After the tree is on the ground, the next step is removing its branches, called limbing. Start at the butt of the log and work toward the top, cutting on the underside of the branches (Figure 88). Always limb from the opposite side of the log with the log separating you from the ax. Limbing is a dangerous operation because of the chance of glancing blows (Figure 89) when the ax does not dig into the wood.
Figure 88–Cut the underside of the branch when
lopping branches (drawings by Frederic H. Kock).
Figure 89–Guidelines for limbing
(drawings by Frederic H. Kock).
You need to pay attention to branches that are under compression, those that bear the weight of the log. When the limb is cut, the limb may spring free, striking you. The log can also roll.
Limbing is like other chopping in most ways. The same grips on the ax handle are used and the swing is the same. Much of the ax work, however, is performed in constricted, awkward positions. Some branches are large, others small. You need good judgment to place the right amount of force behind each swing of the ax.
The danger of accidents from an ax that has been deflected by branches is much greater than with clear chopping. One important precaution is to clear interfering branches before attempting to chop a large limb. If the log is so large that you cannot reach over it to limb, chop the top branches off first. Stand on top of the tree trunk to chop the side branches. Cut each limb flush with the trunk; leave no stobs or pig ears.
The inexperienced chopper should do very little limbing while standing on the log. Experienced choppers with sure control of the ax will be able to work safely in the more hazardous positions.
For large limbs, particularly on hardwoods, it is often necessary to cut a notch similar to that used in cutting down a tree (Figure 90). Cut from the lower side of the limb, as always, and keep the bottom of the notch even with the trunk surface. The vertical side of the notch should slope somewhat with the angle of the limb. Often a larger notch is easier to cut than a smaller one. The downward cut is made with the grain of the wood and not directly across it.
Figure 90–Cutting off a large limb.
A word should be said about hemlock knots. These knots are very hard, especially on dead limbs. It is sometimes better to break off small limbs with the poll of the ax than to try to chop them. It is easy to take a huge nick out of the ax bit by swinging too hard at right angles to a hemlock limb. This is more likely to happen in cold weather, when the ax is more brittle. In such cases, warm the ax bit before using it on such limbs. If possible, use an ax with a blunter taper than you would for ordinary chopping. As a final precaution, chop lightly at an angle to, or with, the grain, and do not attempt to twist out the chips.