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 04-10-2005, 11:24 Post: 109649
Ardician

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As embarrasssing as this is to relate, I feel like I should tell all about my recent experience with flipping my tractor. Maybe this info will help everybody be a little more careful.

I was down on my overgrown, wooded lot Friday afternoon, trying to get a few minutes of clearing work done before it was time to go on a planned outing with the family. This is the first element of the story...I was in too big a hurry because my time was short. I had been having a pretty successful afternoon, having got several large pine logs skidded over to the stack for sawing. A glance at my watch led me to conclude that I should have enough time to cut down at least one of the two medium sized sweetgum trees that I really wanted to be rid of.

I should say that I am pretty good with tools of any sort and have been operating carpentry and woodworking tools for many years, both professionally (in the past) and as a hobby. I consider myself pretty skilled with the chainsaw but admittedly not very experienced with dropping trees. The first tree was growing in such a way that it appeared that it would naturally tend to fall in the direction I wanted, and in fact I had no real trouble with it. The most worrisome thing about cutting these trees was the proximity of the main highway. This highway is a fourlane leading from the interstate into town, and is pretty busy by our small-town standards, especially at about 5:30 on Friday afternoon.

Anyway, I cut a wedge out of the trunk on the side away from the highway, then moved around to the other side and made a downward cut from above the wedge. This sweetgum was about 20" at the base and maybe 60-80 feet tall. As planned, the tree fell with a groundshaking crash away from the highway. Pretty pleased with myself, I decided that if I moved quickly, I would have just enough time to cut down the other tree. This one, however, had a pretty significant bow in the trunk and seemed to be leaning slightly toward the highway. It was also a little bigger than the first and growing a little closer to the right-of-way. I had just about decided that it would be too risky for me to cut it, when I thought about using my tractor (JD 4310 with 420 FEL)to help.

There was room for me to position the tractor on the highway side of the tree with the loader raised to maximum height and the bucket's edge pressed firmly into the trunk, I guess about eight or ten feet off the ground. I figured that this would be a little insurance to prevent the tree from tending to fall toward the highway. I knew that my little CUT would be no match for the full weight of this tree if the tree had momentum moving in one direction, but I figured that it would be enough to prevent the tree from starting to sway in the wrong direction until my cutting technique was accomplished to move the tree in the right direction. I should say here that I had done this once before with the tractor in my backyard. That time, the tree remained stable until the cut was done, and then a little pushing by hand was all it took to fell the tree where I wanted it.

Well, things didn't go that smoothly this time. After I had cut the wedge out on the side facing the felling direction, and made the downward cut on the opposite side, I detected no movement at all in the tree. I cut a little more, making sure I wasn't leaving too much of the trunk intact. Still no movement. I tried pushing by hand, but this got me nowhere. So, I jumped on the tractor, cranked it up and gave the tree a little nudge. The tree statrted to move in the right direction, but just barely and very slowly, so I pushed a little more. Things were looking pretty good when all of a sudden the base of the tree detached from the stump. A wave of regret passed over me now because of the extra cutting I had done. Apparently I had cut virtually all the way through the trunk. Now the base was free to move in the direction I was pushing -- which it did. Of course, the top of the tree now began to move back toward me, the tractor, and the busy highway. I had a split second to decide what to do next. The thought of the top of the tree landing on a passing vehicle was horrifying, so I continued to push the base of the tree away from the highway, while at the same time watching the upper trunk move toward me and the tractor. I had to determine how the tree was going to land on the tractor before I could decide which side of the tractor I needed jump from.

It had already become clear to me that there was no way to stop this from happening. After what seemed several horrifying slow-motion moments, I bailed from the left side as the tree, still engaged with the loader bucket, rolled the tractor to the right and flipped it like a tonka toy.

After all is said and done, there are several things to be thankful for. By continuing to push the runaway tree away from the highway, I somehow mananged to prevent the top of the tree from extending more than a couple of feet into the fourlane. The butt of the tree ended up a good twelve or fifteen feet away from the stump, which is how much more of the tree would have been in the highway had I not pushed it. The tree did not land on any passing vehicle. I was unhurt, except for a strong dose of embarrassment. The tractor seemed ok, except for a broken hydraulic piston on the right loader lift arm and a crushed left ROPS mounted tail light.

It just so happened that a neighbor's son was drivng along the highway when the tree came down and he stopped to help me right the tractor. Without any trouble, we hooked a chain to his truck and pulled the tractor back onto its tires. I hopped on and cranked it right up. After some quick clean up of the tree to clear the highway and right-of-way, me and my tractor limped back to the house. I was only a little late to the barbeque that we attended that evening, but had to tell the story to my friends' great amusement since my wife had already spilled the beans about it over the phone to the hostess. The gentle ribbing I got was much more pleasant than any of the bad things that could have happened but didn't.

The serious side of this is that everyone should keep safety in the back of his or her mind all the time when operating these tractors. Even though they give us all extra abilities when working on various kinds of projects, we should not forget that they also can get us into more danger. The more powerful the tool, the more potential it has to do damage if things don't go right. I was, in a word, lucky. I think I have learned a thing or two from this and hope my story will help others too.






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 04-10-2005, 11:45 Post: 109650
kwschumm



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 Rollover Story

Yowsa, that sure sounds like a narrow escape. Glad you came through it OK. These things happen fast so an operator needs to be careful and plan ahead. A tractor is no match for a big tree, that's for sure. My neighbor is a professional logger, so when I have a tree that looks like it would be trouble I hold off until I can get him over to help. Those guys sure know their stuff.






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 04-10-2005, 17:29 Post: 109654
BrendonN



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 Rollover Story

Wow, sounds like a real close call. I too am glad that yourself and others were not injured and that your tractor wasn't mortally wounded either.

I have found that for felling trees, a stout winch is a lot of help. The 8000 lb, PTO-driven winch on my '61 Scout comes into use for just about every tree I cut down. With lots of cable, the truck can be at a safe distance from the action and by positioning the truck behind another tree up against the bumper, the truck is anchored in place. I first attach the cable as high up as possible (the higher the better), cut out the notch on the felling side, and then apply some tension, especially if the tree is leaning away from the desired direction of fall. I stop the backcut pretty short leaving lots of "hinge" (and before the tree gets any ideas about coming down on its own) then winch it down from there.

Of course using a winch is not danger-free either, but I personally would not want to log without one.






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 04-10-2005, 21:56 Post: 109659
Ardician

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 Rollover Story

Yep, one of the lessons I learned is that if the tree is big and not leaning the way I need it to fall, then I am getting a pro to do the job or just learn to live with the tree. Period.






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 04-10-2005, 21:59 Post: 109660
Ardician

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 Rollover Story

BrendonN, your winch sounds very handy. Ever seen any winches for tractor PTOs?






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 04-10-2005, 22:17 Post: 109663
denwood



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 Rollover Story

Ardician, if you want to add a winch, it may be easiest to use one of the electric ones that mounts to a 2 inch reciever hitch. I have a Warn 8000 lb that does. I have a mount in my truck bed, and of course at the rear hitch. All I have to do to add it to the tractor is attach the 12 volt plug in outlet to the battery and put the winch in my 3 point reciever mount. I will get around to it someday. While you are unlikely to repeat your attempt at a tree like that, if you do, it will help to adjust your wedge cut to help keep the tree on the stump while pushing from the other side. Instead of cutting the lower cut parallel to the ground or lower, slope it 30 degrees up and the upper cut 60-70 degrees up. That way the tree will have a 30 degree incline holding it on the stump. It will pop off the stump when the 30-40 deg wedge closes, but by then it should be going where you want it.






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 04-11-2005, 06:03 Post: 109666
BrendonN



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 Rollover Story

For tractor-powered operation, you would actually have three choices of winch drive: PTO, electric, or hydraulic. A place like Surplus Center has versions of each that could be adapted for tractor use. For truck use, only the electric and maybe the hydraulic (which utilizes the truck's power steering pump) are really practical. PTO winches for truckes died out in the 70's due to cost, complexity, and the lack of PTO access on the light duty transmissions and transfer cases that where being used.

For the ultimate tractor winch for logging, check out the Farmi product line. Not exactly low budget, but they look like they would do a nice job.






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 04-11-2005, 09:04 Post: 109675
StephenR



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 Rollover Story

Thank God everything turned out ok. BTW, good story telling, I was on the edge of my seat.






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 04-12-2005, 21:53 Post: 109765
Ardician

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Very good suggestion, Denwood. Never occurred to me. Cutting the wedge (some logger-types around here call it the "bait"Wink yeah right that way will probably be easier on my back and arms, too.

BrendonN, the Farmi winches look top-notch, but probably too much for my needs and budget.

StephenR: Believe me, I was on the edge of my seat, too. Talk about pucker-factor!






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 04-13-2005, 20:58 Post: 109814
trbomax



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 Rollover Story

I put a milemarker 8000# hydraulic on my tc35da,powered it off of the power-beyond,I really believe i could pull the whole tractor,fel,and hoe up a cliff if needed.it was only about $1000 complete,and you dont have to worry about running the battery down or damageing the alternator.






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