Blast From The Past

Just before Xmas a friend of mine turned up at DriveLink HQ with this saw - cheers Glenn! It's an old Stihl 08 and we thought it might be worth cleaning it up and checking it out - not that we're going to use it as by today's standards this thing is seen as unsafe. Find out more after the jump...

I've not actually had a chance to look over it yet, I just popped it on top of some logs to take the picture above, but one thing is for sure... it's lacking in what we would consider to be modern safety features! There's no chain brake for starters. There's no AV mounts (at least none that are immediately obvious - perhaps I'll find some once I start disassembling it). And it weighs a ton compared to modern saws, being built entirely out of metal. Oh, there's also no safety throttle, and you can put the saw to full power and then lock it in that position.

I'll post back about this saw occasionally, let you know what I find and if it's worth restoring / repairing it then we'll do that and you can up-to-date with the proceedings.

Back To The Future: Bore Cuts (3)

Continuing on with these bore cuts... one problem that I come across time and again is poor hand position when gripping the saw. It's not only bore cuts that can go awry with poor hand position, but sink cuts too. So how can we improve our chances of getting accurate cuts? Find out more after the jump...

Looking at the picture at the top of this page, you can see how the hand at the rear of the saw is not twisted, and the throttle is being operated by the inside of the thumb. The hand on the front handle has been moved right around the handle, which you can probably see better on the image below (yes, I know I'm not wearing gloves, but the saw is not running and I wanted to make the hand positions clearer...).

Try to get in the habit of holding the saw in these positions when you're either doing the horizontal bore cut, the bottom cut of a sink, or the back felling cut. It will help you keep the saw level.

Merry Christmas!

I'd just like to thank everyone who reads this column, wherever you are in the world. I'd also like to thank all those that inspire me to keep on going with this, whether you're a student, a work colleague or an assessor.

I'd also like to wish you all the best over this festive period, and wish you a successful and happy new year.

Happy Christmas!

Back To The Future: Bore Cuts (2)

Now that I've started on this route, I guess I'd better finish it! So here is the second 'bonus' posting - but only because I didn't get to finish it all of in the first posting about bore cuts! In this article we'll have a look at the second of the bore cuts that you'll need to be able to demonstrate and use for the CS31, and quite likely for the CS30 too. That's CS30 as well, as opposed to CS32... just sayin'. That second bore cut is the vertical bore cut, and I feel that it's appropriate to let you know hat this one has the potential to be very dangerous, as you'll be cutting very close to the kickback zone and even with it. Be careful with this one. Find out more after the jump...

Why would we use a vertical bore cut? Easier to watch a demonstration than listen to an explanation, but I'll give it a go... Look at the image at the top of this page, you can see that the underside of this piece of timber is not touching the ground and yet there was not enough room to get the bar and chain under the timber, without the chain running into the ground. In this case, with the compression cut already made on the top of the timber, we needed to cut from under the timber, back up to meet the compression cut.

To get over this problem of a lack of space, we can bore into the timber and then cut downwards and out of the bottom, as there is enough space for the chain to pop out from under the timber without striking the ground.

The other thing that you can see from this image is just where the bar and chain are positioned - note that the cut will be started slightly behind the kickback zone, and not on it.

Ensure that the saw is running at full speed whilst you do this cut, it's actually safer, and also make sure the saw is sharp. But perhaps the best advice for this cut is keep your head out of the line of the bar. Start the cut and allow the saw to cut a little way in, before levelling the saw out and pushing through the timber completely. Now you can come out of the bottom of the timber, before cutting up to the compression cut (in this case).

Try to do this in one fluid movement, saw at full speed and head out of the way - it doesn't bear thinking about what would happen if you had kickback... Also, be confident with this cut and hold the saw securely and comfortably.

I will be revisiting bore cuts, especially as now that I've started to write about them, the more I can think of to tell you!

Keep safe.

Back To The Future: Bore Cuts (1)

This is a bit of a bonus posting, as I've got 10 minutes free to quickly add an article! And so, in this post we're going to go back to the future and look at bore cuts. Why 'back to the future'? Well, bore cuts currently form part of the CS30 chainsaw maintenance course, but are heavily used during the CS31 (and CS32) felling courses; because of this, it'll be useful to both groups of people - those undertaking CS30 and those doing CS31. I'll try to put together a short video of completing a bore cut as it's much easier to see it, rather than describe it, but for now you'll have to make do with text! Find out more after the jump...

There are two types of bore cut: horizontal and vertical. The image at the top of the screen shows the horizontal bore cut, and is used a lot in conjunction with felling techniques (rear-weighted, forward weighted, medium and large fell). The vertical bore cut is used to cross-cut timber, especially where there is not enough room under the timber to physically fit the bar and chain, and you want to cut upwards; although there is enough room to bring the chain out of the bottom of the timber without it hitting the ground.

The Horizontal Bore Cut

The horizontal bore cut is slightly safer than the vertical bore cut, but is perhaps more difficult to get all the levels correct. You will need to keep the saw level from the tip of the bar back to the rear handle, as well as keeping it flat from side-to-side.

This is easily achieved by positioning your hands correctly on the handle; remembering that your thumb on the left hand must remain around the handle (see the Bad Habits: Thumbs Up! post). First off, getting it level from side-to-side is just a matter of moving your left hand right around the handle as far as practicable, this will automatically put the saw in the correct position. Easy!

Now for getting the saw level front-to-back. Many operators continue to hold their right hand in the same position (finger on the throttle) and twist their wrists to account for using the saw on its side. However, this often results in the rear handle being held higher than the tip of the bar and so the saw is not level. Instead, as you twist the saw on to its side, getting it ready for the horizontal cut, allow the rear handle to move around in your right hand; you should find that you can operate the throttle with your thumb.

Stand so that the underside of the nose of the bar will be introduced into the timber, then cut down to about where the nose sprocket rivets are. At this point, keep the nose of the bar in the same place and swing the rear handle around so that the saw is now directly pointing into the timber. Now push. Not too hard, and keep the saw running at full power until you have bored through to the required depth.

Allow the chain to stop in the bore cut before pulling it out of the wood (it might be wise to flick the chain brake on too at this point). Now, we are going to need to refine this a little bit but that'll be what the video is for... I just need to shoot it first ;0)

I reckon my 10 minutes is definitely up, and I'll leave vertical bore cuts for another post...

CS31: Hints and tips...

Throughout 2012 I'll being going through the whole range of 'stuff' that is included in the CS31 assessment, and we've already made a start by looking at the legal constraints surrounding felling; but before I sign off for 2011, I thought I'd finish off by providing you with some hints and tips to help you through an assessment. There's nothing earth shattering here, and it's what I tell all those participating in my courses, so I hope you'll find it useful.

Find out more after the jump...

When people fail the CS31 assessment, invariably it is not on the questions (although many people do find it hard to remember everything), it's usually because they made a fundamental safety mistake, or messed up on the felling cut.

So here's the first piece of advice... take your time. The assessor will not expect you to be working at commercial forestry speeds, and every assessor that I know would rather you took your time to think through what it is you are about to do, before you do it. Of all the advice given, this is the main one! Don't rush it.

The second piece of advice... think about your danger zones and be aware that when you are dealing with a hung-up tree, the danger zones may change as the tree moves and rolls. All too often, during training, I see operators walk right past the back of the tree and right next to it. One 'trick' is to lay the felling bar down at the rear of the tree and in-line with it... then make sure you walk around the end of the bar. This will force you to leave a short distance between the rear of the tree if you have to walk around it.

The third piece of advice... think about your body position. It's very common, especially during training to mess up your hinge by cutting through it at some point, or to have a wedge-shaped hinge, but there's no need for this to happen if you just pay attention to your body / foot position. Getting your feet in the right place will normally solve most issues to do with the hinge.

Fourth bit of advice? Sink cuts can be difficult to get spot-on, so hold the saw correctly. The top cut of the sink is at 45 degrees, so hold the saw on the corner of the handle - the saw will automatically be held at the correct angle. The bottom cut of the sink needs to be level, and you can achieve this by moving your right hand around the handle so that you operate the throttle with your thumb rather than your finger - this may need a picture, so we'll talk more about holding the saw next year.

And finally, whilst there is loads more hints and tips (which we will go through later) the last piece of advice is to... relax! The assessors need to feel comfortable that you can safely fell a tree and then process it.

Good luck if you're undertaking your CS31 (or CS32) and let me know how it goes through the comments.

CS31: Legal Constraints (WaCA)

The Wildlife and Countryside Act (WaCA) 1981 is, quite frankly a total minefield of various bits of legislation, but it exists to protect the habitats of various bugs and beasties.

Just to give you a taste of this minefield, since WaCA 1981 there have been various amendments to the Act, most significantly through the Countryside Rights of Way (CRoW) Act of 2000... and the Nature Conservation Act (2004)(Scotland)... and the Local Government Act 1985, the Water Act 1989, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and so it goes on! The CRoW Act also significantly changed SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) legislation in England and Wales.

But we don't particularly need to know all that for our purposes...

Find out more here...

OK, so you've probably got the idea that it's a potentially complex issue - that's why we have ecologists who love this sort of thing(?) - but we're just interested in how it applies to us cutting down a tree or two.

Possibly the most important, and most likely things we are likely to do is destroy either a bat roost, or a bird's nest. Red squirrels are also protected and you'll need to check for your area within the UK (and there are some pockets of red squirrels in the South of England too).

The Act protects wild birds, and it is an offence to:

  • kill, injure or take any wild bird.

  • take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use, or being built.

  • disturb any wild bird that has been listed in Schedule 1 while it is nest building, or at a nest containing eggs or young, or disturb the dependent young of such a bird.

Clearly, felling a tree that contains such a bird (nest), or felling a tree into another tree / shrub / hedgerow that contains the nest of one these birds could leave you open to prosecution under the Act. Bats are another highly protected species and were protected under Schedule 5 of WaCA, however since 2007 the effective protection of bat species has been accomplished through Schedule 2 of the Conservation Regulations 1994. Either way it is an offence to:

  • damage or destroy a bat roost (whether or not the bat is there)

  • intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat at roost

  • obstrust access to a bat roost

A bat roost is any structure or place which any wild bat uses for shelter or protection, and as bats can and will reuse the same roost it is protected whether the bat, or bats, is / are present.

CS31: Legal Constraints (Felling Licence)

The requirement for a felling licence is stated as part of the Forestry Act 1967 (Amended), and whilst there are some exceptions to felling under this Act, if you get it wrong then you are liable to prosecution. So it kinda makes sense to have some basic notion about when you need a felling licence.

Find out more after the jump...

You can apply for a felling licence via the Forestry Commission website, or direct from an FC office. You will need to apply for a felling licence if you intent to fell (in one calendar quarter) a tree, or trees, which total more than 5 cubic metres, and then sell more than 2 cubic metres. The calendar quarters run from:

  • 01 January - 31 March

  • 01 April - 30 June

  • 01 July - 30 September

  • 01 October - 31 December

There's plenty of infomation available on the 'net about felling licences within the UK, but here's a couple of good links to provide you with more backgrounds information should you need it:

Forestry Commission: FAQs

In the final part of the CS31 Legal Constraint series, we'll take a look at the Wildlife and Countryside Act, an enormously important, and indeed an enormous Act! I'll try to distill the essence of the Act to a few paragraphs...

CS31: Legal Constraints (Conservation)

In the next part of this mini-series about legal constraints when felling trees, we're going to sneak a peek at conservation areas.

The importance of trees within a conservation area is recognised by the Town and Planning Act, which makes a special provision for trees in a conservation area, and not already protected by a Tree Preservation Order (see previous post).

Find out more after the jump...

A Section 211 Notice lists the work that is proposed for trees within a conservation area, and require a six-week notice period from application to the decision. There are exceptions from a Section 211 notice, and these are:

  1. If a tree to be cut down is being felled in accordance with a Forestry Commission Felling Licence (see next post).

  2. if the tree work is exempt from a TPO.

  3. if the work is being carried out by, or on behalf of, a National Park Authority, District or Borough Council.

  4. if the work is to be carried out on a tree with a stem diameter not exceeding 75mm (3") measured at a point 1.5 metres up the main stem.

  5. dead, dying or dangerous.

To be honest, you'd need to be pretty sure that tree needed to be worked on, as if you felled it only to find out that the tree was actually alright and didn't constitute a denger... well, let's just say that's probably not a good place to be ;0)

In the next post, we'll take a quick gander at Forestry Commission felling licences.

CS31: Legal Constraints (TPOs)

In the previous post I briefly mentioned the four legal constraints as written in the CS31 NPTC assessment schedule; and in this post I want to introduce more fully the Tree Preservation Order. There's plenty of information about this on the 'net including the updates and amendments, so all I want to do is to try and give you a flavour of what it's about.

Find out more after the jump...

The Tree Preservation Order (hereafter just called TPO so that I don't have to keep typing it out in full!) is designed to provide a level of protection for trees and woodland that have amenity value. The TPO is part of the Town and Country Planning Act, and it should be noted that it's used by local authorities in England.

The TPO prohibits the...

  • cutting down

  • uprooting

  • topping

  • lopping

  • wilful damage, or...

  • wilful destruction

...of any tree that has had a preservation order placed upon it by the local authority (note that this also includes tree roots). Interestingly, the Act does not define what a 'tree' is; or indeed a 'woodland' for that matter! In essence, if it would be normal to call it a tree, then it's a tree for the purposes of this, however shrubs, bushes and hedgerows are not covered. There is no minimum size for a tree, and it can include fruit trees, but this is dependent upon the amenity value.

A TPO can be placed upon a tree after it has been assessed for it's value, the individual impact and the wider impact on it's surroundings. A TPO can apply to an individual tree, a group of trees, or an entire woodland.

In order to work on a tree that is protected, one has to apply to the local planning authorities tree officer; there is [now] a standard application form and this must be completed showing the work to be carried out and a plan of exactly which tree, or trees, are to be worked on. The authorities can then assess the impact of the proposed work and allow, amend or deny the request.

And that's about it really - if you want to know more about TPOs, check out this PDF document Tree Preservation Orders: A Guide To The Law And Good Practice.

- DriveLink -

CS31: Legal Constraints Intro

Although the CS31 small fell assessment barely mentions the legal and environmental constraints, it is included in the assessment; just at a very superficial level. I wanted to talk a little bit more about the legal constraints that surround felling, just so that you have a little background knowledge on the answers that the assessor will be looking for!

Find out more after the jump...
Firstly, let's just take a quick peek at what the assessment schedule says; which at the time of writing was written in June 2010. You can download the PDF version of this assessment schedule freely from the NPTC website: NPTC CS31 Assessment Schedule. In fact, as we work our way through it over the coming months it might be handy to have a copy of this handy.

The assessment schedule says that you should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the following four legal constraints with regard to felling:

  • Tree Preservation Orders (TPO's)

  • Conservation Areas

  • Felling Licences

  • Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981

Whilst those are the answers, over the next four articles we'll take a quick peek at each of them. I'm not going to go into huge depth with any of these, but I'll hopefully provide you with a basic understanding of what they contain and how it relates to felling.

- DriveLink -

CS31 - Felling small trees...

Whilst my work here is almost done with CS30 (chainsaw maintenance and cross-cutting), the next big thing to tackle is going to be felling. Undertaking the NPTC CS31 Fell & Process Small Trees is not to be under-estimated, and there's really only one way to ensure that you pass... practice.

Find out more after the jump...

But there's so much more than just practicing your felling cuts, there's legal and environmental issues, how to deal with trapped saws, setting up escape routes, brashing and removing buttresses, snedding and delimbing, perhaps a bit of winch work thrown in for good measure too; and the list goes on to include a heap of safety bits and bobs...

In this next series of articles, we'll be taking a look at the whole range of issues concerned with passing your small fell (CS31) assessment. I'll try to include video, podcasts, images and text articles in order to help you through. Remember, you can contact me through the comments page if there's something that you'd really like to discuss.

Cheers. DriveLink.

Choosing A Chainsaw

I've been working with WoodlandsTV to produce a basic guide to choosing a chainsaw, aimed at small woodland owners... and it's available online (for free!). We're also planning to shoot some more video in the near future, we just need to decide when!

The video takes a very quick look at a mix of Husqvarna and Stihl chainsaws, and I must thank Winchester Garden Machinery for the loan of these saws for the filming. If you're reading these pages you may well find the video a little too basic, but as mentioned above, if you've just taken on a small woodland and want to purchase a saw then check it out, it might just give you an appreciation of what to look for - of course, you can always contact me through the comments for any further advice (if I can help I will!).

New Gear...

After such a long layoff, there's more than a few things that have happened! Firstly, the year didn't start too well, as there have been a spate of equipment thefts targetted at forestry and arboriculture companies... and that included us. In all, over thirty chainsaws were stolen, as well as other equipment, and compared to some, we got off lightly! Not good.

The replacement saws suffered a fault, and so 18 chainsaws went back to the manufacturer to be fixed. Still, after that it did get better!

Find out more after the jump...
Makita took the DCS5001, DCS4301 chainsaws away after the long term loan came to an end. Fortunately, they did leave me another two chainsaws and a couple of brushcutters, so we'll be taking a look at these new saws.

I'm also working on writing a book about maintaining and operating brushcutters, and I'm off out in a moment to get some more images for the book.

So, we'll back to putting a few posts up in the near future and to report on some subtle changes in the CS30 NPTC assessment.