View Full Version : Tipping back a windthrown tree rootball

05-13-2012, 10:02 AM
Out doing some work in my woods and got to this windthrown tree with a good sized rootball. Always cautious with rootballs. Working down from the tree's top, a few test cuts revealed that the dirt mass seemed to be pushing toward the stem. Not good. I had a little winch and some rigging with me so I figured I'd try to stand the tree back up and then chop it down.

Here's a video link (about 3 minutes):
http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y279/picsonline/Woods%20Work/th_Rootball.jpg (http://s7.photobucket.com/albums/y279/picsonline/Woods%20Work/?action=view&current=Rootball.mp4)

Figured maybe ~8000lbs of dirt and another 7-800lbs of wood ...



The vertical spar was 12" diameter.

Spar jaws ...



05-13-2012, 10:10 AM
3:1 rig ...




Dirt down, tree up.


(Chaps were in my truck.)



Paul Pless
05-13-2012, 11:11 AM
Admit it: you love playing ancient Egyptian engineer. . .

05-13-2012, 11:21 AM
Admit it: you love playing ancient Egyptian engineer. . .

:d Just think what they could have done with a Honda engine.

There was one moment of drama when I was de-rigging. I was standing on the now-horizontal spar on my tiptoes reaching with a stick to undo the top hitch that wasn't releasing as easily as I'd planned for, when all of the sudden the stem set back 45 deg. Roots broke. Too bad the camera wasn't rolling, I'd like to have seen how quick and far this ol' man can jump. Flying through the air I had a flash thought of being caught in my own trap ... ugly heap of dirt, logs, rope, dead guy ... SWIMPAL finding me in a few days ... "What the hell was he doing this time?"

Paul Pless
05-13-2012, 11:23 AM

05-14-2012, 07:53 AM
Not much root mass..... Aspen, Red Pine, and...... Black Locust?.....
That's a very nice winch you have.... Self tailing?

David W Pratt
05-14-2012, 09:23 AM
Bet that bowline was fun to untie.

05-14-2012, 10:27 AM
Not much root mass..... Aspen, Red Pine, and...... Black Locust?.....
That's a very nice winch you have.... Self tailing?

That one is a Ponderosa Pine in a place that gets plenty of water.

I like the little winch. It's a simple constant turning capstan, human-tailed. I like that you can stand off to the side and (hopefully) be out of the 'line of fire' if something breaks. I usually try to set up so I'm on the outside of a rigging triangle preferably with a tree between be and any snatch blocks.
I've been using it to skid logs and it's pretty easy to direct the skids to avoid saplings. Kind of slow going, especially with any mechanical advantage rigged, but sometimes slow is a good thing.

Other trees in that spot are Douglas-fir, Quacking Aspen, Mountain Alder, Water Birch and Black Cottonwood. The winch anchor tree is a 2ft dia. Lodgepole Pine, one of a handful left on my place. Mountain Pine Beetles are taking them out. They also go for the P-Pines and that's one of the reasons I'm trying to get this 'timber stand improvement' work done as well as reduce fire fuel loads.

I wish I had some Black Locust, it's around, but not native, and I've been resisting the urge to plant some. I do eventually want to plant some Western Red Cedar and Western Larch. Both natives, they are not targets of the MP beetles and are useful woods and attractive trees. And maybe some more Mountain Ash. Used to have a couple of those and enjoyed seeing them loaded with Cedar Waxwings eating the red berries.

05-14-2012, 10:55 AM
Bet that bowline was fun to untie.

Good eye. Double bowline helps. That rope is a 5/8" double braid and I'm impressed with how well it does untie after loading. I've put some pretty good loads on butterfly knots that took a little work to undo but not too bad. That friction hitch was a Klemheist with a 1" loop sling and it held great and reset easily for a second pull. I tend to use a Prusik knot for something like that but thought I'd try a Klemheist this time. I like it. So simple.

05-14-2012, 11:06 AM
Speaking of rope ... is that video link (first image) working okay? It was a little glitchy when I first previewed it.

Anyone notice the deployment of the PVGI Coil (Past Vertical Gravity Indicator Coil)?

05-14-2012, 11:53 AM
Video worked fine for me. Looked like fun.


05-14-2012, 12:06 PM
Looked like fun but a heck of a lot of work for one small stick of pine.

John of Phoenix
05-14-2012, 12:09 PM
Please pardon my ignorance in this, but why not cut it on the ground? Why did you need to get it upright?

05-14-2012, 12:23 PM
Please pardon my ignorance in this, but why not cut it on the ground? Why did you need to get it upright?

Because it looks much cooler to do it the hard way. :D

05-14-2012, 03:52 PM
Explosives would be more cooler, and potentially safer, but I donít haveím. Heck, I donít even have a tractor, so itís the hard way for me. Actually, itís too wet around there to run equipment anyway.

John, my assessment was that if I had bucked the stem off where it lay, the dirt wad would have fallen towards the stem side, not back to the ground where it came from. Not what I wanted, because, 1) it would have dammed an irrigation channel, and 2) it could cause injury or death to the sawyer.

In my experience, rootballs that still have a few roots in the ground tend to go back in place when the stem is cut, often with sudden violent force. One safer way to deal with them is to start cutting blocks off from the treeís top working towards the roots until the root end is un-weighted enough to swing back in place, hopefully slowly. I started doing that on this one and after each block cut the end of the stem was getting shoved harder and harder into the ground. That seemed to indicate that there wasnít any Ďspring backí left in the roots and that the dirt was leaning towards the stem so I got the notion (and sometimes my notions are not great) to use what was left of the stem for leverage to pull the dirt back over where I wanted it.

Iceboy, this tree had been down several years and there were several others that were jackstrawed on top of it. I was just in cleanup mode and getting rid of the fire hazard, I wasnít going after useable wood.

05-14-2012, 03:59 PM
AH HA! That explains why I didn't recognize it! We don't have many Ponderosa or Lodge Pole Pines around here!' I have the remains of a White Oak that got knocked over in "The Perfect Storm" that did the same thing..... The ones that suddenly jump back can be dangerous beyond what most people think.... When they go, they can go in an instant.... I've nearly eaten a chainsaw bar a couple of times that way.... I'm almost positive if it happened now I would not be so lucky....

Paul Pless
05-14-2012, 04:05 PM
When they go, they can go in an instant.... They can sure store a lot of energy. Having seen a few ropes and one cable let go, I've become exceedingly wary of winching trees that are really bound up. If I do so I've started using a long and heavy chain on the end closest to where-ever I will be standing. They absorb energy a lot more predictably than a rope or cable.

05-14-2012, 05:01 PM
A few years ago I had a big blowdown. One was a nice 100 year old pine with a beautiful 30Ē x 40ft+ bole. The rootball was quite big. The bottom of the stem was on the ground so there were still some roots in the ground under it. It lay there for several weeks, maybe a couple months, before I decided to cut it. I wanted to get as much of that log as I could and I cut it near the rootball. Fortunately my cuts and guesstimate for the holding wood strap worked okay. I stood well to the side for the final trigger cut, but man, did that thing slam into the ground like a sprung trap! Still had some fiber pull and it jerked the whole log back a foot or so before breaking out. All in an instant. Pivoted me around a bit as I cleared the saw. Spooky.

Hungup trees with rootballs really suck because they can also have twisting forces. I donít care for blocking down a hungup tree and would rather try a pull. Thereís the wedged tongue and groove cut (AKA key notch technique) that lets you cut the stem off but the two parts stay together until you pull it apart from a safe distance. Takes a little time, and the rip cuts need to be parallel or at least not dovetailed to restrict the pull, but I think it has its place.

05-15-2012, 07:48 AM
"Iceboy, this tree had been down several years and there were several others that were jackstrawed on top of it. I was just in cleanup mode and getting rid of the fire hazard, I wasn’t going after useable wood. "

I hear ya. I spent a few days cleaning up jackstraws this month. With situations like this we always "propped em and lopped em" as my dear departed dad used to say. Always lots of propping material around in a blowdown. Did I mention that this was one of my most hated chores in the woods? Lots of unpredictable things can and do happen. I did enjoy the video and your technique though. Thanks.

John of Phoenix
05-15-2012, 09:31 AM
I can visualize the situation now. Most enlightening. Thank you.