable than other friction devices. One wrap around a big tree will produce more friction than a wrap around a small tree. Also different trees will produce different friction based on their bark  composition. Another big disadvantage to tree wraps is the extra wear and tear on the rope.

Port-a-wrap, is one of the most common friction devices used in the tree industry. you will be hard pressed to find an established tree company without one.

Aerial Friction Devices, are tools that produce friction in the tree. One advantage to this is the ability for the climber to lower a limb. Another less known advantage is the lower impact on the rigging point. Let us imagine there is a limb that weighs a 100 lbs. The rope going from the limb to the rigging point is pulling on the rigging point with 100 lbs. At the same time the rope going from the rigging point to the ground has 100 lbs of weight. Combine these two numbers and you have 200 lbs of weight, which does not include any extra weight from shock loading. An aerial friction device takes the 100 lbs of weight from the limb and reduces the weight being pulled between the device and the ground. This means you would have 100 lbs of weight from the limb to device, and lets say 30lbs of weight from the device to the ground. This leaves us with a total of 130 lbs of weight on the rigging point instead of 200.

Natural Crotch Rigging, is the use of a crotch or limb to lower a branch. There is friction produced when the rope moves across the crotch or branch.


Speed Line(s), also known as a zip line, are used to efficiently move branches or chunks of logs from the tree to the ground. The big advantage to this method is speed (No pun intend, ha ha). One does not have to wait for the rigging rope to be pulled back up to them. They can just cut one or a few limbs to send down to the ground. Another advantage to this method is overcoming obstacles that are close to the tree. Some people have been know to send branches over a house all the way to a chipper, which saves time dragging brush.

Check out this video of August Hunicke using a speed line.

How to use a throw line.

First off, let us show you what a throw line is. Here is a quick video of me getting a throw line in a tree. It was necessary to overcome the back lean and pull over the tree safely.

Getting it up in the Tree.

There are a couple different methods for using a throw line. I usually make a loop and push it through the throw weight ring so I can have two places to hold onto. As you can see in the video I ended up using the single line technique to get it in the tree.

A throw weight or throw bag is the most common way to get a throw line in the tree however there are many other devices used to get a throw line in a tree. There is the big shot, essentially a giant sling shot. Next would be the APTA (Air Powered Tree Access) which essentially is a potato gun for throw weights. Now if those two options won’t do it for you maybe you should try out the Lucky Launcher. It’s like attaching your throw line to a bullet and shooting up into the canopy.

Attaching the Line

After you have successfully gotten the throw line in the desired location you need to pull up either a pull line or a lifeline. Attach the desired line to the end of the throw line and pull it up. Typically I use a caribiner as my preferred method of attachment however you may tie the two lines together instead.

Pulling it Up

Once the line has been attached you may pull it up. Congratulations, you now have either your lifeline, rigging rope, or pull rope successfully in the tree.

Securing a Pull Line

The easiest way to secure is clipping a rigging carabiner onto the line and pulling it up. Some people prefer tying a know like a running bowline to mitigate damaging or breaking a carabiner from side loading. Check out out this animation which shows you how to make a running bowline.


Tree Felling

A little intro to Tree Felling


Here I will discuss one of the most common ways to remove a tree, and what tree felling means.

Felling a tree in plain English is essentially "Cutting a tree down so it goes where you want it to."

Recommended tools:

  • Chainsaw, handsaw, or other device for cutting the tree.
  • Chain Sharpening device. (A dull chainsaw is more dangerous than a sharp one.)
  • Wedges
  • Throw line.
  • Pull line
  • Truck, tractor, or skid steer.


Face Notch: This is a triangle shape piece of wood cut out to allow the tree to fall towards the ground.

Hinge: Another term for this is holding wood. This is the wood that directs the fall of the tree.

*Warning* Cutting through hinge wood before the tree falls may cause the tree to fall sideways, or even backward towards you!

Back Cut: The cut behind the Face Notch, used to fell tree.

Back Lean: This is the term used to describe a tree when it is leaning away from the intended felling direction.

Throw Rope: A small rope connected to a throw bag used to get a larger line up in the tree.

Throw Bag: A small weight connected to the throw line used to get the rope up into the tree and back onto the ground.

Pull Line: A rope or wire used to pull the tree in the desired felling direction. A strong rope must be used or it may fail (break) causing unexpected damage or injury.

Barber Chair: A barber chair occurs when a tree splits and pushes back towards the back cut. 

*Warning* A barber chair can seriously injure or kill someone. That is one of the reasons why it is advised to stand on the side of the tree and not behind it while performing the back cut.

Widow Maker: A widow maker is any loose overhead debris such as limbs or tree tops that may fall at any time.

Before the Cut.

Before you make a cut you need to make sure that you are safe. Danger can be hidden in the tree such as a widow maker, dead limbs, trunk rot, a back lean, or even a barber chair. You will need to inspect the tree to make sure you can anticipate as many problems as possible. 

Clear the area.

Make sure you have a clear path to safety. Typically you want to have an escape path at a 45 degree angle from the direction of felling. Cut any small brush or debris and move it out of the way so you will not trip. It is important to have an escape path because it is dangerous to stay close to the tree. 

Push or Pull?

Before you make the face notch, make sure you have the ability to get the tree on the ground safely with the tools you have. One of the most common ways to overcome a back lean and help the tree fall in the correct direction is a pull rope.  The easiest way to get a pull rope in a tree is to use a throw rope. Use the throw rope and get the pull line as high as you can around the trunk. The higher it is, the more leverage you have.

Caution, pushing a tree takes more skill and understanding than pulling a tree. Do not push a tree over unless you know what you are doing. People have been know to push over trees with a skid steer, bulldozer, or excavator. Check youtube for "tree cutting fails" there are numerous videos of people pushing with a machine while it falls backward onto them. I do not want this to happen to you, be careful.

Make the face notch.

A face notch is necessary in order to allow the tree to fall in the correct direction. Here are a couple examples of face notches Humboldt, open face, conventional. Each one will cause the falling tree to react differently. Currently my favorite is the open face notch because it allows the tree to fall further before the hinge breaks. Most people use the conventional notch without even thinking about it which has a 45 degree cut. The Humboldt is common among loggers because it can save more of the wood as the wedge is cut from below. Check out an animation of those three notches.

The Back Cut

The back cut is what releases the tree to fall in the correction. The act of making a face notch & back cut does not automatically cause the tree to fall where necessary. Make sure you have the right tools to cause the tree to fall down before you make the back cut. The most common tool is a wedge and an axe. Also, the most important thing while performing the back cut is not to cut through the hinge. Cutting the hinge is one of the most common mistakes and most costly mistakes when cutting a tree down. The tree will fall towards the way it is leaning when the hinge has been cut, which defeats the whole purpose of the notch.

While you are cutting the back cut place some wedges in to keep the tree from pinching your bar or falling the wrong way. *Warning* if you pinch your bar while performing the back cut this means the tree is leaning towards you. Make sure to pay attention to the amount of pressure on the wedges as this can also indicate how much weight is leaning away from the notch. 

Make sure to place your back cut above the horizontal face cut to prevent the butt of the tree from sliding backwards to


  • Warning, a face notch does not make a tree fall that direction. A face notch by itself does not overcome a back lean. Wedges, a pull rope, a truck, or even heavy machinery may be required to overcome a back lean. Back Cut.
  • Warning, a barber chair may cause serious injury or death.
  • Warning, a live or dead branch may fall off of the tree as it is falling and seriously injure or kill someone.