The Wooden Felling Wedge
Story and Photos by Brett R. McLeod
TRICKS of the trade
Not to endorse stereotypes too much, but I’m a card-carrying
cheap Scot. As I walk through the local farm and forestry supply store, my mind instantly wanders to question, “how could I
make this or that for free?” Among my favorite forest freebies
are homemade felling wedges.
My initial entry into wedge-making was by accident. I was
cutting pulpwood in a thick stand of fir where the neighboring trees caused repeated hang-ups. I clearly needed more lift
to force the trees I was cutting onto the ground, but was out
of wedges. I tried cutting a wedge out of a fir stump, but the
wood simply compressed as I tried to pound it home. Looking
for a better answer, I went to the bed of my truck and found
an old, broken axe handle. I trimmed the handle about eight
inches up from the doe’s foot and shaped it with a hatchet and
knife to reveal a smooth, double-tapered wedge. The hickory
handle-wedge worked well, providing enough lift to coax the
tree to the ground. While somewhat less durable than plastic
or aluminum wedges, I find that these wooden variations work
Brett R. McLeod is an associate professor of forestry and natural resources at Paul Smith’s College and the author of The Woodland Homestead: How to Make Your Land
More Productive and Live More Self-Sufficiently in the Woods (Storey Publishing, 2015).
Clockwise from top right: A felling wedge made from a broken axe handle. Cutting
wedges from a pole-sized red maple tree. Finished wedge in action.
well and can simply be left in the woods once their useful life
has been exhausted.
If you find yourself in the woods short on wedges and there’s
no old axe handles lying around, consider ripping a wedge out
of a limb or small hardwood pole. I generally look for maple,
oak, or elm sources, about 4 inches in diameter. Using your
chainsaw, begin by ripping two smooth sides and then make two
diagonal cuts for the center wedge. This will yield three wedges,
which should be enough to get your tree to the ground, unless
you’ve worked yourself into a real pickle!
Another great source of free wedge material can be old oak
pallet skids. Generally I make these types of wedges on a bandsaw over the winter and toss a few in my tool box. Cut a variety
of lengths and thicknesses to suit different felling conditions.